This Weekend at LACMA: Last Late Summer Friday, Latin Sounds Finale, Free Tours, Labor Day, and More!

August 30, 2013

If anything, art is a labor of love. Visit LACMA this holiday weekend to see what I mean. Beginning Friday evening, Jazz at LACMA presents Grammy nominated artist Denise Donatelli and her return to the Urban Light stage. Her latest full-length work, Soul Shadow, was one of the best jazz vocal albums from 2012. After her performance, the west side of campus stays open late—until 11 pm—for one final summer hurrah. It’s a great opportunity to see (free of charge) the resplendent work of German polymath Hans Richter and his fascinating career as both an innovator and a collaborator in Hans Richter: Encounters before it closes on Monday, September 2.

Hans Richter, Filmstudie (Film Study), 1928, © Hans Richter Estate

Hans Richter, Filmstudie (Film Study), 1928, © Hans Richter Estate

On Saturday join in on any of our half-dozen free tours exploring the voluminous collection, including an hour-long overview of The Presence of the Past: Peter Zumthor Reconsiders LACMA at noon. This exhibition ponders the history and future of the LACMA campus at Hancock Park, featuring the designs of Pritzker Prize–winning architect Peter Zumthor. Widely considered to be one of the most site-sensitive architects today, Zumthor’s vision for the museum rethinks the meaning and function of an encyclopedic museum. Earlier this summer, Zumthor and CEO and Wallis Annenberg Director Michael Govan took part in a public conversation about the project, see the discussion here.

Saturday evening also marks the final concert of our 2013 season of Latin Sounds with Johnny Polanco. For 35 years Polanco has played with artists like Cachao, Ray De La Paz, and Tito Puente, Jr., making his band one of the hottest salsa acts on the West Coast. The free show begins at 5 pm in LACMA’s backyard and is open to the public.

Families planning a trip to LACMA this weekend should visit on Sunday during Andell Family Sundays. In September, children are invited to create their own textile art as inspired by Pinaree Sanpitak: Hanging by A Thread. In this exhibition, Thai artist Pinaree Sanpitak assembled a series of hammocks from a traditional printed cotton textile, paa-lai, in the wake of severe flooding during the 2011 monsoon season. Her work explores the human form and the various qualities associated with the female body. Two floors down, the new exhibition Masterworks of Expressionist Cinema: The Golem and Its Avatars looks at the European legend of the golem—a large, powerful creature made of clay. Lastly, at Sundays Live, a string-and-piano quartet performs pieces by Brahms and Martinů at 6 pm in the Bing Theater.

Paul Wegener (director), Germany, 1874–1948, Carl Boese (director) Germany, 1887–1958, Film still from Der Golem: Wie er in die Welt kam (The Golem: How He Came into the World), 1920, Written by Paul Wegener and Henrik Galeen, Produced by Paul Wegener, B&W, silent.

Paul Wegener (director), Germany, 1874–1948, Carl Boese (director) Germany, 1887–1958, Film still from Der Golem: Wie er in die Welt kam (The Golem: How He Came into the World), 1920, Written by Paul Wegener and Henrik Galeen, Produced by Paul Wegener,black and white, silent

Finally, for Labor Day, LACMA is open from 11 am to 5 pm. There are free tours all day and Story Time for the kids begins at 2 pm in the Hammer Building. Beyond great, new exhibitions like Down to Earth: Modern Artists and the Land, Before Land Art; Little Boxes: Photography and the Suburbs; and Lingering Dreams: Japanese Painting of the Seventeenth Centurygeneral admission is free for L.A. County Residents after 3 pm. Happy Labor Day!

Roberto Ayala

Commentary versus Fact: Mutually Exclusive?

August 29, 2013

When looking at a work of art for the first time, I often ask the following questions: What is the artist trying to communicate? How is the work reflective of society? Perhaps this tendency to wax philosophic about how a piece fits into the bigger picture (my apologies—no pun intended) can be chalked up to my background studying political science and human rights. I’m always trying to dissect larger issues.

For me, it is important to ask these questions to enhance the art-viewing (and comprehension) process. After all, something had to inspire the artist to create the work in the first place. It would only illuminate our understanding of a piece to try to figure out if its making was related to a larger issue of their time. While not every work can be attributed to a broad social concern—artists do have personal experiences and motivations to draw from, of course—I believe it’s fair to assert that many works do reflect and make a statement about something greater and serves as a medium for social commentary.

With that in mind, I will look at specific pieces that captured my attention while combing the relationships between objects and society. Particularly notable, in my opinion, are the assemblages of Edward Kienholz.

4x5 original

Edward Kienholz, A Lady Named Zoa, 1960, gift of Mrs. Lillian Alpers, © Keinholz

In his haunting sculptures from the 1960s, Kienholz clearly alludes to emerging widespread concerns of his time—and, arguably, of our time as well. The boxes forming the body of A Lady Named Zoa, for example, can be said to represent the limits that society places on women, reinforcing the commonly held ideals of what is “acceptable.” Also addressing a question of women’s rights, The Illegal Operation depicts the controversy surrounding abortion. (This was, in fact, a personal issue for Kienholz, as his then-wife underwent an illegal-at-the-time procedure herself.) History as a Planter reflects on Holocaust remembrance.

The Illegal Operation

Edward Kienholz, The Illegal Operation, 1962, partial gift of Betty and Monte Factor and purchased with funds provided by the Art Museum Council, Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser, the Modern and Contemporary Art Council, Dallas Price-Van Breda and Bob Van Breda, the Robert H. Halff Fund, David G. Booth and Suzanne Deal Booth, Virginia Dwan, Elaine and Bram Goldsmith, The Grinstein Family, Ric and Suzanne Kayne, Alice and Nahum Lainer, Frederick R. Weisman Art Foundation, Mrs. Harry Lenart, The Robert Gore Rifkind Foundation, Philippa Calnan and Laura Lee Woods, © Keinholz

History as a Planter

Edward Kienholz, History as a Planter, 1961, anonymous gift through the Contemporary Art Council, © Keinholz

Some artists, however, view in a different light their potential role as recorders and interpreters of social issues. Take the words of José Clemente Orozco, known—along with Diego Rivera and David Alfaro Siqueiros—as one of “Los Tres Grandes” (The Big Three) of Mexican muralists: straying from the political and propagandistic leanings of the works of his counterparts, Orozco notably stated, “A painting should not be a commentary, but the fact itself.”

Street Corner, Brick Building

José Clemente Orozco, Street Corner, Brick Building (Esquina, edificio de ladrillo), 1929, purchased with funds provided by the Bernard and Edith Lewin Collection of Mexican Art Deaccession Fund, © Artist Right Society (ARS)

Examining that statement in the context of Orozco’s Street Corner, Brick Building (Esquina, edificio de ladrillo), the depiction of Manhattan becomes not one of sheer symbolism, but rather an objective reflection of the urban center known for its symbolic role as a beacon of modernity, becoming a form of the “New Art” that Orozco believed was an integral part of an ever-evolving America.

It can be said, however, that social commentary and fact are not necessarily mutually exclusive. Directly rooted in Los Angeles history, Matta’s Burn, Baby, Burn (L’escalade) is a prime example of a balance between the two.

Burn, Baby, Burn

Matta (Roberto Sebastián Antonio Matta Echaurren), Burn, Baby, Burn (L’escalade), 1965–66, gift of the 2009 Collectors Committee with additional funds provided by the Bernard and Edith Lewin Collection of Mexican Art Deaccession Fund, © Roberto Matta Estate/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

First inspired by the atrocities of the Vietnam War, the painting evolved into a reflection of the violence of the 1965 Watts riots. The mural-sized painting captures the nature of the violence, while, as noted by LACMA curator Ilona Katzew, “the phosphorescent, pungent green at the bottom right of the composition suggests hope, a verdant future,” thus adding a touch of Matta’s personal interpretation of the situation to the work.

Looking at the different degrees of social commentary in the works of these three artists—not to mention the infinitely varying degrees of other artists—we can see that their interpretation of what role they play in shaping societal issues varies just as much as the issues (if any) that they choose to take up.

Sara Hupp, intern

Richter and Calder: The Art of Abstraction and Motion

August 28, 2013

In the mid-1940s, the painter and filmmaker Hans Richter and sculptor Alexander Calder joined forces on a remarkable film, Dreams That Money Can Buy, which featured Calder’s famous Cirque Calder, a mirthful work of pure fantasy made up of delicate wire-frame miniature figures set into motion by Calder himself. This film, on view in the exhibition Hans Richter: Encounters, shows how fantasy and motion were two characteristics deeply shared by both artists. In his book, Encounters, Richter said of Calder: “The least he requires of sculptures is that they should move. And he has not been disappointed, nor have we. The earth, too, was not allowed to move until Copernicus and Galileo started it moving. . . . The twentieth century does not stand still, ‘it moves.’ ”

Hans Richter, Dreams That Money Can Buy, 1948, Musée National d’Art Moderne

Hans Richter, Dreams That Money Can Buy, 1948, Musée National d’Art Moderne

Calder and Richter also shared a deep interest in abstraction, as is seen in both Hans Richter: Encounters and the upcoming exhibition Calder and Abstraction: From Avant-Garde to Iconic. Richter conceived abstraction first as a painter, then as a filmmaker. One need look no further than his portraits to see how Richter progressed from portraying outward appearance to conveying an inner state of mind, as is seen in his 1918 Portrait of Arp.

Portrait of Arp

Hans Richter, Portrait of Arp, 1918, Centre Pompidou, Paris, Musée national d’art moderne/Centre de création industrielle, gift of Mrs. Marguerite Arp-Hagenbach, 1973

For Richter, abstraction was a universal language linking all of humanity, much like music. In works like Orchestration of Colors, he worked in a way analogously with how composers use orchestration and counterpoint to create balanced compositions. Similarly Calder created studies of balance and form in his stabiles, a term coined by Hans Arp for Calder’s static works, some of which will be included among the fifty works on display in Calder and Abstraction. Richter’s abstraction moved swiftly from scrolls to films, some two dozen of which are in the exhibition. Richter’s earliest films, the “rhythm” films of the early 20s, Rhythmus 21 and Rhythmus 23, marked a revolution in both the history of art and film. Just imagine what it must have been like to see an abstract artwork in motion for the first time! You can experience the effect using the “experience box” wall opening in the Richter exhibition, while also seeing the same films projected across a gigantic wall, transforming them into an architectural experience.


Hans Richter, Rhythmus 21 (Film ist Rhythmus/Film is Rhythm), 1921, © Hans Richter Estate

Calder also became a master of movement. His mobiles, a term coined by Marcel Duchamp, were delicate hanging kinetic sculptures made of discrete movable parts stirred by air currents, as exemplified by Eucalyptus (1940). Both artists also shared a profound sensibility to scale, ranging from tiny and delicate to vast and powerful. Richter’s 1917 portrait of his intellectual mentor, writer and poet Ludwig Rubiner, captures its subject with a few deft strokes of an ink-laden brush. Yet he could command a much broader scale in his over 16 foot long collage-painting, Stalingrad (Victory in the East) to convey an epic turning point in the Second World War. Brought from Karlsruhe to be in the exhibition, this expansive scroll evolves from geometric to biomorphic forms to express the triumph of the people over the repressive fascist regimes then threatening Europe.


Hans Richter, Stalingrad (Victory in the East), 1943–46, ZKM|Center for Art and Media Karlsruhe, © Hans Richter Estate, photo: © ONUK, courtesy ZKM|Center for Art and Media Karlsruhe

Calder’s works range from a tiny sculpture rendered from a discarded spoon (as conveyed in one of Richter’s films) to sculptures of monumental size or broad expanse. In an affectionate description, Richter portrays Calder in terms of a nickname: “He dances like a bear, he has a bear’s strength, and he often growls. With his (relatively) delicate claws he will as easily create—being a Proteus—a heavy stabile weighing twenty tons as he does a light micro-mobile weighing twenty grams. At either task he moves his immense body with the lightness and grace of Anna Pavlova.” Read Richter’s engaging commentary on Calder as well as many of the friends he had in common—including Duchamp, Léger, Man Ray, and Mondrian—in Richter’s book of reminiscences entitled Encounters, a print on demand/E-book published for the first time in English by LACMA and Prestel on occasion of the exhibition.

Don’t miss Hans Richter: Encounters, which closes this Sunday, September 2.

Timothy O. Benson
Curator, Robert Gore Rifkind Center for German Expressionist Studies at LACMA  

Equine Power, Myth, and Beauty

August 26, 2013

I am in constant wonder of the Tang horse. It sits in the middle of the Chinese art gallery, its glistening glaze somehow indicative of motion. The caramel color of the form runs over, like rain streaking the muscular frame and darkening to an almost black, rendering the hooves a pale clay color. The harness, bridle, and saddle are blotched green and pale clay, melting as it were, as if the steed was merely a manifestation of paradise, a vision in an afterlife.

Funerary Sculpture of a Horse, about 700–800, China (Middle Tang dynasty), gift of Nasli M. Heeramaneck (M.73.48.79)

Funerary Sculpture of a Horse, about 700–800, China (Middle Tang dynasty), gift of Nasli M. Heeramaneck (M.73.48.79)

The Tang horse is halted in an apparent stride with the invisible reins bringing the head to one side as the animal regally leans on its hindquarter. The object is uncanny in how it appears so contemporary. Yet, it was very much the treasure of another existence.

Throughout Chinese history, the horse was a sacred animal. Equines rose to great prominence during the Tang dynasty (619907), often considered the golden age of Chinese art and literature. Emperor Taizong, who unified China, was considered one the greatest rulers in Chinese history and was praised for his economic systems and military prowess. One of the primary reasons for the horse’s prominence was the fact that equines were a key factor in Taizong’s military tactics. Taizong would accrue, at one time, about 700,000 horses. Indeed, far more than metaphoric resonance, the horse communicated the imperial power and moral authority of the empire.

Much to my amazement, in Chinese lore and mythology, the horse conjures the dragon, the supreme symbol of imperialism. Horses often served as earthly avatars for the dragon. In Power and Virtue, Robert E. Harrist, Jr., an art historian specializing in Chinese works, writes, “When Taizong was born, two dragons appear often, seen outside the birth chamber, where they lingered for three days.”

A famous Tang dynasty poet, Du Fu, wrote a poem titled “On a Horse Painting by Han Gan”:

This horse is a work by Han Gan. . . .
And Longwen’s long body.
White flesh like snow,
And Orchid veins tense like the wind.
A gait untrammeled,
And movement without restraint.
Four hooves ringing like thunder and hailstones
Covering heaven and earth in a single day . . .
Look at its thoroughbred bones:
Truly, it is one of the dragon herd.

Hylan Booker

This Weekend at LACMA: Get Down at Muse ‘til Midnight, Partake in the San Bernardino Art + Film Lab, Enjoy Free Music, See Unique Artworks, and More!

August 23, 2013

Trust me when I say, you’ll want to be at LACMA this weekend for Saturday’s Muse ‘til Midnight all out bash celebrating Hans Richter: Encounters. The party begins at 8 pm with after-hours access to the dazzling exhibition featuring the German Modern art and filmmaking pioneer, Hans Richter, and his contemporaries. Part of the fun includes the interactive Dada Dance workshop and the Constructivist Collage station going on from 8–10 pm. Then, beginning at 10 pm, dance the night away at the Silent Disco featuring San Francisco DJs Motion Potion and Shouts! and  Los Angeles’s KCRW DJs Jeremy Sole and Mario Cotto on the ones and twos. A party isn’t complete without food and beverage; each entry comes with two complimentary drinks and food for purchase, from Executive Chef Jason Fullilove, will please the palette immensely! For tickets, visit or call 323-857-6010.

Hans Richter, Schlittenfahrt (Skating), c. 1915, Kunsthaus Zürich, © 2013 Hans Richter Estate, Photo: Kunsthaus Zürich

Hans Richter, Schlittenfahrt (Skating), c. 1915, Kunsthaus Zürich, © 2013 Hans Richter Estate, Photo: Kunsthaus Zürich

The last days of free public programming at the San Bernardino Art + Film Lab at Perris Hill Park are this weekend and includes two free outdoor film screenings, Oral History Drop-ins, and free Instant Film and Composition workshops. On Friday night at 8:30 pm the notorious Gojira, a radioactive reptile, wreaks havoc on Japan in this metaphorical sci-fi adventure. On Saturday night at 8:30 pm, The Kid with a Bike pulls at the heart-strings in the tale of an orphan and his search for love and acceptance. If you can’t make it to San Bernardino this week, make sure to see and take part in this traveling art project in September in the city of Altadena.

Free, live music at LACMA begins Friday night with Jazz at LACMA, featuring the Cross Hart Jazz Experience and their dynamic take on jazz standards at 6 pm. Latin Sounds in Hancock Park keeps the torch burning bright with the Justo Almario Afro-Colombian Ensemble. Saxophonist and composer Justo Almario has been paving the way in Latin/funk/jazz genres with artists the likes of Freddie Hubbard and Cal Tjader. Finally, on Sunday at Sundays Live the Los Angeles Symphonic Winds, directed by Steve Piazza, perform works by Holst and Stravinsky. Reservations are not required, these events are open to all.

Make time to experience some of our favorite exhibitions currently on view, like Princely Traditions and Colonial Pursuits in India and Newsha Tavakolian in the Ahmanson building and Talk of the Town: Portraits by Edward Steichen from the Hollander Collection and Compass for Surveyors: 19th Century American Landscapes in the Arts of the Americas building. And don’t overlook The Presence of the Past: Peter Zumthor Reconsiders LACMA before it closes in mid-September. Time well spent; you’ll see a potential future for your museum and have an opportunity to join the public discussion.

Installation view, The Presence of the Past: Peter Zumthor Reconsiders LACMA

Installation view, The Presence of the Past: Peter Zumthor Reconsiders LACMA

Families visiting the museum this Sunday are invited to create art based on precious artworks from the rich exhibition Shaping Power: Luba Masterworks from the Royal Museum for Central Africa at Andell Family Sundays. And take note: this Friday is the next-to-last Friday of Late Summer Hours that includes access to the Resnick Pavilion, BCAM building, and Ray’s and Stark Bar until 11 pm, with free general admission beginning as early as 3 pm for L.A. County residents. See you at LACMA.

Roberto Ayala

%d bloggers like this: