From the Ground: A Character in Two LACMA Exhibitions

August 19, 2013

A golem—a large, powerful creature made of clay—is a figure from Jewish folklore. Based on the best-known version of the legend, Paul Wegener’s 1920 film Der Golem: Wie er in die Welt kam (The Golem: How He Came into the World) is a featured character in the upcoming exhibition Masterworks of Expressionist Cinema: The Golem and Its Avatars, along with illustrations from the 1915 novel The Golem and contemporary representations of the creature.

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 and Carl Boese, 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

Der Golem is set in 16th-century Prague, where a cruel emperor persecuted Jewish residents. Rabbi Loew fashions the Golem from riverbed clay and brings him to life with a magical amulet. The creature rampages through the city, crushing the enemies of the Jews. The Golem legend had heightened currency in Europe in the 1920s, when anti-Semitism was on the rise.

Hugo Steiner Prag, Czechoslovakia, active Germany and United States, 1880–1945, Die Erscheinung des Golem (The Appearance of the Golem), 1915–16, From the portfolio Der Golem (The Golem) lithograph, The Robert Gore Rifkind Center for German Expressionist Studies, M.82.287.68f. © The Estate of Hugo Steiner-Prag, photo © Museum Associates/LACMA.

Hugo Steiner Prag, Die Erscheinung des Golem (The Appearance of the Golem),  1915–16, the Robert Gore Rifkind Center for German Expressionist Studies, M.82.287.68f. © The Estate of Hugo Steiner-Prag, photo © Museum Associates/LACMA.

The idea of the Golem, an inanimate object brought to life, has many antecedents in art and literature, including the creation of Adam, Pinocchio, Frankenstein’s monster, and the robots and cyborgs that continue to populate comic books and movies. The Golem plays the role of superhero in a 1977 edition of The Invaders, a Marvel comic book, and the 2013 Breath of Bones comic series.

Auguste Rodin, The Earth, first modelled c. 1884–99, possibly cast in 1967, gift of B. Gerald Canter Art Foundation (M.73.108.6)

Auguste Rodin, The Earth, first modeled c. 1884–99, possibly cast in 1967, gift of B. Gerald Canter Art Foundation (M.73.108.6)

Additionally, an earlier work that alludes to the creation of Adam from dirt can be found in another exhibition at LACMA. Down to Earth: Modern Artists and the Land, before Land Art features Auguste Rodin’s sculpture The Earth (1894–99), which depicts a figure struggling to extricate itself from primordial mud. The work was described by a contemporary critic as “a veritable clod of earth in human form, the beginning of creation.” More than 60 years later, Jean Dubuffet cobbled together figures by collaging his own cut-up prints made of impressions from dirt and stone. The artist referred to the initial prints as “primordial matrices,” using them as source material to create his at once amusing and tragic Golem-like characters made of “earth.”

Jean Dubuffet and Serge Lozingot, L'Enfle Chique III, 1961–63, gift of Lucille and George N. Epstein (M.91.123.2)

Jean Dubuffet and Serge Lozingot, L’Enfle Chique III, 1961–63, gift of Lucille and George N. Epstein (M.91.123.2)

Leslie Jones, curator
Prints and Drawings

Sienna Brown, Wallis Annenberg Curatorial Fellow
Prints and Drawings


This Weekend at LACMA: Worldwide Art, Free Jazz and Brazilian Music, Free Outdoor Films, Family Workshops, and More!

August 16, 2013

You could take out a small loan and plan an intricate getaway to a faraway place in a quest for a new outlook on life or simply see inspired works of art and diverse perspectives from around the globe by visiting LACMA, your local encyclopedic museum, this weekend.

Beginning on the east side of campus and working westward, two of our newest exhibitions in the Pavilion for Japanese Art highlight distinct periods and styles: Kitasono Katue: Surrealist Poet and Lingering Dreams: Japanese Painting of the Seventeenth Century. In the Ahmanson Building the graceful Pinaree Sanpitak: Hanging by a Thread and genre-blending Princely Traditions and Colonial Pursuits in India showcase artists from South and Southeast Asia. Lastly, in the Resnick Pavilion, Hans Richter: Encounters brings to life the work of a German Renaissance man and his league of international collaborators from the early and mid-20th century.

Chaganlal (India, active 1916–45), Maharana Bhupal Singh (r. 1930–55), India, Rajasthan, Mewar, Udaipur, c. 1940, South and Southeast Asian Acquisition Fund.

Chaganlal (India, active 1916–45), Maharana Bhupal Singh (r. 1930–55), India, Rajasthan, Mewar, Udaipur, c. 1940, South and Southeast Asian Acquisition Fund

Eclectic tastes also extend into our weekly music offerings. On Friday evening beginning at 6 pm, Jazz at LACMA welcomes Luther Hughes & Cannonball/Coltrane Project, paying tribute to its two namesake jazz legends through arrangements and original compositions à la Cannonball and Coltrane (naturally). On Saturday evening at 5 pm, Latin Sounds plays host to two-time Grammy Award–winning Brazilian artist Dori Caymmi, who has performed with the likes of Caetano Veloso, Gal Costa, and Gilberto Gil over the course of his career. Then, on Sunday at 6 pm, Sundays Live presents the Theodore Norman Legacy Concert, featuring the Ensemble Fret and UCLA Guitarists, in honor of the late guitarist. Enjoy all this music for free!

A man awaits the start of a film at San Bernardino Art + Film Lab. Photo by Duncan Cheng.

A man awaits the start of a film at San Bernardino Art + Film Lab. Photo by Duncan Cheng.

The Art + Film Lab in San Bernardino continues to offer its slew of free community programming at Perris Hill Park. Bring your blanket and a picnic basket for two nights of free outdoor movies; see the animated Wes Anderson flick Fantastic Mr. Fox on Friday at 8:30 pm and the Mexican classic Macario on Saturday at 8:30 pm. Fantastic Mr. Fox tells the story a fox trying to become a better husband and father and the heist meant to deliver his friends and family from an evil bunch of humans. Macario, a parable of greed and cynicism, features the work of acclaimed cinematographer Gabriel Figueroa, whose work is featured in the upcoming Under the Mexican Sky: Gabriel Figueroa—Art and Film (opening September 22). Beyond films, guests are invited to partake in Oral History Drop-ins and a Mini Docs Workshop. This is the second-to-last weekend the Art + Film Lab is in San Bernardino. Next stop: Altadena (September 13–October 13).

Finally, families visiting the museum this weekend are invited to the free Andell Family Sundays event, Sunday from 12:30 to 3:30 pm, with craft workshops inspired by Shaping Power: Luba Masterworks from the Royal Museum for Central Africa. Children can make lukasas (Luba memory boards), kingship staffs, toddler tarps, sketching, and even take part in free bilingual family tours. And, lastly, school may be back in session, but at LACMA the summer sun hasn’t yet set—LACMA stays open late, until 11 pm, on Friday, with free general admission for L.A. County residents beginning at 3 pm. Come one, come all!

Roberto Ayala


VIDEO: John Solt on Avant Garde “Plastic Poetry” from Japan

August 14, 2013

We recently interviewed scholar, poet, and collector John Solt in the Pavilion for Japanese Art, about the extraordinary exhibition Kitasono Katue: Surrealist Poet, currently on view. Soft-spoken and modest, Solt nevertheless attracted a small crowd of enthused visitors during our interview, as his passion for Kitasono’s work (Solt is the author of Shredding the Tapestry of Meaning: The Poetry and Poetics of Kitasono Katsue, among other books) was palpable to all who overheard him.

Solt, a long-time advisor to our Japanese Art department, was perceptibly pleased with the installation at LACMA, accomplished through the deft work of curator Hollis Goodall and our design department, who labored to achieve a modernist aesthetic consistent with Kitasono’s own leanings. (Even the takeaway exhibition brochure is designed as a kind of fold-out paper sculpture, reflective of Kitasono’s aesthetic.)

Brochure accompanying Kitasono Katue: Surrealist Poet

Brochure accompanying Kitasono Katue: Surrealist Poet

Brochure accompanying Kitasono Katue: Surrealist Poet

Brochure accompanying Kitasono Katue: Surrealist Poet

In our interview, Solt talked about Kitasono’s “day job” as the librarian for a dental college, the radical nature of his poetry, the political oppression by the “thought police” that he endured during  World War II, and his far-reaching influence on other poets and artists. He also reflected on the pure pleasure of seeing great works of modern visual and linguistic poetry by Kitasono installed adjacent to masterpieces of Japanese art from previous centuries, in the contemplative atmosphere of the Pavilion.

Kitasono Katsue: Surrealist Poet is on view through December 1st.

Amy Heibel, video by Alexa Oona Schulz


Entering the Public: Representations of Women in the Work of Newsha Tavakolian

August 12, 2013

I attended a lecture by Nazila Noebashari, owner of Aaran Gallery in Tehran, when I first started my internship for the Art of the Middle East department here at LACMA. Aaran Gallery is a participant in Iran’s burgeoning contemporary art scene. Noebashari spoke about many artists, including Newsha Tavakolian, who began her career as a photojournalist before establishing herself as an artist.

Newsha Tavakolian, Untitled from The Day I Became a Woman series, 2009, purchased with funds provided by the Farhang Foundation, Fine Arts Council, and an anonymous donor, © Newsha Tavakolian

Newsha Tavakolian, Untitled from The Day I Became a Woman series, 2009, purchased with funds provided by the Farhang Foundation, Fine Arts Council, and an anonymous donor, © Newsha Tavakolian

Intrigued by the powerful presence of women depicted in Tavakolian’s work, I decided to focus my senior honors thesis on her series The Day I Became a Woman, from 2009. Born in the United States to Iranian émigrés, I find that exploring the work of Iranian artists, particularly women, provides me with a glimpse of what my life could have been like had my parents remained in Iran. My investigations satisfy my curiosities for a life I never lived.

I was elated when I discovered that LACMA acquired a total of four photographs from The Day I Became a Woman and Listen, from 2011. The former series documents a mandatory modern puberty ritual in Iran known as jashn-e taklif, which acknowledges the beginning of a young girl’s transition into adulthood, much like Judaism’s Bat Mitzvah or confirmation in Christianity. It is important to note that this ceremony, however, was first introduced after the Iranian Revolution of 1979 and is not necessarily a longstanding Islamic tradition, nor is it deeply rooted in Iranian culture.

Newsha Tavakolian, Untitled from The Day I Became a Woman series, 2009, purchased with funds provided by the Farhang Foundation, Fine Arts Council, and an anonymous donor, © Newsha Tavakolian

Newsha Tavakolian, Untitled from The Day I Became a Woman series, 2009, purchased with funds provided by the Farhang Foundation, Fine Arts Council, and an anonymous donor, © Newsha Tavakolian

The two images acquired by LACMA show the protagonist of the series, Romina, before and after her ceremony. Upon seeing the two works, gallery visitors see a physical change: Romina goes from holding a doll and wearing a revealing pink ballerina outfit to wearing modest clothing, which includes a mandatory hijab. In the Listen series, Tavakolian photographed six professional Iranian women singers and created fictional album covers. In postrevolutionary Iran, many talented artists are rendered voiceless as women are banned from solo performances in public. Unlike other images in this series, which show women singing, the photographs on view in the Islamic galleries feature a young woman standing in the middle of an empty road as well as in the sea.

At first glance, the two sets of photographs seem unrelated. I find that they are in dialogue with each other. Both of these women must be mindful of their actions in public. They also have to protect their reputation because it not only affects them, but also their families. Before knowing that curator Linda Komaroff was interested in these specific photographs, I asked Tavakolian in an interview whether she saw a connection between Romina and the young woman in the Listen series. Tavakolian explained that Romina is “the childhood of the woman with boxing gloves” (of course, not literally). The post-ceremony Romina and the young woman in Listen are incredibly similar in that they both appear defiant, confident, and confrontational, with a hint of vulnerability and melancholy in their expressions.

Newsha Tavakolian, Untitled from the Listen series, 2011, purchased with funds provided by the Farhang Foundation, Fine Arts Council, and an anonymous donor, © Newsha Tavakolian

Newsha Tavakolian, Untitled from the Listen series, 2011, purchased with funds provided by the Farhang Foundation, Fine Arts Council, and an anonymous donor, © Newsha Tavakolian

The modest Romina faces the camera with her arms crossed, a departure from the relaxed, innocent Romina we see pre-ceremony. The bright-red boxing gloves worn by the woman in Listen tell us that she’s ready to fight. In the next photograph, she stands with her back against the crashing waves of the sea. Rather than fall over from the force of the water, she is strong and unaffected—Mother Nature herself cannot disturb her.

Newsha Tavakolian, Untitled from the Listen series, 2011, purchased with funds provided by the Farhang Foundation, Fine Arts Council, and an anonymous donor, © Newsha Tavakolian

Newsha Tavakolian, Untitled from the Listen series, 2011, purchased with funds provided by the Farhang Foundation, Fine Arts Council, and an anonymous donor, © Newsha Tavakolian

The West has a tendency to see Middle Eastern women as oppressed, uneducated, and in dire need of liberation. Representations of strong, fearless Iranian women, as seen in Tavakolian’s work, break down these false stereotypes. (If only these images could reach a greater audience outside of the museum’s walls!) Despite the numerous setbacks women in Iran face, they still remain fierce warriors. Women are a majority in universities, are commonly the heads of their households, are active in political demonstrations, and are leaders in many industries, particularly the arts, which is a highly venerated field in Iran. Newsha Tavakolian herself, who is rapidly becoming one of the most significant artists to come out of Iran, is a testament to the fact that Iranian women have agency and a certain level of autonomy. The Day I Became a Woman and Listen showcase the tenacity and resilience that often characterizes Iranian women at home and abroad.

Tina Barouti, intern, Art of the Middle East


This Weekend at LACMA: One-of-a-Kind Exhibitions, Live Music, Free Workshops and Film, and More!

August 9, 2013

Something about warm mornings, washed-out afternoons, and orange-tinted evenings makes summertime a focus point for nostalgia. Make this weekend a memorable one with LACMA. In our galleries see The Presence of the Past: Peter Zumthor Reconsiders LACMA for a look back at what once was and a glimpse of what may be at the intersection of Wilshire and Fairfax. In the adjacent gallery space, Hans Richter: Encounters enters its final weeks. Within this dynamic exhibition visitors can examine the career of the prolific innovator and collaborator as represented in over 150 of Richter’s and his contemporaries’ works. Also a must-see, Henri Matisse: La Gerbe showcases one of the most stunning artworks from the legendary artist and looks at how the piece, La Gerbe, came to be.

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

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

For free live music this weekend, look no further than LACMA. Friday night’s Jazz at LACMA features the Bobby Bradford Mo’Tet at 6 pm. Bradford’s chops recently gained him the Festival of New Trumpet Music’s Award of Recognition. On Saturday, Latin Sounds brings out the heavy-hitting Chuchito Valdés Afro-Cuban Ensemble at 5 pm in Hancock Park. Stemming from a long line of musicians, Valdés is making his mark by re-envisioning cha-cha and mambo standards. Lastly, on Sunday at Sundays Live, see the Encore Saxophone Quartet at 6 pm in the Bing Theater. They perform works by Bach, Elgar, and Strayhorn. All concerts are free and open to the public.

In the city of San Bernardino, the San Bernardino Art + Film Lab rolls into its third week at Perris Hill Park. Throughout the weekend, everyone is invited to participate in Oral History sessions, a project where your personal story is recorded and archived in the LACMA collection for generations to come. Also take part in a Soundscapes Workshop and learn about the invisible layer of film. On the portable big screen you’ll find the Marx Brothers’ classic Duck Soup on Friday at 8:30 pm, and Los Colores de la Montaña on Saturday at 8:30 pm. Two very different films, the former is a parody on governments and leaders of our time, the latter depicts a precarious and conflicted land through the eyes of a child who just lost his new soccer ball. Everything is FREE at the San Bernardino Art + Film Lab!

Don’t forget that LACMA stays open late (`til 11 pm) on Friday night for Late Summer Hours. L.A. County residents receive free general admission starting at 3 pm! Then, on Sunday, bring your family to LACMA for Andell Family Sundays as children have the chance to design personal memory boards and royal objects, inspired by Shaping Power: Luba Masterworks from the Royal Museum for Central Africa. Lastly, check out two unique shows before they say their goodbyes: Between Art and Politics: Hans Richter’s Germany and Construction/Deconstruction: Defining Architectural Photography. This weekend is for the books.

Roberto Ayala


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