Conservation Pool Party: The Washing and Bleaching of a Robert Rauschenberg Print

September 16, 2013

One of the many great reasons to live in Los Angeles is its magnificent weather, which boasts year-round moderate temperatures, vernal breezes, and clear blue skies. Most importantly, though, are the dry and sunny summers. Incidentally, not only is it the perfect time of year for a pool party, but also for the outdoor treatment of very large works of art on paper, which, as it turns out, involves a pool of sorts.

Robert Rauschenberg’s “Booster” with the area of color discrepancy inset with red.

Robert Rauschenberg, Booster, from the series Booster and Seven Studies (edition 38 or 38), 1967, gift of the Times Mirror Company. The area of color discrepancy is inset with red.

As a pre-program conservation intern in the Paper Conservation Laboratory, I had the opportunity to help in the treatment of Robert Rauschenberg’s lithograph and screenprint, Booster, from the Booster and Seven Studies series. The print was discolored overall, with the exception of a small patch in the upper-right quadrant of the print. To reduce discoloration, the work of art was bleached by exposure to high-intensity light, a standard treatment protocol in paper conservation. This piece, however, was too large to be treated indoors. Insert the ideal conditions in Los Angeles. We took the treatment outside into the sunlight of this city.

Assistant Conservator, Erin Jue, taking notes in the Paper Conservation Department’s iPad.

Assistant conservator Erin Jue takes notes with the Paper Conservation Department’s iPad.

Associate Conservator, Soko Furuhata, humidifying the print with a Dahlia sprayer.

Associate conservator Soko Furuhata humidifies the print with a Dahlia sprayer.

The bleaching power of the sun has been known by many for centuries, and the use of light to bleach discoloration has become an accepted conservation practice. Tucked away in the B. Gerald Cantor Sculpture Garden, on a patch of well-groomed lawn, we set up for an afternoon of outdoor washing and bleaching. A wood frame, made by senior conservation technician Jean Neeman, was assembled, and over it laid a double layer of polyethylene sheeting. Next, 20 gallons of filtered water were poured in the temporary basin, and the pH of the bath was made slightly alkaline.

Head of Paper Conservation, Janice Schopfer, overseeing the transfer of the print into the bath.

Head of paper conservation Janice Schopfer oversees the transfer of the print into the bath.

Pre-program Intern, Jacklyn Chi, preparing the print for drying.

Pre-program intern Jacklyn Chi prepares the print for drying.

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Sunbathing with Booster

Just like diving into a pool of cool water, the work of art was lowered in to the inviting water in our portable “Doughboy pool.” For the rest of the afternoon, we monitored the progress of the bleaching while partaking in the popular Los Angeles pastime of working on our tans by the pool.

Jacklyn Chi, pre-program intern


This Weekend at LACMA: Last Chance for Peter Zumthor, L.A. Times’ Christopher Hawthorne in Conversation, Arrival of the Altadena Art + Film Lab, and More!

September 13, 2013

This weekend, provoke thought and find inspiration at LACMA. Consider The Presence of the Past: Peter Zumthor Reconsiders LACMA, which reaches its final day on view this Sunday in the Resnick Pavilion. Swiss architect Peter Zumthor contemplates and reweighs the purpose and use of the encyclopedic museum. The exhibition finds context in the history of the site and studies the possibility of a more permeable and organic structure as represented in exceptionally large models.

For further insight and understanding into this topic, join us on Sunday at 2 pm, when Los Angeles Times architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne leads a discussion on American architecture of the last half-century and its connection to the surrounding environment. Earlier in the week on Unframed, Hawthorne previewed his talk. Away, a ray, array: Architecture, Museums, and Nature, 1965 to the Present is free to all and reservations are not required.

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

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

Exercise your creative might at the debut of the Altadena Art + Film Lab in Charles White Park, the third site for the mobile LACMA9 Art + Film Lab. For five weekends, we invite the entire mountainside community to this free space of artistic exploration. Throughout its run, participants will be able to learn about filmmaking in hands-on workshops, share and record personal experiences in oral history drop-ins, and enjoy weekly outdoor film screenings. The event kicks off with Friday’s opening-night celebration at the lab, which includes a sneak peek at the Art + Film Lab, live music by jazz quartet Louis Van Taylor band, food, and a screening of the witty and hopeful Le Havre at 8 pm. The Altadena Art + Film Lab is open through October 13.

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

On campus, Andell Family Sundays prompts children and parents to design their own textile art à la Pinaree Sanpitak: Hanging by a Thread, on Sunday beginning at 12:30 pm. And, in the galleries, be sure to ruminate the African figures and emblems from Shaping Power: Luba Masterworks from the Royal Museum for Central Africa; ponder portraits from Talk of the Town: Portraits by Edward Steichen from the Hollander Collection; and, if you haven’t already, question perception itself in James Turrell: A Retrospective. Ticket for this exhibition are available, but reservations in advance are highly recommended.

Bowl-Bearing Figure, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Luba-Henba Peoples, 19th Century, Wood (Ricinodendron rautanenii), Royal Museum for Central Africa, RG 14358 (Collected between 1981 and 1912, gift of A.H. Bure), Photo R. Asselberghs, RMCA Tervuren ©

Bowl-Bearing Figure, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Luba-Henba Peoples, 19th Century, Wood (Ricinodendron rautanenii), Royal Museum for Central Africa, RG 14358 (Collected between 1981 and 1912, gift of A.H. Bure), Photo R. Asselberghs, RMCA Tervuren ©

Lastly, Jazz at LACMA presents the stimulating blues and uptown bebop of the Michael Session Sextet on Friday at 6 pm in front of Urban Light. Saxophonist Session and crew pay tribute to famed pianist Horace Tapscott and Nate Morgan and will be accompanied onstage by vocalist and flutist Maia for select pieces. On Sunday at 6 pm, Sundays Live features Salastina Music Society performing works by Handel and Cavaterra, among others. Concerts are free and open to the public. How brilliant!

Roberto Ayala


Charles White: The Artist and the Park

September 12, 2013

Charles White (1918–1979) is known as much for being an influential artist as he was a teacher and community advocate. He used art as a tool to highlight dark realities that he personally experienced as a black man. White expertly handled the gritty subject matter of social injustice, discrimination, and poverty with impeccable craftsmanship and incongruous elegance. For the last 20 years of his life, White lived in Altadena with his wife and children, Ian and Jessica.

 Charles White, I Have a Dream, 1976, Graphic Arts Council Fund, © Charles White

Charles White, I Have a Dream, 1976, Graphic Arts Council Fund, © Charles White

Shortly after White’s death, the city of Altadena in 1980 named a park after its longtime resident. The only park in the United States named after an American-born artist, the site played host to the annual Art in the Park festivals through the 1990s, which celebrated and honored the work of the park’s namesake while supporting local artists. The event brought the community together to commemorate the legacy of the artist while encouraging the trailblazing spirit of White through art.

Charles White, The Embrace, 1942, bequest of Fannie and Alan Leslie, © Charles White

Charles White, The Embrace, 1942, bequest of Fannie and Alan Leslie, © Charles White

While the Art in the Park festivals are no longer taking place, Charles White Park continues to be an integral part of the community. Charles White’s connection to LACMA is strong. Numerous works by the artist are in our collection, and we have a long-term partnership with Charles White Elementary School in MacArthur Park. It is only fitting that LACMA extends its association with White with the Altadena Art+Film Lab, which kicks off tomorrow at Charles White Park in Altadena. Ian White, Charles White’s son, will be present to introduce the film Le Havre, which will be screened on Friday.

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Opening night dance party at San Bernardino

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Participant gathering ambient noise for Soundscape class in San Bernardino

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Participants editing video artworks in San Bernardino

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Still image from oral history participants in San Bernardino

The lab, which serves as a hub to collect oral histories and provide free workshops and outdoor screenings, will reside in the park for five weeks. Channeling the power of expression so evident in White’s work, LACMA is offering a suite of opportunities for participants to tell their story, from creating mini documentaries to recording oral history video portraits. Join us on Friday, September 13, to celebrate the opening of Altadena Art + Film Lab with live music, a screening, and snacks.

Sarah Jesse, associate vice president, Education and Public Programs
Linda Theung, editor


Q & A with Christopher Hawthorne

September 11, 2013

In advance of Christopher Hawthorne’s talk at LACMA on Sunday, September 15, Unframed asked the L.A. Times architecture critic about the topics he’ll cover in his lecture, his recent research interests, and his focus on American architecture.

Can you provide a brief overview of your talk?

I’ll be talking about the shifting relationship between American architecture and the natural world over the last 50 years, with a particular focus on how American museum design has changed over that time. The talk begins with a look at two high-profile projects that opened within a few weeks of each other in 1965: the Astrodome in Houston and the original LACMA campus by William Pereira. Both those designs, products of a highly optimistic and wealthy postwar American culture, suggested that the natural world could be controlled, sealed off, kept easily at bay. And in both cases, for different reasons, that confidence wound up being badly misplaced. At LACMA, tar and gas starting seeping into Pereira’s reflecting pools almost as soon as the museum opened.

Jet Lowe, Astrodome Looking East from Rooftof of Adjacent Reliant Stadium (New NFL/Rodeo Stadium)—Houston Astrodome, 8400 Kirby Drive, Houston, Harris County, TX, 2004,  Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA, HAER TX-108-1

Jet Lowe, Astrodome Looking East from Rooftof of Adjacent Reliant Stadium (New NFL/Rodeo Stadium)—Houston Astrodome, 8400 Kirby Drive, Houston, Harris County, Texas, 2004, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA, HAER TX-108-1

William L. Pereira and Associates. Los Angeles County Museum of Art, c. 1965. Photo © Museum Associates/LACMA, photographic archives

William L. Pereira and Associates. Los Angeles County Museum of Art, c. 1965, photo © Museum Associates/LACMA, photographic archives

What prompted your research into the relationship of American architecture of the last half-century to the natural world?

Almost a decade ago, I wrote a book (with Alanna Stang) on green residential architecture, and I’ve lately been interested in finding ways to expand the discussion about sustainable design beyond the quite limited checklist mentality promoted by LEED and other guidelines. The national conversation about food and food policy in this country has really grown richer, more nuanced, and more productive in recent years, thanks to Michael Pollan and other writers; I’m hoping we can broaden the discussion about architecture and the environment in a similar way. I’ve also become increasingly fascinated, even obsessed, by the design and history of the Astrodome.

Jet Lowe, Lamella Dome Framing Detail. Note Catwalk at 12 O'Clock and Suspended Pentagonal Light Right Gondola. Also Note Compression Ring at Crown of Dome.—Houston Astrodome, 8400 Kirby drive, Houston, Harris County, Texas, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, HAER TX-108-15

Jet Lowe, Lamella Dome Framing Detail. Note Catwalk at 12 O’Clock and Suspended Pentagonal Light Right Gondola. Also Note Compression Ring at Crown of Dome—Houston Astrodome, 8400 Kirby Drive, Houston, Harris County, Texas, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, HAER TX-108-15

I think you could make a pretty good case that it’s the most significant American building of the second half of the 20th century. The Astrodome’s debut was really the high pointand therefore the beginning of the endof a very American, very confident, and ultimately very naive idea about how buildings ought to treat nature. Both the Astrodome and the original LACMA suggested that we could pretend the natural world was merely a nuisancethat we could create hermetically sealed buildings that would keep nature at arm’s length. Now, facing increasingly dire predictions of sea-level rise and other environmental threats, we’ve given up on that idea almost entirely: especially after Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Sandy, the symbolism of architecture’s relationship to nature is one of anxiety, uncertainty, and even catastrophe. Architectural imagery that used to belong squarely to the world of science fictionthe cover of J. G. Ballard’s 1962 novel The Drowned World, sayis now a staple of news coverage of our own cities. And the Astrodome itself is now empty and unused, in danger of being demolished to extend the parking lot of the much newer Reliant Stadium, where the Houston Texans play.

Carol M. Highsmith, Aerial of the Astrodome, Houston, Texas, c. 1980–2006, Photographs in the Carol M. Highsmith Archive, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, LC-HS503- 1426, LC-DIG-highsm-12687

Carol M. Highsmith, Aerial of the Astrodome, Houston, Texas, c. 1980–2006, Photographs in the Carol M. Highsmith Archive, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, LC-HS503- 1426, LC-DIG-highsm-12687

What are some buildings you will cite in your lecture that best respond to their landscape and natural environment?

Among museums and other buildings, what’s important now is a measure of flexibility, resilience and accommodation, a sense that it’s futile to pretend that we can exercise total dominion over nature. The fantastic and underrated Louisiana Museum just outside Copenhagen, by the Danish architects Vilhem Wohlert and Jorgen Bo, is one impressive example of that flexibility; another very different one is Kevin Roche’s Oakland Museum, finished in 1968.

Louisiana Museum in Copenhagen, Denmark, image courtesy of karlnorling, via Flickr

Louisiana Museum in Copenhagen, Denmark, designed by Vilhem Wohlert and Jorgen Bo, image courtesy of and © karlnorling, via Flickr

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Oakland Museum of California, designed by Kevin Roche, image courtesy of and © mark.hogan, via Flickr

You are familiar with Peter Zumthor’s proposed model for LACMA as well as his site-specific works in Europe. How do you feel his proposal would contribute to America’s architectural landscape?

Zumthor’s LACMA proposal is a work in progress, but at this early stage what interests me most is how it seems to celebrate the very slippery and unstable qualities of its site—the tar, especiallythat the 1965 design wanted to keep under wraps and invisible. His LACMA scheme is also very different from the two fairly rational art museums he’s designed in Europe; something about L.A. and this site along Wilshire has prompted from Zumthor a newly organic and fluid approach that for me is emblematic of some larger shifts in architecture.

Installation view of The Presence of the Past: Peter Zumthor Reconsiders LACMA, photo by Philipp Scholz Rittermann, © 2013 Museum Associates/LACMA


Magritte and the Trading of Images

September 9, 2013

Last Friday, René Magritte’s iconic masterpiece, The Treachery of Images (This is Not a Pipe) (La trahison des images [Ceci n’est pas une pipe]) (1929), left its home in LACMA’s Modern Art wing for New York. The painting will be featured in the yearlong exhibition, Magritte: The Mystery of the Ordinary, 1926–1938, opening later this month at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, before traveling to the Menil Collection, Houston, and the Art Institute of Chicago.

René Magritte, The Treachery of Images (This Is Not a Pipe) (La Trahison des images [Ceci n'est pas une pipe]), 1929, purchased with funds provided by the Mr. and Mrs. William Preston Harrison Collection, © 2013 C. Herscovici, London / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

René Magritte, The Treachery of Images (This Is Not a Pipe) (La Trahison des images [Ceci n'est pas une pipe]), 1929, purchased with funds provided by the Mr. and Mrs. William Preston Harrison Collection, © 2013 C. Herscovici, London / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Magritte (1898–1967)—a Belgian artist most often associated with the Surrealist movements in Paris and Brussels—created a body of work that explored perceptions of reality and illusion and the disjunction between images and language. The Treachery of Images (This is Not a Pipe) exemplifies his masterful word-image paintings by pairing a picture of a pipe with the contradictory phrase, “Ceci n’est pas une pipe” (This is Not a Pipe). Though Magritte’s pipe certainly looks like one, the artist’s linguistic rejection asserts that the painted representation is not synonymous with the real thing.

Installation at LACMA of   René Magritte, The Treachery of Images (This Is Not a Pipe) (La Trahison des images [Ceci n'est pas une pipe]), 1929, purchased with funds provided by the Mr. and Mrs. William Preston Harrison Collection, © 2013 C. Herscovici, London / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York (left) and René Magritte, The Liberator, 1947, gift of William Copley, © 2013 C. Herscovici, London / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York (right)

Installation at LACMA of René Magritte, The Treachery of Images (This Is Not a Pipe) (La Trahison des images [Ceci n'est pas une pipe]), 1929, purchased with funds provided by the Mr. and Mrs. William Preston Harrison Collection, © 2013 C. Herscovici, London / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York (left) and René Magritte, The Liberator, 1947, gift of William Copley, © 2013 C. Herscovici, London / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York (right)

René Magritte, The Liberator, 1947, gift of William Copley, © 2013 C. Herscovici, London / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

René Magritte, The Liberator, 1947, gift of William Copley, © 2013 C. Herscovici, London / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

The painting entered LACMA’s collection in 1978 and occupies an important place within the museum’s holdings of avant-garde art from Europe. It is situated within the Dada, Surrealism, De Stijl gallery on the second floor of LACMA’s Ahmanson Building (gallery 224) among works by artists such as Arshile Gorky, Fernand Léger, Joan Miró, Pablo Picasso, and Yves Tanguy. It also hangs next to the other Magritte painting owned by LACMA, The Liberator (1947). LACMA is the only museum collection in Los Angeles with holdings of works by Magritte, and, with the temporary absence of The Treachery of Images (This is Not a Pipe), LACMA now has a new painting by the artist hanging in its place, on loan from the Menil Collection.

René Magritte, The Listening room (la chambre d'écoute), 1952, The Menil Collection, Houston. Gift of Philippa Friedrich, © 2013 C. Herscovici, London / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

René Magritte, The Listening Room (la chambre d’écoute), 1952, The Menil Collection, Houston. Gift of Philippa Friedrich, © 2013 C. Herscovici, London / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

In the spirit of collegiality and scholarship, museums occasionally lend their works to other institutions for exhibitions. This can be difficult to do if the work is greatly loved by the museum’s visitors and its curators, but it can sometimes present an opportunity to exhibit something new from afar. The Menil Collection—which owns a remarkable 54 works by Magritte—has sent their painting, The Listening Room (La chambre d’écoute) (1952), to LACMA for the run of their traveling exhibition, which explores the artist’s earlier work. This painting—from a much later period in Magritte’s career and thus, beyond the scope of their presentation—is emblematic of the artist’s playful compositions of domestic spaces overtaken by dramatically oversized everyday objects, such as apples, roses, drinking glasses, and combs. In The Listening Room, a massive green apple dominates an empty and compact interior with a window revealing the outside landscape. The Belgian poet Paul Colinet, a friend of Magritte, described the artist’s works as “magnetized listening devices” and gave the painting its title.

Installation photo of the exhibition Magritte and Contemporary Art: The Treachery of Images (November 2006–March 2007), Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Photo © Museum Associates LACMA

Installation photo of the exhibition Magritte and Contemporary Art: The Treachery of Images (November 2006–March 2007), Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Photo © Museum Associates LACMA

This is not the first time The Listening Room has been on view at LACMA. It was included in the exhibition Magritte and Contemporary Art: The Treachery of Images at LACMA in 2006–7, which examined the artist’s impact on contemporary artists such as John Baldessari (who designed the exhibition), Robert Gober, Ed Ruscha, and others. Magritte’s alterations of scale inspired later artists such as Vija Celmins and Claes Oldenburg, who were both influenced by the iconic larger-than-life-size objects in Magritte’s work. For example, in Untitled (Comb) (1970), currently on view in a gallery adjacent to the Magritte works, Celmins made a sculptural reproduction of a comb in Magritte’s painting, Les valeurs personnelles (Personal Values) (1952).

 Vija Celmins, Untitled (Comb), 1970, Contemporary Art Council Fund, © Vija Celmins

Vija Celmins, Untitled (Comb), 1970, Contemporary Art Council Fund, © Vija Celmins

The Menil Collection’s The Listening Room is now in an exciting dialogue with LACMA’s The Liberator, a pairing that offers a new perspective on Magritte’s late work. Instead of a large, inflated object that distorts reality, the man in The Liberator sits in a landscape of unfolding structures and clouds with only everyday objects such as a suitcase, cane, and hat to ground him in the real world. Perhaps the fantastical outdoor scene in The Liberator is not far from the one outside The Listening Room’s window? Or perhaps the two paintings demonstrate two unique and independent visions by the artist? The Listening Room and The Liberator will be on view together through October 2014 for you to make your own connections and comparisons.

Installation at LACMA of René Magritte, The Listening room (la chambre d'écoute), 1952, The Menil Collection, Houston. Gift of Philippa Friedrich, © 2013 C. Herscovici, London / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York (left) and René Magritte, The Liberator, 1947, gift of William Copley, © 2013 C. Herscovici, London / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York (right)

Installation at LACMA of René Magritte, The Listening room (la chambre d’écoute), 1952, The Menil Collection, Houston. Gift of Philippa Friedrich, © 2013 C. Herscovici, London / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York (left) and René Magritte, The Liberator, 1947, gift of William Copley, © 2013 C. Herscovici, London / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York (right)

Christine Robinson
Yvonne and Harry Lenart Graduate Intern, Modern Art


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