This Weekend at LACMA: Muse Costume Ball, Agnès Varda on Screen and In Person, Premiere of “See the Light—Photography, Perception, Cognition,” and More!

October 25, 2013

Once a year the long-fabled phantoms and apparitions of the museum enter our human realm in unison and descend upon a grand celebration now only known to the clairvoyant as the Muse Costume Ball. A truly haunted experience, this year we revel in a manner reminiscent of old Hollywoodland. The event includes entertainment from Clairy Browne and the Bangin’ Rackettes in front of Urban Light, Theophilus London on the turntables `til 1 am, and Zombie Joe’s Underground Theatre Group plaguing the after-party. Don your best disguise and compete in the Costume Contest (featuring celebrity judges) and examine the artworks in several of our ghastly galleries. Tickets are still available for this season’s spookiest soirée!

Credits: Urban Light, Chris Burden (2008) © Chris Burden; Smoke, Tony Smith (1967) © Tony Smith Estate / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York; video and song by David Braun

Agnès Varda, the famed French filmmaker turned visual artist, appears in person as part of the film series The World According to Agnès Varda: Recent and Restored Work. Running in anticipation of the exhibition Agnès Varda in Californialand (opening November 3 and the first U.S. museum presentation of her work), this film series begins with The Gleaners and I and Two Years Later and Agnès Varda From Here to There on Friday and continues into Saturday with Agnès Varda From Here to There: Episodes 3 and 4 (free admission) and The Beaches of Agnès Varda and Uncle Yanco. Throughout the series you’ll see many firsts, including Varda’s first digital-video work, the debut of her television series, and newly restored works from LACMA, the Annenberg Foundation, and The Film Foundation.

Still from the short film Uncle Yanco, Agnès Varda, 1967, © ciné-tamaris

Still from the short film Uncle Yanco, Agnès Varda, 1967, © ciné-tamaris

On tap from the music department, Jazz at LACMA presents vocalist Sara Leib on Friday evening and the Capitol Ensemble at Sundays Live. First, Sara Leib, a seasoned performer, demonstrates her ability to revive jazz standards that appeal to both the discerning ear and the casual listener. Then, The Capitol Ensemble, the series’ resident group, brings together the powerful violinist Phillip Levy and guest pianist Rina Dokshitsky. Weekly music programming is always free and open to the public.

In the galleries, see our newest exhibition, See the Light—Photography, Perception, Cognition: The Marjorie and Leonard Vernon Collection, a series of over 200 photographs from quite possibly the most impressive survey of photographic history in existence. The exhibition tracks the parallels between art and science and how the relationship between the two has shifted over time. Members see it first on Friday and Saturday. Elsewhere, be sure to visit Masterworks of Expressionist Cinema: The Golem and Its Avatars for even more cinematic studies and Lingering Dreams: Japanese Painting of the 17th Century for masterful, panoramic views of Kyoto from the 16th century. Last but not least, this week’s Andell Family Sundays looks at the work of Gabriel Figueroa, taking place on Sunday at 12:30 pm. See you here.

Roberto Ayala

Ghosts of Costumes Past

October 24, 2013

With only one week to go until Halloween, and only three days until LACMA’s famous Muse Costume Ball, we thought it would be fun to introduce some of our staff in favorite Halloween costumes from years past to stir up some ideas for the event.


JoAnna Reyes Walton (with Glenn and Liliana Walton)

Favorite artwork: Juan Patricio Morlete Ruiz’s View of the Town and Harbor of Toulon (La villa y rada de Tolón)

What I do at LACMA: research assistant, Latin American art department

Favorite costume that’s knocked on your door: Kids dressed up as food


Megan Knox

What I do at LACMA: curatorial administrator, Latin American art department

Favorite artwork: Angel Zárraga’s La femme et le pantin

Favorite candy to get when trick-or-treating: Sweet Tarts


Connie Ng as Gotham tower

What I do at LACMA: marketing manager, membership department

Favorite artwork: Chris Burden’s Urban Light at dusk

Who would win in a fight: vampire, mummy, or werewolf? Vampire! Edward Cullen . . . with his dramatic pauses! (Editorial note: there was no pause whatsoever in this answer.)


Jessica Youn as jack-o-lantern

What I do at LACMA: communications associate, communications department

Favorite artwork: Mark Rothko’s White Center

Do you think LACMA is haunted? I don’t know. You should asks the ghosts.


Meghan McCauley at LACMA Costume Ball in 2012

What I do at LACMA: new members manager, membership department. I also get to plan the Muse Costume Ball!

Favorite artwork: Ed Ruscha’s OK

Favorite costume I saw at LACMA last year: Martian from Mars Attacks

Show your costumes off at LACMA this Saturday during the Muse Costume Ball for a chance to win prizes awarded by costume designers Judianna Makovsky (The Hunger Games, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone), Julie Weiss (Hitchcock, Frida), and Daniel Orlandi (Saving Mr. Banks, Down With Love).

For more info and tickets here.

Meghan McCauley, new members manager, membership department

Agnès Varda Loves Los Angeles

October 23, 2013

We had a convertible car. We were playing the game. Then I would drive. I would take Pico and go from the ocean to downtown. I would do Sunset Boulevard that turns a lot. I would do all the streets—Venice Boulevard, etc. I was impressed, absolutely impressed.”  —Agnès Varda

Starting this weekend, LACMA launches the film series The World According to Agnès Varda: Recent and Restored Work. The series complements our upcoming exhibition Agnès in Californialand, the first presentation in a United States museum of the visual art of Varda. For those who are not familiar with Varda, she has been a mainstay in international art cinema since the late 1950s. As our film curator Bernardo Rondeau states in his program notes for the film series, “before there was a French New Wave, there was Agnès Varda.”

Viva!—Rado—Ragni—Varda in Hommage to Magritte, Agnès Varda's film LIONS LOVE (. . . AND LIES), 1968, © Max Rabb / Agnès Varda

Viva!—Rado—Ragni—Varda Agnès Varda’s film LIONS LOVE (. . . AND LIES), 1968, © Max Rabb / Agnès Varda

Over the course of the next months, LACMA’s visitors will be able to experience Varda’s media and visual art output. In the exhibition, I invited Varda to use the gallery space to ruminate on the time that she spent in Southern California in two short but impactful periods of her (and California’s) history: 1967–69 and 1980–81. The exhibition and program were also inspired by a major film restoration effort spearheaded by LACMA in conjunction with the Annenberg Foundation and The Film Foundation to preserve four films that Varda made during her time in California: Uncle Yanco (1967), Black Panthers (1968), LIONS LOVE (. . . AND LIES) (1969), and Mur Murs (1981).

Agnès Varda's film Mur Murs (Mural Murals), 1980, ©ciné-tamaris

Agnès Varda’s film Mur Murs (Mural Murals), 1980, ©ciné-tamaris

The inaugural film series, part of a number that will eventually feature all of Varda’s major works plus the films by some of her peers, including Chris Marker and Marguerite Duras, focuses on her output in the last decade and a half. From my perspective, both The Gleaners and I and The Beaches of Agnès are sublime cine-video essays that lay the groundwork for the photographs and installation environment that will be experienced in Agnès in Californialand. The former gives you a sense of how she has always treated her encounters with place and personality as ground for gleaning, especially of sites and stories that others have passed over or cast aside. The latter shows with Varda’s sharpness and irrepressible wit how her life and loves have been constructed through and interwoven with all of her cinematic and artistic endeavors.

Still from the short film Uncle Yanco, Agnès Varda, 1967, © ciné-tamaris

Still from the short film Uncle Yanco, Agnès Varda, 1967, © ciné-tamaris

We will present all of the restored films with one of the highlights being a projection of the shamefully undervalued LIONS LOVE ( . . . AND LIES). To say that LIONS LOVE is a period piece does not do it justice. The film is a cosmic collision of the deliciously divine performances of Viva (of the Andy Warhol superstar pantheon), Jim Rado and Gerome Ragni (high off their recent fame with the musical Hair), and Shirley Clarke (filmmaker of the also chronically underrated Portrait of Jason, 1967), not to overlook a rowdy cameo by Varda herself. There are nude bodies, boas, plastic flowers, and swimming pools as this is a candy-colored assortment of what was happening when east and west coast (counter)cultures collided, but this is also a complex portrait of Americans addressing historical trauma in the privacy of living rooms lit by the glimmer of a perpetually powered television set.”

Viva!—Rado—Ragni—Varda in Hommage to Magritte, Agnès Varda's film LIONS LOVE (. . . AND LIES), 1968, © Max Rabb / Agnès Varda

Viva!—Rado—Ragni—Varda in Hommage to Magritte, Agnès Varda’s film LIONS LOVE (. . . AND LIES), 1968, © Max Rabb / Agnès Varda

A full listing of the programs can be found here. Agnès Varda herself will be present at all the screenings this weekend and on October 29. She will also be in conversation with Rani Singh at the Getty on November 3rd and the guest artistic director of the AFI Film Fest. Who knows, you might even see catch a glimpse of her in a convertible cruising up Sunset or Pico?

Rita Gonzalez, associate curator, contemporary art

Muse Costume Ball: Clairy Browne and the Bangin’ Rackettes

October 21, 2013

On Saturday, October 26, LACMA throws its 10th-annual Muse Costume Ball, one of the biggest and best Halloween parties in Los Angeles. The bash is well known for mixing the best in exhibitions, costumes, and music. As we prepare to welcome two musical guests, Clairy Browne and the Bangin’ Rackettes and Theophilus London, to the event, LACMA’s Meghan McCauley interviewed Ruby, one of the Bangin’ Rackettes, to tell us a bit about what we can expect this weekend.

Clairy Brown and the Bangin’ Rackettes, photo by Stephanie Bailly

Give me a quick rundown of who is the band, and what you’re all about.

It’s almost impossible to give a quick rundown of a nine-piece band! But here we go: the five handsome men that play the instruments, we call the Beestings—Nick “Ricky” Martyn on drums, Jules Pascoe on bass, Darcy McNulty on baritone saxophone, Peter Bee on the guitar, and Gabriel Strangio on piano. Loretta Miller, Ruby Jones, and Camilla McQueen make up the Bangin’ Rackettes, and Clairy Browne is the leader and head diva. We formed like Voltron, Clairy just happened to be at the head. We have been playing together for around four years now.

Tell me a little bit about your sound. Would you define yourselves as a soul band? 

Loretta, Clairy, Ruby, and Camilla

We don’t want to define or name check our musical style too much. We think boxes cramp our style. With that said, I guess you would define it as soul! We play music: pop music. We have a lot of influences and come from a lot of different places musically. With nine people, you can imagine how many influences are at play at any one point. At the moment we’re really digging Frank Ocean, Raphael Saadiq, Lorde, Little Dragon, Rykarda Parasol, and list goes on! It is an ever evolving and growing list.

You have a fantastic stage presence as a band as well—and the costumes are amazing! How do you design your costumes? Do you get them special ordered? Does your sound inspire your look?

Thanks for the compliment. A lot of time, thought, and discussion goes into the costumes. We might see something we like or are inspired by in magazines, online, or maybe in a book. Inspiration for our looks can come from anywhere.  We compile mood boards and put together Pinterest pages and look at different fabric textures and color themes. The next step is thrashing it out and seeing what is doable with our limited budget and what is possible for us to actually make that that will wear and travel well.

Still from Love Letter music video

Most of the costumes are designed and made ourselves, others were made for us, some we have bought off the rack, others were begged, borrowed, and stolen. Music and fashion have always been intrinsically linked and I think it’s fairly prevalent in our band! We want to make sure the visual elements compliment the music.

The theme of this year’s Muse Costume Ball is Haunted Hollywood. Do you believe in ghosts and/or have you ever been haunted? 

I totally believe in ghosts! I’m trying to organize a time to go see Ed and Lorraine Warrens Occult Museum while we’re touring here. Take me there now!

What are you most looking forward to about performing at LACMA?

Performing in front of the iconic Urban Light installation! And I can’t wait to go trick or treating, we don’t really celebrate Halloween in Australia, so we’re pretty excited to be here at this time of the year. We plan to get dressed up and see what the revelry is all about.

Tickets to the Muse Costume Ball are close to selling out. Don’t miss your opportunity to check out Clairy Browne and the Bangin’ Rackettes, along with Theophilus London and LACMA’s slate of exhibitions this Saturday, October 26, from 8 pm to 1 am. Get your tickets here.

This Weekend at LACMA: Deep Cuts of Mexican Film, Education on Aesthetics, Free Concerts, and More!

October 18, 2013

Each week teams across the museum work in tandem to bring an invigorating schedule of programming. From our film department, the exhibition film series Luis Buñuel and Gabriel Figueroa: A Surreal Alliance comes to a dramatic conclusion in the Bing Theater. Highlighting the collaborative efforts of two of cinema’s most inspired creators, Friday’s double feature includes the moving Nazarín at 7:30 pm, followed by the improbably Southern gothic La Joven (The Young One) at 9:10 pm. Then, on Saturday, see Él, a film imbued with paranoia and dark humor, at 5 pm for free. Following at 7:30 pm, we close out the series with shadowy cinematography and surrealist currents in the back-to-back showing of The Exterminating Angel and Simon of the Desert. For more from Figueroa and his contemporaries, make sure to tour the exhibition Under the Mexican Sky: Gabriel Figueroa—Art and Film, now on view.

Our team of educators and public programmers have in store a buffet of enlightened events. On Saturday LACMA hosts a symposium around the recently acquired Apotheosis by social-realist painter Ben Shahn. The event, Art and Radical Politics: Ben Shahn and the Tom Mooney Affair, begins at 10 am and continues into the afternoon with four separate speakers. Simultaneously, at 1 pm, performance artist Liz Glynn returns to LACMA in the third of her five-part series, [de]-lusions of Grandeur, A Performance Project by Liz Glynn. In this cycle, Glynn considers and interprets two works by Richard Serra that are part of the collection. Finally, on Sunday at 2 pm Shaping Power: Luba Masterworks from the Royal Museum for Central Africa curator Mary (Polly) Nooter Roberts sits down with Congolese artist Aimé Mpane to discuss her installation, Congo: Shadow of the Shadow, which is part of the exhibition. Aimé Mpane: Artist in Conversation, as well as the other events, are free and require no reservations.

Aimè Mpane, Congo, Shadow of the Shadow, 2005, Mixed-media installation, 132 x 209 x 144 in., photo (c) 2013 Museum Associates/LACMA

Aimè Mpane, Congo, Shadow of the Shadow, 2005, photo © 2013 Museum Associates/LACMA

Of course, our music division is always up to something at the end of the work week. This time Jazz at LACMA welcomes the Ted Howe Trio for an exuberant Evening of Duke Ellington. The delightful and critically acclaimed composition of pianist and composer Ted Howe has even been an inspiration for the well-respected Ruth Mitchell Dance Theater in Atlanta. On the same note, Sunday Live features a performance by the American Youth Symphony, a group of young and talented musicians only years away from redefining classical music for their generation. Moreover, renowned music director and former LA Phil concertmaster Alexander Treger leads the ensemble.

Gregory Crewdson, Untitled, 1991, printed 1993, Photo L.A. Fund, © Gregory Crewdson, courtesy of the artist and Gagosian Gallery

Gregory Crewdson, Untitled, 1991, Photo L.A. Fund, © Gregory Crewdson, courtesy of the artist and Gagosian Gallery

And, for your weekly dose of culture, wander through our galleries. In the Pavilion for Japanese Art, be provoked and challenged by Kitasono Katue: Surrealist Poet. Another must-see exhibition is the wildly popular James Turrell: A Retrospective, which explores light and perspective. It does sell out almost daily, so be sure to reserve tickets in advance. Also attracting much discussion is Little Boxes: Photography and the Suburbs, an exhibition that documents and comments upon the supposed monotony and uniformity of the suburbs. And for a royal conclusion to your weekend visit to LACMA, stop by Princely Traditions and Colonial Pursuits in India for a complex and fascinating visual history of colonial India. Isn’t it nice when everything comes together?

Roberto Ayala and Oxana Ermolova

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