This Weekend at LACMA: Two New Exhibitions Unveiled, Free Tours, and More!

December 20, 2013

Visit LACMA this weekend and you’ll find two new exhibitions, Four Abstract Classicists and Hassan Hajjaj: My Rock Stars Experimental, Volume 1, 2012. Four Abstract Classicists is centered on the works of Karl Benjamin, Lorser Feitelson, Frederick Hammersley, and John McLaughlin, a quartet of artists that lead the evolution of Abstract Expressionism to the harder-edged sensibilities of Pop Art and Minimalism during the 1950s and 60s. Then, in Hassan Hajjaj photographer and video artist Hassan Hajjaj presents nine filmed performances of musicians from around the globe in sets and costumes that emphasize globalization and the blurring of cultural identities.

Still from Hassan Hajjaj, My Rock Stars Experimental Volume 1, 2012, 
purchased with funds provided by Art of the Middle East.

Hassan Hajjaj, still from My Rock Stars Experimental, Volume 1, Helen Venus Bushfire, 2012, 
purchased with funds provided by Art of the Middle East: CONTEMPORARY, courtesy Rose Issa PRojects

To learn more about our collections and exhibitions join in on any of the free, docent-lead tours. On Saturday at noon, walk through See the Light—Photography, Perception, Cognition: The Marjorie and Leonard Vernon Collection and learn about photography and its close ties to vision science over the years. On Sunday afternoon witness the beauties of Japanese netsuke or gain a broader understanding of the African Luba culture as demonstrated in Shaping Power: Luba Masterworks from the Royal Museum for Central Africa. Tours range from 15 minutes to an hour and are included with each general admission. What will you uncover?

Roberto Ayala

Beyond Paintbrushes: Creating Art with Kaz Oshiro

December 19, 2013

Watching while an artist uses a slingshot to catapult a paint-coated tennis ball onto a wall is a unique experience—but working directly with the artist, and being the one to actually launch the ball, is even more memorable. This was the realization a group of elementary school students arrived at recently when they worked with Los Angeles–based artist Kaz Oshiro in preparation for his LACMA-organized exhibition Kaz Oshiro: Chasing Ghosts.

Opening January 24, 2014, at LACMA’s satellite gallery within Charles White Elementary School near MacArthur Park, the show will feature new work from Oshiro, artworks he selected from LACMA’s collection, and collaborative paintings he made with the students. To create the collective artwork, Oshiro first met the children through grade-level assemblies, where he discussed ways that unconventional tools and processes could be employed to create paintings. To a score of involuntary gasps from the children, Oshiro demonstrated both invented and established techniques for making art, including blowing paint through a tube and sweeping pigment with a broom.

     Artist Kaz Oshiro works with a student on a collaborative painting project.

Artist Kaz Oshiro works with a student on a collaborative painting project.

The third-, fourth-, and fifth- grade students experimented with these devices, working directly with Oshiro to create paintings. In addition to using conventional art-making tools, the students swept paint over a canvas with cleaning brushes, poured acrylic from teapots, and, of course, operated the makeshift slingshot. As they worked, they compared the range of effects. Scraping a squeegee across a surface, for example, created thick, bold strokes, while squeezing paint from a bottle formed thin, organic arcs that dripped from gravity.

Students use brushes and squeeze-bottles to contribute to Oshiro’s collaborative wall painting.

Students use brushes and squeeze-bottles to contribute to Oshiro’s collaborative wall painting.

By far the most popular tool was the stationary bicycle, which required four people to operate: one to pedal, two to deflect splatters with umbrellas, and one to hold a trough of paint next to the wheel. Students suited up in plastic aprons, ponchos, and shoe covers, and took turns in each position. The children pedaled feverishly while Oshiro held shallow vessels filled with different colors just barely against the tire, spraying paint in compelling patterns.

The surprising marks the students generated through these devices defy the humble nature of the tools that created them. Drips, splashes, and smears serve as documents of the students’ experiments and the physical nature of their process. Inadvertently, the resulting artworks are also an expression of the children’s expanded mindset regarding the limitless possibilities for creating art and what constitutes a painting.

Students operate a stationary bicycle to create paint splatters on the wall.

Students operate a stationary bicycle to create paint splatters on the wall.

View this project, and more of Oshiro’s work, at the opening-night celebration of the exhibition Kaz Oshiro: Chasing Ghosts on January 24 from 6 to 8 pm. Discover more of Kaz Oshiro’s work here.

Sarah Jesse, Associate Vice President, Education

The Challenge of Installing Calder

December 18, 2013

Installing a sculpture exhibition—particularly one in which works are bound to walls, sit on pedestals, hang in the air, hover close to the ground, and vary significantly in scale—can be tricky. In developing this exhibition, I reviewed historical photos of Calder’s studio and presentations he designed and compared them with exhibition design from the past 40 years. During Calder’s lifetime, displays seemed to mimic those found in his studio: crowded together, overlapping, presenting a riotous cacophony of competing forms far removed from contemporary concerns of conservation and visitor-circulation paths. In the past few decades, museum exhibitions have had to grapple with these real concerns, which are exacerbated by increasingly large museum crowds. Extensive plinths, protective barriers, and pedestals mitigate intentional or inadvertent touching, but can hinder the viewer’s ability to relate intimately with the works. Clearly, decisions about density, space, light, and color would need to be weighed against concerns for the safety and protection of the art.

Alexander Calder, "Calder and Abstraction" at LACMA.

We were fortunate that architect Frank O. Gehry shared an enthusiasm for Calder’s work; his experience of seeing the artist’s 1964–65 exhibition in Frank Lloyd Wright’s Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York had made an indelible impression.


The gently curved walls that frame many of the sculptures in LACMA’s exhibition emphasize the organic nature of Calder’s works, recalling the harmony between art and architecture found in the Guggenheim’s presentation. Furthermore, Gehry’s own method of developing architectural forms is inherently tactile, sharing some of the same hands-on techniques of a sculptor. I too remember the Calder show at the Guggenheim—it is the first show I recall seeing there—and when I worked at the museum in the early 1970s, colleagues still spoke fondly of it being the most perfect example of an exhibition combining art and architecture.

Gehry Partners, LLP, model photographs for Calder and Abstraction: From Avant-Garde to Iconic, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 2013

Gehry Partners, LLP, model photographs for Calder and Abstraction: From Avant-Garde to Iconic, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 2013

Working through successive models—in paper, Gator board, basswood, and Plexiglas, and in a variety of scales—Gehry’s models are conceptual drafts, or three-dimensional sketches, integral to the final design of a project. It was fascinating to see how Gehry’s office prepared actual small-scale sculptures so that we could figure out how they would rotate in space and how to best protect them. From my early discussions with Gehry about Calder, it became clear that he could produce a remarkable and unique installation that could create a memorable experience for visitors. Although Calder was known to work with architects and luminaries from other fields during his lifetime, no exhibition of Calder’s work has engaged a major architect in three decades.


Another aspect of planning the show that was critical to me was the desire to slow down people’s looking at the works of art. We purposely limited the selection to feature 50 objects—giving the art ample space to breathe. Gehry’s design underscores how to look at the works. We also wanted to encourage people to spend more time with individual objects so that the gentle movement can be observed. If you take the time in the show, you can easily understand the observation that Jean-Paul Sartre made in the 1940s after visiting Calder’s studio: “But suddenly, when the agitation had left [the mobile] and it seemed lifeless again, its long majestic tail, which until then had not moved, came to life indolently and almost regretfully, spun in the air, and swept past my nose.”

Alexander Calder, "Calder and Abstraction" at LACMA.

For the complete set of photographs of the installation, click here.

Stephanie Barron, Senior Curator, Department Head of Modern Art

Collecting Stories: The Vernon Collection Oral History Project (Part 2)

December 16, 2013

This is the second of a two-part series focusing on the Vernon Oral History Project. (Read part one here.) Ryan Linkof, Ralph M. Parsons Fellow in the Wallis Annenberg Department of Photography, discusses his experience working on the project.

I came to this project without preexisting personal and professional links to the Vernons, so, for me, this really was a history. It was, from the start, something I could think about in historical terms. This distance afforded me certain advantages, in the sense that I could approach the material objectively, but it also meant that I wasn’t always attuned to some of the personal histories that bound the Vernons to the Los Angeles photo world.

This is where Eve came in. She provided an essential element of personal affinity and connection, and she was able to tease out anecdotes and ask questions about personal details that I wouldn’t have known to ask. As time passed, I have had the distinct pleasure to learn much more about the Vernons and those who knew them. Given this, my objective distance began to wane. It has been a great honor to meet the participants and to get to know the Vernons, if only through their collection. The Vernon Oral History is comprised of a series of overlapping histories. It is, primarily, a history of a collection, but it is also a document of the last quarter of the 20th century in the history of art, arts institutions in Los Angeles, and the global market in art photography. It is, more intimately, a collection of personal histories about two people and those they touched.

Frederick H. Evans, “A Sea Of Steps,” Wells Cathedral, 1903, © Frederick H. Evans, courtesy Janet B. Stenner

Frederick H. Evans, A Sea Of Steps—Wells Cathedral, 1903, the Marjorie and Leonard Vernon Collection, gift of the Annenberg Foundation, acquired from Carol Vernon and Robert Turbin, © Frederick H. Evans, courtesy Janet B. Stenner

I initially approached the project as I had been trained to do in graduate school: I viewed it, rather impassively, as set of intellectual problems. I dug into my academic grab bag, used the set of tools I had honed, and made a list of intellectual “deliverables.” The project, I told myself, would illustrate the role of collecting in a variety of crucial aspects of art history: canon formation, the development of art markets, the symbiosis between collectors and museums, the forging of social and artistic networks, the nature of the connoisseurial “eye,” as well as narrating a particular story about the interactions of artists, curators, dealers, and gallerists.

Gertrude Käsebier, Blessed Art Thou among Women, 1899, © Estate of Gertrude Käsebier

Gertrude Käsebier, Blessed Art Thou among Women, 1899, the Marjorie and Leonard Vernon Collection, gift of the Annenberg Foundation, acquired from Carol Vernon and Robert Turbin, © Estate of Gertrude Käsebier

I quickly learned, however, that the academic’s typical arsenal wasn’t enough for a project such as this. This exploration required a personal dimension in order to tell a complete and satisfactory story. This wasn’t simply a question of art history: it is also a narrative about a family and people’s lives. First and foremost, the Vernon Collection is a family collection—a collection built by a family (in a limited and an expansive sense of that term), as well as a collection built for a family. It reflects an aesthetic interest in interpersonal dynamics and sentimental connections between mothers, fathers, daughters, sons, friends, and acquaintances. It was always intended to be shared between a group of people with similar values and aesthetic interests.

Although this project tells a story about people, it also tells a story about objects: works that emerge in the oral histories as common touchstones. In learning about the growth of the collection, it quickly became clear that particular works held pride of place in the Vernons’ holdings and in their home.

Frederick Evans’s Sea of Steps—mentioned in every oral history that we conducted—was a piece that was close to Leonard’s heart. It was one of the final works he purchased, after much patience. Gertrude Käsebier’s Blessed Art Thou among Women, purchased for Marjorie by her husband, had significant personal value and long held a privileged place in the Vernons’ home. In many ways, the work represents something essential about their collection and the type of photography that lived in their home. In the words of close friends Mike Weaver and Anne Hammond, “Marjorie experienced the work as a human subject that transcends all sectarian beliefs. It embodies the great value Marjorie attached to all tender relations between people, especially between young and old.”

The collection has surprising strengths that express the broad collecting and intellectual interests of the Vernons, as many of the participants of the oral history project noted. For example, the Vernons collected Central and Eastern European modernist photography long before it had significant market value or prominence in major museums. Just when it seemed that we had the Vernons figured out, their collection would tell a different story.

Alma Lavenson, Untitled (Child with Doll), 1932, © Alma Lavenson Archives. All Rights Reserved.

Alma Lavenson, Untitled (Child with Doll), 1932, the Marjorie and Leonard Vernon Collection, gift of the Annenberg Foundation, acquired from Carol Vernon and Robert Turbin, © Alma Lavenson Archives. All Rights Reserved.

The oral history provides a very palpable sense of how these artworks were a vital part of the fabric of their daily lives and social events. The collection encouraged people to come together around photography through discussions in their home and regular gallery and studio visits. The Vernons championed the works of some of the artists whose studios they frequented, such as Robbert Flick and Anthony Hernandez, long before they became fixtures in museum collections. During our many interviews, we uncovered remarkable revelations about the Vernons’ personal relationships to artists. Perhaps the most compelling story involved the artist Alma Lavenson, who was revealed to have had a fascinating biographical link to Marjorie. I will coyly refrain from divulging the details in this article, but the story will appear in full when the oral history is completed, after which it will be publicly accessible on What I will say, however, is that this personal story underscored the fact that oral history is essential in incorporating this collection into LACMA’s photography department. The works of art might speak for themselves, but the oral history provides a nuanced perspective about what this collection was and the intimate relationships embedded in the practice of collecting.

Ryan Linkof, Ralph M. Parsons Fellow, Wallis Annenberg Department of Photography

This Weekend at LACMA: The Cinema According to Agnès Varda, The Myth of Pure Form, the L.A. International Children’s Film Festival, and More!

December 13, 2013

There’s a full schedule in store for you at LACMA this weekend. It beings with the end of The Cinema According to Agnès Varda, the Agnès Varda in Californialand exhibition film series, on Friday and Saturday. See Vagabond and Documenteur on Friday night beginning at 7:30 pm. This double-feature pairs the stark tale of an aimless drifter seeking true freedom with the introspective story of a single mother finding her way. Next, on Saturday starting at 5 pm, Kung Fu Master looks at a single mother falling for one of her daughter’s schoolmates in a novel coming-of-age tale. To wrap it all up, Varda pays tribute to cinema and her former husband and filmmaker, Jacques Demy, in Jacquot de Nantes at 7:30 pm.

Still from Vagabond (Sans toit ni loi), directed by Agnès Varda, 1985, © Pacific Arts Video

Still from Vagabond (Sans toit ni loi), directed by Agnès Varda, 1985, © Pacific Arts Video

Artist Liz Glynn returns to LACMA for the fourth installment of her five-part performance series,  [de]-lusions of Grandeur. In The Myth of Pure Form, Glynn focuses her attention on Tony Smith’s Smoke, which fills the atrium of the Ahmanson Building. Specifically, the artist and her performers will consider the relationship between geometry and organic form and, through choreographed actions, will reconstruct different versions of Smith’s sculpture. The event begins at 1 pm and is free and open to the public.

And the free events just keep on coming. Tonight, from 5:30 to 7:30 pm, Art Catalogues hosts architect Tadao Ando in conversation on architecture and art. Following the talk, Tadao Ando will be available for a book signing. On Saturday and Sunday LACMA presents the ninth-annual Los Angeles International Children’s Film Festival. Kids and parents of all sorts will find something new to like in this two-day free event, featuring over 100 films from around the world. The fun begins at 10:30 am on both days. Then, join L.A.-based Capitol Ensemble at Sundays Live on Sunday at 6 pm for an evening of free, live classical music.

Thomas Hill, Emerald Bay, Lake Tahoe, 1864, William Randolph Hearst Collection

Thomas Hill, Emerald Bay, Lake Tahoe, 1864, William Randolph Hearst Collection

Throughout the museum see fantastic exhibitions, including two installations that close on Sunday: Newsha Tavakolian and Lingering Dreams: Japanese Painting of the Seventeenth Century. Of course, there are blockbusters like Under the Mexican Sky: Gabriel Figueroa—Art and Film and James Turrell: A Retrospective that you should not miss, but delve deeper into the collection and you won’t be disappointed—the sleeper hit of the year Compass for Surveyors: 19th Century American Landscapes dazzles and the elegant David Hockney: Seven Yorkshire Landscape Videos, 2011 breathes with life. Pencil us in!

Roberto Ayala

Right Place, Right Action, Right Time: Tadao Ando and Walter De Maria

December 12, 2013

For almost all of my adult life, I have studied and examined and thought about the work of Walter De Maria. The sense of personal, physical involvement required by his sculpture, its elemental vocabulary, and the ineffable presence of carefulness, intellect, and authority that reside within it enabled me to look at the world in a calm and subjective way, and to pay attention to detail. The simplicity of De Maria’s work allowed me to empty my mind and to see things in a larger light, without imposing preconceived ideas. De Maria’s belief that “the invisible is real” greatly influenced my thinking.

I had never had the kind of artistic experience with architecture that I have experienced with the traditional visual arts, although I have paid a great deal of attention to architects and their structures, making pilgrimages to many of the great buildings around the world. Things changed for me several years ago, when I traveled to Naoshima, Japan, to see De Maria’s piece, Time/Timeless/No Time (2004), and encountered Tadao Ando’s exquisite Chichu Art Museum. It was here that the merging of architecture and art became apparent, and the distinction between them was no longer visible or relevant.

Chichu Art Museum, photo by Tadao Ando

Chichu Art Museum, photo by Iwan Baan

De Maria first traveled to Naoshima in 1997, at the invitation of Soichiro Fukutake, president of the Benesse Corporation, to create a new work for the Naoshima Contemporary Art Museum. He visited the site several times, finally choosing a rectangular concrete gallery with an expansive view of the ocean, designed by Tadao Ando.

Ando’s transcendently beautiful, spare, narrow, space, brightly lit by the sun for a while, then darkening like a cave as the sun goes down, clearly inspired one of De Maria’s most mysterious and important pieces. The physical constraints of Ando’s narrow gallery, and the impossibility of seeing the De Maria sculpture all at once, cause the viewer to slow down, empty his mind of expectations, and have the essential pleasure of a profound and personal artistic experience.

Walter De Maria, Time/Timeless/No Time, 2004, in situ at the Chichu Art Museum. Photo courtesy of 準建築人手札網站 Forgemind ArchiMedia

Walter De Maria, Time/Timeless/No Time, 2004, in situ at the Chichu Art Museum. Photo courtesy of 準建築人手札網站 Forgemind ArchiMedia

Later, Time/Timeless/No Time was created for the Chichu Art Museum that opened nearby in 2004. The museum was conceived as a space where art and architecture would exist as a single entity, and Tadao Ando, who was the architect, worked very much in the capacity of an artist, creating spaces together with De Maria and James Turrell that worked with their particular and difficult artistic requirements. At Chichu, De Maria’s great and impressive work is palpably activated by the clarity and deliberation of what Ando had created in the gallery. The two artists share a passionate apprehension of details that combine and flow into large ideas. They both emphasize nothingness and the beauty of simplicity, and they both insist on the physical experience of their work. There is a forceful and delicate presence and compositional virtuosity that gives order and clarity to both the installation and the architecture—sort of spiritual but free of mysticism. As De Maria has said, “In my life and work I seek . . . the right place, the right action, the right time.”

Tomorrow evening, Tadao Ando will speak about architecture and art at Art Catalogues at LACMA. Kulapat Yantrasast, architect and cofounder of the L.A.-based firm why design, will conduct conversations with Ando comprised of questions posed by artists, architects, curators, clients, and the curious. I’m honored to have the opportunity to host Mr. Ando at Art Catalogues and to hear him discuss his ideas and work. It’s a rare pleasure to meet one of the world’s finest architects, and to have a book signed by him!

Dagny Corcoran, Art Catalogues at LACMA

Ninth-Annual International Children’s Film Festival at LACMA

December 11, 2013

The Los Angeles International Children’s Film Festival returns to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art on December 14 and 15, 2013. For the past several years, LACMA has hosted this film festival dedicated to children and their families. This year the festival will present more than 100 films from around the world—full-length and short animation, live action and documentary films—clustered for different age groups, toddlers through teens. Producers and actors will be present after select screenings for pre- and post-film discussions. We hope that  these live opportunities will allow our audience to leave with a greater understanding of the films they love. Don’t miss the chance to pose your burning questions!

 [Still from Clara and the Secret of Bears] {Courtesy of Tobias Ineichen}

Still from Clara and the Secret of Bears, courtesy of Tobias Ineichen

[Still from A Film by Abigail] {Courtesy of Paul Vernon}

Still from A Film by Abigail, courtesy of Paul Vernon

You can even join in on a free camera-less animation workshop all weekend under the NexGen tent on the LA Times Central Court. Use the materials provided (and your imagination) to turn clear film into the movie doodle of your dreams. After the festival, LACMA educators will work their magic and turn the painted film into a moving image! Play artistic director for a day by contributing a drawing on film! We will post the video to YouTube after the festival.

 [Still from Yarn, Paper Scissors] {Courtesy of Rebecca Olson}

Still from Yarn, Paper, Scissors, courtesy of Rebecca Olson

Plan your visit and see the full line-up here.

Stay up-to-date on festival news here.

This event produced in collaboration with the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Los Angeles International Children’s Film Festival.

Angela Hall, education coordinator, education and public programs

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