A Case of Love at First Sight: A Curator’s Perspective

January 20, 2014

My initial viewing of My Rock Stars Experimental, Volume I was a case of love at first sight. Whatever it was that first drew me to study Islamic art—possibly the unique combination of color and design, the oscillation between abstraction and figuration, and especially the inclusion of Arabic text—is also what attracts me to Hajjaj’s work, which is not only inherently familiar but also terrifically original. It seemed to me that if music videos had existed in the medieval Islamic world, this is how they would have looked and sounded. My Rock Stars Experimental, Volume I merely underscores Hassan Hajjaj’s enormous and universal appeal, making him one of my rock stars.


There is another telling story that goes with the first time I saw My Rock Stars Experimental, which was in 2012 at Rose Issa Projects on Great Portland Street in London. Three teenage boys came in, all of African descent, awkward not only with their newly adult bodies but in being around art, which they explained they needed to see for a school project. They immediately gravitated to the video, relaxed and sat down on Hajjaj’s iconic red plastic Coca-Cola crates, then whipped out their phones and began recording and giggling. They asked and were happily surprised to learn that this was indeed art.

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 of Rose Issa Projects

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 of Rose Issa Projects

I think they immediately connected with the video installation for a number of reasons: it is a familiar format and medium, it is “really cool” (their words), and all of the performers in the video are people of colorperhaps not what the students expected to see walking into a tony London gallery. When I asked them why they were giggling, they shrugged shyly and one fellow said it was because they liked it. It was their reactions—which I recorded on my own phone—that convinced me we had to have My Rock Stars Experimental for LACMA.

Linda Komaroff, Curator and Department Head, Art of the Middle East

This Weekend at LACMA: Free Workshops at Monterey Park Art+Film Lab, Talks and Events, Must-See Artworks, and More!

January 17, 2014

The Monterey Park Art+Film Lab at East Los Angeles College enters its second week of FREE public programming, including oral-history drop-ins and a screening of Little Fugitive on Friday evening, a composition workshop on Saturday, and an instant film workshop on Sunday. All of these workshops offer area residents of all levels of know-how the opportunity to learn hands-on filmmaking and storytelling skills with professional equipment and at no cost.

Beyond workshops and film screenings, the final component of the Art+Film Lab invites participants to visit LACMA. This Sunday, Art+Lab participants from Altadena, the previous lab site, are invited to LACMA for a free day. Screening throughout the day is Nicole Miller’s Believing Is Seeing, a commissioned video artwork composed of personal stories told by Altadena locals, which demonstrates who and what makes up the city.

Photos © Museum Associates / LACMA, by Duncan Cheng.

Art+Film Lab, Jorge Pardo Sculpture, photo © Museum Associates / LACMA, by Duncan Cheng

Saturday at 1 pm, see the final part of [de]-lusions of Grandeur by Liz Glynn in The Myth of Permanent Material. This time Glynn takes a look at concrete and the challenges posed by the material associated with permanence and stability, like in Donald Judd’s Untitled (for Leo Castelli). Later that day at 2 pm, author James Oles discusses one of the least familiar periods of Mexican art history in a talk, From Mexico’s Forgotten Century: 19th-Century Costumbrismo and the Paintings of Felipe Santiago Gutiérrez. On Sunday at 1 pm, artist Youngmin Lee presents the traditional craft of Korean art in a Bojagi Demonstration. Weekly installments of Andell Family Sundays and Sundays Live round out the busy schedule.

David Hockney, May 12th 2011 Rudston to Kilham Road 5pm, © David Hockney

David Hockney, May 12th 2011 Rudston to Kilham Road 5pm (detail), from Seven Yorkshire Landscape Videos, 2011, courtesy of and © David Hockney

In the galleries, LACMA bids a farewell to David Hockney: Seven Yorkshire Landscape Videos, 2011 on Monday. Fret not, in a matter of days, Hockney’s video work will return in a different form with David Hockney: The Jugglers. Next door in BCAM, see Murmurs: Recent Contemporary Acquisitions for a look at some of LACMA’s newest pieces. In the Ahmanson Building, explore the fourth floor and see Hassan Hajjaj: My Rock Stars Experimental, Volume 1, 2012 and Princely Traditions and Colonial Pursuits in India. Lastly, on the east side of campus, view the legacy of Mexican filmmaker Gabriel Figueroa in Under the Mexican Sky: Gabriel Figueroa—Art and Film before it closes on February 2. And if we don’t see this weekend be sure to come for Target Free Holiday Monday in celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr., Day.

Roberto Ayala

Liz Glynn’s Last Performance: [de]-lusions of Grandeur

January 16, 2014

Artist Liz Glynn’s series, [de]-lusions of Grandeur, closes this Saturday with a final performance, The Myth of Permanent Material, which focuses on Donald Judd’s Untitled (for Leo Castelli) a 1977 sculpture comprising five concrete cube-like forms currently on display near the tar pit in Hancock Park. Glynn’s performance plays around the idea of potentially recreating Judd’s work. Unframed wraps up the performances with an interview with Glynn conducted by LACMA’s social-media manager Maritza Lerman Yoes.

Maritza Lerman Yoes: I’m excited (and sad) to be witness to your final performance as part of your [de]-lusions of Grandeur series at LACMA. How does it feel to be wrapping up this performance cycle?

Liz Glynn: It will be strange not to be at LACMA so often. Over the past year, I’ve worked with a number of people across the staff—security guards, conservators, registrars, and curatorial assistants—and it’s hard to walk across the campus without seeing someone I know.

Rehearsals for Liz Glynn's "The Myth of Getting It Right the First Time"

Rehearsals for Liz Glynn’s The Myth of Getting It Right the First Time

MLY: Can you tell me what you will be doing with the Donald Judd work?

LG: This action, The Myth of Permanent Material (after Donald Judd) delves into the conservation issues surrounding Judd’s Untitled (for Leo Castelli), 1977. This is one of Judd’s earliest works in concrete, and over the time, the material has eroded, and been subject to the typical wear and tear of a sculpture installed outdoors on public view.

In LACMA’s curatorial files on the piece, there has been some debate about whether the work should be refabricated, though this issue proves complicated given Judd’s uneven history regarding the conservation of his work during his lifetime. I have recreated the formwork necessary to recast the concrete piece, and we’ve hired a cement mixer. We will debate the arguments for and against recasting the work, and the outcome of the debate will determine whether the concrete is poured.

MLY: What is the significance of the Donald Judd given that this is your last performance?

LG: Donald Judd’s work, and particularly his early plywood pieces, was one of my first entry points into making sculpture, so personally, it’s a fitting end. On a more conceptual level, I think the question of permanence, and the implications of creating something permanent, is one the most significant issues all of the performances in the cycle have touched on in one way or another.

MLY: How did you pick the five works for your five performances?

LG: The initial impetus for the project was to explore issues of human ambition, monumentality, and permanence through LACMA’s collection. I began by identifying the works in the collection that might qualify as “monumental,” and started researching each through academic journals, catalogues, LACMA’s files, and in conversation with members of the curatorial and conservation staff. Rodin and Calder initially both seemed like outliers, as I had initially wanted to focus on Minimalist works, but the research unearthed some unexpected parallels to contemporary sculpture.

MLY: Why were all five pieces by men who did monumental work?

LG: Interesting, the only “monumental” work by a female artist in LACMA’s collection is the amphitheater by the artist Jackie Ferrara. Many visitors don’t realize the structure is in fact an artwork. I did consider this piece early on, but felt that the issues I was interested in exploring were better expressed in other pieces from the collection.

Artist Jackie Ferrara’s amphitheater. Photo courtesy of Urban Art Commission

MLY: How complicated was it to arrange materials for your performances?

LG: Scale is a logistical challenge, particularly in the cases of Judd and Serra. My initial concept for the Serra work was to bring the weight of Band, 2006, in sand, and work with participants from the museum audience to move this weight to the site where the work was installed. However, no sand and gravel distributor in the greater Los Angeles was able to bring this quantity! I opted to order the weight of one of the ten plates (18 tons), and this still required 2 trucks.

Performance also functions with a completely different sense of temporality than monumental sculpture. While artifacts remain from the performances, such as the plaster sculptures created during The Myth of Singularity or the theatrical props from The Myth of Getting it Right the First Time, the materials must be designed to be mobile.

Rehearsals for Liz Glynn's "The Myth of Getting It Right the First Time"

Rehearsals for Liz Glynn’s The Myth of Getting It Right the First Time

MLY: What did you learn about museum infrastructure?

LG: The museum is a fundamentally social organism, and much of its history is held in the minds of its staff. While the museum appears monolithic from the outside, in fact, it is the product of an incalculable number of decisions made by talented individuals every day. It’s a highly evolved network, and yet few of the rules of engagement are formalized on paper.

A lot of my best research came from conversations with members of the staff.

Stephanie Barron’s Museum as Site show was a significant influence on this project and it was great to get her perspective on how the expansion of the museum’s staff and departmental structure has changed the process of curating and producing an exhibition since the early 1980s. LACMA today has a massive infrastructure, and the curatorial department is only one of many moving parts in the production an exhibition.

MLY: What’s behind the title of the entire series and the individual performances?

LG: The performances seek to disrupt some of the grander ideas about permanence and the artistic genius traditionally associated with monumental work. I wanted the audience to think about not only the process of construction, but also the process of maintenance, and the continued life of a sculpture after it leaves the studio. As a sculptor, I spend most of my time in the world of production, but as a museum visitor, one only access the artwork in its finished state. I wanted to merge the two worlds, and try to forge a continuum between them. I am interested in what happens to these large works physically, what this says about cultural value, and the meaning of an artwork can shift over time.

MLY: What’s next for you?

LG: I’m very excited to be working with José Luis Blondet to document the project in book form. Rather than a traditional catalog, the book will serve as a collection of fragments: images, texts, and interviews compiled from performers, members of the museum staff, and my own research.

Gabriel Figueroa: Impressions and Intersections

January 14, 2014

Under the Mexican Sky: Gabriel Figueroa—Art and Film, focusing on Mexican cinematographer Gabriel Figueroa, is a prismatic exhibition that offers a slightly different experience each time you view it. Selections from Figueroa’s films play on a series of large screens, and as you walk through the exhibition, the imagery constantly changes. Each sequence of film clips is organized around a theme, such as landscape, revolution, and the metropolis, and forms the centerpiece for an exhibition-within-an-exhibition of linked imagery—paintings by related artists, film and production stills, art photographs, and ephemera such as letters and posters. The effect is like entering an intricately designed web that is always fluctuating. As you move through, you pick up a unique array of impressions, echoes, and connections. On a recent walkthrough, here were a few of mine:

Gabriel Figueroa, film still from Enemigos, directed by Chano Urueta, 1933, © Gabriel Figueroa Flores Archive

Gabriel Figueroa, film still from Enemigos, directed by Chano Urueta, 1933, © Gabriel Figueroa Flores Archive

1. Sombreros! I’d never given much thought to this basic type of hat, with its round crown and wide floppy brim, but watching Figueroa’s many shots featuring this iconic Mexican design—lone men in sombreros with shadows cast over their faces, gangs of revolutionaries in sombreros, with heads echoing the rolling hills of the rural Mexican landscape—I realized how indispensable this portable piece of shade was. Figueroa treats the sombrero like a piece of sculpture, with its simple shape and the graphic, circular shadows it casts on faces and bodies central to many of his compositions. Figueroa is known for helping to define an idealized, heroic, sympathetic conception of Mexico—in his words, “una imágen méxicana”—and the sombrero is a key motif in this vision.

Gabriel Figueroa, film still from Enamorada, directed by Emilio "El Indio" Fernández, 1946, © Televisa Foundation

Gabriel Figueroa, film still from Enamorada, directed by Emilio “El Indio” Fernández, 1946, © Televisa Foundation

2. Agave and eyelashes. This was a fortuitous connection, since I happened to watch a scene in a film by Sergei Eisenstein, a Russian contemporary of Figueroa’s, shot in Mexico and included in the exhibition, in which a man leading a party through the desert pins back the leaves of a giant agave by curling each one backward and sticking the point into the fat part of the leaf, and a minute later I turned to a larger screen to see one of Figueroa’s close-ups of a woman’s eye with teary lashes. The jagged shapes of agave cactus and thick, dark women’s eyelashes both recur often in the exhibition—and in Figueroa’s films—forming a kind of visual counterpoint to smooth forms like sombreros, desert hills, and faces. Figueroa’s imagery is full of these kinds of connections between people and landscape, as if knitting personality and emotion into the land, and the land into the people, stitch by stitch.

Gabriel Figueroa, film still from Una cita de amor, directed by Emilio "El Indio" Fernández, 1956, © Gabriel Figueroa Flores Archive

Gabriel Figueroa, film still from Una cita de amor, directed by Emilio “El Indio” Fernández, 1956, © Gabriel Figueroa Flores Archive

3. Seventh and Alvarado Streets. A contemporary short film by Rodrigo Garcia shows modern-day Hispanic residents of L.A. suited up like the revolutionaries in Figueroa’s films, shot in slow motion as they ride on horseback through this busy intersection near downtown—Figueroa’s idealized vision transplanted to present reality. This film is about intersections in more ways than one, and it’s a fitting addition to an exhibition about a man who turns out to represent quite an amazing intersection himself—of Mexico and Hollywood, cinematography and painting, revolution and art, rusticity and glamour, romanticism and realism (and surrealism).

A still from 'La 7th Street y Alvarado,' by Rodrigo Garcia. Credit: Canana films

Still from La 7th Street y Alvarado, by Rodrigo Garcia, courtesy of Canana films

4. A burro, an egg, and a pigeon. These elements appear at various points in Los Olvidados (1950), one of the seven films Figueroa shot for French surrealist director Luis Buñuel when Buñuel was in Mexico between 1946 and 1965. The burro peers in a girl’s bedroom window, the egg flies at the camera and spatters on the lens, and the pigeon is used as a massage tool on a woman’s bare back. In the next gallery, a wall text recounts an anecdote from the set of Nazarín (1959) about Buñuel seeing Figueroa’s camera positioned to frame a sweeping romantic landscape and turning the camera in the opposite direction at a mundane view: “I scandalized Figueroa, who had framed a shot for me that was aesthetically beyond reproach. . . . I have never liked prefabricated cinematic beauty.” The intersection between Figueroa and Buñuel is especially fascinating, and it also illuminates another intersection, that between a director and a cinematographer—you can see how Figueroa stretched his aesthetic to wrap around Buñuel’s ideas.

In shining a light on Gabriel Figueroa, this exhibition turns out to illuminate all kinds of unexpected crossroads. Under the Mexican Sky: Gabriel FigueroaArt and Film is up through February 2, 2014. There’s still time for you to visit—and revisit!—and collect your own impressions.

Katherine Satorius

Two Giants of Silver-Screen Fashion

January 13, 2014

On the third floor of LACMA’s Art of the Americas Building, in a pair of glass cases, are four remarkable designs from two of America’s foremost mid-20th-century costume designers: Gilbert Adrian of MGM Studios and Howard Greer of Paramount.

Hollywood and the designers of the silver screen defined glamour, and it became the foundation of how we understand it today. Their glittering stars cast the spell of enchantment and were the avatars of the alternate universe of beauty and adventure. Gilbert Adrian and Howard Greer’s designs would set a standard for stylishness that rivaled that of Paris.

The outfits on display—a wine-colored evening gown and a black-and-cream wool dress by Adrian, and a black tulle evening gown with lace-up bodice, and skirt-and-blouse ensemble by Greer—are all dated between 1946 and 1949. The late 1940s was a period of great importance in fashion and, interestingly, quite contemporary. In 1946, the repeal of order L85, which had banned long skirts to conserve materials for the war effort, would end the rationing of fabric. Most importantly, in the spring of 1947, Christian Dior in Paris would give the world the New Look, with hourglass silhouettes and full skirts that seemed extravagant after the meager war years. Through cinema, Adrian and Greer would help make this moment in fashion possible, giving these new designs an extended context as the world of fashion became truly about modern times. (Confession: I was once a part of this cavalcade, being the head designer of the House of Worth in London.)

Howard Greer (1896–1974) started his career working with established designers—first for Lucile, in New York, and after the First War, for Paul Poiret and Edward Molyneux in Paris. Back in California, while designing for the theater, the company he was in made a key merger and became Paramount Pictures. He was known for his glamorous, sophisticated evening gowns and dresses. In a 1929 issue of Photoplay Magazine Katherine Albert gushed over one of Greer’s costumes: “This is the most sensational costume in Hollywood this season. When it was displayed at Howard Greer’s exclusive opening, gentlemen gasped and ladies fainted.” Though the fashion establishment in Paris deemed Hollywood clothes vulgar, too-tight, and louche, Greer, dressing Joan Crawford and Rita Hayward, would at one point confess, “The truth is that Clara Bow, Billie Dove, and Joan Crawford are actually setting the styles.” As he told Lois Shirley in her book, Secrets of the Fitting Room, “Hollywood leads Paris in Fashions.” Greer would go on to design for 33 films and write an autobiography, Designing Male (1951).

Gilbert Adrian (1903–1959) trained at New York’s Parsons School of Design, and transferred to the branch the school then had in Paris. While there, he created the costumes for an Irving Berlin musical, The Music Box Revue, after which Rudolph Valentino’s wife hired him for a project. Adrian went on to work with Cecil B. DeMille, for whom he designed costumes for 11 films, becoming the head designer of MGM. Often credited as “Gowns by Adrian,” Adrian designed the costumes for more than 200 films over the course of his career.
Adrian became a giant in Hollywood lore. He would give us Dorothy’s red-sequined slippers in The Wizard of Oz, and the grandeur of period gowns in Camille and Marie Antoinette. Famous for his evening gowns, he worked with Greta Garbo, Norma Shearer, Jean Harlow, and Katharine Hepburn. He was behind Joan Crawford’s signature outfits, with the large shoulder pads that spawned a fashion craze. And who could forget Hepburn in the Woman of the Year or The Philadelphia Story? Adrian’s influence on our collective memory and fashion cannot be underestimated.

The designs of Greer and Adrian remind us of a time when the silver screen’s celluloid dream of beauty and style was the mirror in which everyone viewed themselves, regardless of their individual status. And the dark palaces of the screen’s magic glowed through the entire culture. In the hyper-glare of the ’20s, ’30s, and ’40s, through the Depression and two World Wars, Hollywood would burn brighter, sizzle sexier, and recast the vision of the heroes, heroines, and villains that shaped the world of the screen. Costume designers like Greer and Adrian—and there were many more—were the artists who visualized this made-up world in black and white, and later, in color. They did so in such physical terms that film became our reality, our failed memory, our lost time.

Hylan Booker

This Weekend at LACMA: Monterey Park Art + Film Lab Begins, Free Screenings and Concerts, Dozens of Exhibitions on View, and More!

January 10, 2014

No matter which way you slice it, LACMA covers a lot of real estate. This weekend visit us at home or on the road with the start of the Monterey Park Art + Film Lab at East Los Angeles College. The fourth site of the LACMA9 Art + Film Lab project, the mobile art space kicks off five weekends of free programming with an Opening-Night Celebration on Friday. From 6 to 8 pm the public is invited to get an inside peek into the lab, enjoy live music, and then see a screening of Searching for Sugarman. Later in the weekend share your story during Oral History Drop-ins, which will ultimately be compiled to depict the collective consciousness of the city.

On our twenty acre campus, the Bing Theater hosts a couple of events including a free screening of the sketch comedy show Kroll Show on Friday at 7:30 pm. See the first two episodes of the sophomore season followed by a conversation with creator and star Nick Kroll. On Sunday, Sundays Live presents resident group The Capitol Ensemble at 6 pm. This event is free and open to the public.

Just across the courtyard from the Bing, visitors on Sunday will encounter the weekly installment of Andell Family Sundays, this month tinkering with photography. Around the same time on Sunday visit the Hammer Building and check out the 20 minute docent-led tour of Shaping Power: Luba Masterworks from the Royal Museum for Central Africa or a little later join in on a 50 minute tour of our Korean Art collection. For a complete listing of free, guided tours happening daily visit our online calendar.

Ángel Corona Villa, film still from Dias de otoño, directed by Robert Gavaldón, 1962, © Gabriel Figueroa Flores Archive

Ángel Corona Villa, film still from Dias de otoño, directed by Robert Gavaldón, 1962, © Gabriel Figueroa Flores Archive

Lastly, a quick survey of the surrounding buildings will reveal gems like Under the Mexican Sky: Gabriel Figueroa—Art and Film in the Art of the Americas, Four Abstract Classicists in the Ahmanson, Calder and Abstraction: From Avant-Garde to Iconic and See the Light—Photography, Perception, Cognition: The Marjorie and Leonard Vernon Collection in the Resnick Pavilion, and Agnès Varda in Californialand in BCAM (and there are even more exhibitions to unearth). One more thing—on Monday come out to a special talk with internationally acclaimed fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg and editor in chief of W Magazine Stefano Tonchi at 6 pm (presented in conjunction with the neighboring exhibition Diane von Furstenberg: Journey of a Dress). Plot out your weekend plans now.

Roberto Ayala

Diane von Furstenberg: Journey of a Dress

January 10, 2014

Diane von Furstenberg: Journey of a Dress opens tomorrow at the Wilshire May Company Building, adjacent to LACMA. The exhibition, which has traveled to Asia, the Middle East, and South America, is a celebration of the 40th anniversary of the iconic wrap dress. Vintage and contemporary pieces, along with portraits of the designer by artists ranging from Zhang Huan to Helmut Newton, are featured as part of the presentation. In anticipation of the exhibition, Unframed’s Linda Theung interviewed designer Diane von Furstenberg about the show, the exhibition’s return to the States, and the artists with whom she worked.

Diane von Furstenberg and Stefano Tonchi, W Magazine‘s editor in chief, will be in conversation hosted by LACMA’s Costume Council on Monday, January 13, at 6 pm, at the Bing Theater.

How will the exhibition’s presentation in Los Angeles differ than its initial presentation in Beijing?

Well, this time it is really all about the dress. It is the 40th anniversary of the wrap dress so it is a true celebration. There are more dresses featured, vintage and contemporary wraps as well as anniversary dresses created exclusively for the exhibition.


Andy Warhol, Diane von Furstenberg, 1974, © Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo courtesy of Diane von Furstenberg and the Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts

The exhibition had its third leg of its tour in Beijing, where contemporary Chinese artists Zhang Huan, Hai Bo, Li Songsong, and Yi Zhou created your portrait specifically for the exhibition. What type of visual dialogues took place between the new work created by these artists and extant portraits of you by Francesco Clemente, Chuck Close, Helmut Newton, and others?

All of the pieces are strong individually and even more so together. They are all inspired by the same idea so there is a certain joie de vivre that each artist has really brought to life in their own way. And all together, I think the range of work really represents the four decades of the dress in a powerful, exciting way!

The exhibition’s entrance was custom-made by Francesco Clemente. It was created by fusing maps of New York and Beijing. What L.A.-specific treatment will the entrance of the exhibition have in this presentation?

Dustin Yellin created this amazing glass collage incorporating portraits and prints and it just looks like this incredible wrap dress floating. It is called A Ghost May Come, and it is so beautiful we placed it right below a neon sign at the entrance that says “Feel like a woman, wear a dress!” which is what I scribbled on a white cube when I posed for my very first ad.


Photo courtesy of Diane von Furstenberg

I understand that the exhibition is arranged by decades. If you could pick a favorite 10 years, what would it be, and why?

You know we are celebrating 40 years, but it is not really about nostalgia. I am always most interested in the present, and that is what still fascinates me about the wrap dress after all these years: its ability to shine in the present!

Are you engaging with any Los Angeles–based artists in this presentation?

Yes, Barbara Kruger created an amazing piece!


Andy Warhol, Diane von Furstenberg, 1974, © Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo courtesy of Diane von Furstenberg and the Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts

This is the first time the exhibition will be in the U.S. after visits to Moscow, Beijing, and Sao Paulo. What are you most excited about with the exhibition’s homecoming?

I am just so excited for the 40th anniversary of the wrap dress and thrilled to bring the exhibition to Los Angeles, which is my children’s home and my grandchildren’s home. It is truly a celebration of the dress that started it all!

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