Balch Library: Before and After

April 21, 2014

In the past several weeks, the reading room at LACMA’s Balch Art Research Library was conspicuously missing what you would expect to find there: shelves full of books. As the books made their temporary home in the less-than-cozy basement of the adjacent former May Company Building, this unassuming, tucked-away corner of the Bing Center received a significant dose of elbow grease.

The renovation was in part a measure to address the mounting problem of space constraints in the library. The books are currently being reshelved into newly installed compact shelving units, which will help accommodate the library’s collection of over 200,000 books, periodicals, journals, and other art-related resources that reflect and contextualize the museum’s encyclopedic collections. In addition to being functional, the refurbished library space beautifully evokes the green turf of the sculpture garden, the Los Angeles sunlight, and the clean lines of Donald Judd’s Untitled (for Leo Castelli), planted mere steps away from the reading room.

Balch after

Balch Research Library Before

Balch before

Balch Research Library After

In addition to being one of the best locations on LACMA’s campus to enjoy Alexander Calder’s Three Quintains (Hello Girls), the renovated library is now also home to the new Art + Technology Lab, a space dedicated to hosting programs, discussions, and other activities related to this initiative. Artists grants were just announced last week, and we’re looking forward to hosting them in this shared space.

Alexander Calder, Three Quintains (Hello Girls) (pictured in its current location), 1964, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Art Museum Council Fund

Alexander Calder, Three Quintains (Hello Girls), 1964, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Art Museum, Council Fund, © 2014 Calder Foundation, New York / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, photo © Museum Associates / LACMA

Library displays feature special selections from the archives, hand picked by the library and archives staff. Currently, you’ll find fascinating documentation from the original Art and Technology program that ran from 1967 to 1971, including a drawing by artist Rockne Krebs for his laser-beam installation, produced in collaboration with the Hewlett-Packard Corporation. Displayed alongside is a letter of recommendation by curator Sam Wagstaff on behalf of artist James Lee Byars, playfully hand scrawled in crayon.

Visit the library’s page for more information on the LACMA library and archives and to learn how you can make a research appointment. You can also explore the collections by searching the library’s online catalog, as well as the growing number of archival finding aids.

Julia Kim, Stacks Manager, Balch Art Research Library

This Weekend at LACMA: The Return of Jazz, Much To Do at Montebello Art+Film Lab, Exhibitions Closing, and More!

April 18, 2014

Add a bit of art and beauty to your weekend by visiting LACMA with friends and family. Friday evening starts it all off with the premiere of the 2014 season of Jazz at LACMA, featuring the Pete Escovedo Latin Jazz Orchestra on the outdoor stage in front of Urban Light at 6 pm. Since the 1970s, percussionist Pete Escovedo has been breaking down musical barriers and working with greats like Carlos Santana, Herbie Hancock, Cal Tjader, and Tito Puente, just to name a few. Jazz at LACMA is free and open to the public and takes place every Friday through November. Visit us to ring in this season of jazz.

Also happening on Friday night, a double feature of The Decline of Western CivilizationParts I and III in the Bing Theater. Tickets are sold out, but a standby line will offer the chance for last-minute guests to get extra seats.

It’s a busy few days at the Montebello Art+Film Lab, located at Montebello City Park. Friday evening check out the LACMA9 Shorts Program at 7 pm, a collection of all ages-friendly short films. Then on Saturday see more novel film work—this time from emerging Latino filmmakers—in the East L.A. Film Shorts event at 8 pm, in cooperation with TELA SOFA (East Los Angeles Society of Film and Arts). Earlier on Saturday at noon, the Composition Workshop teaches pro techniques on creating expressive images on film and, lastly, visitors to the lab have the opportunity contribute to the Oral History project on Saturday and Sunday.


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

Sunday also marks the end of several temporary exhibitions, including David Hockney: The Jugglers, The Color of Life: Japanese Paintings from the Price Collection, Sydney Fossum in the Permanent Collection, and Compass for Surveyors: 19th-Century American Landscapes. It’s a wide array of subjects, but each exhibition possess a unique appeal worth seeing. Join free daily tours to learn more about LACMA’s collection, like a look at European art on Saturday at 3 pm, or a detailed walkthrough of the Latin American galleries on Sunday, also at 3 pm. Finally, Sundays Live, presenting the Chamber Ensembles from the Colburn School, on Sunday at 6 pm. See you here.

Roberto Ayala

Music at LACMA

April 17, 2014

Tomorrow LACMA opens its 23rd season of Jazz at LACMA with Pete Escovedo Latin Jazz Orchestra. Every Friday, the BP Grand Entrance plays host to musicians from throughout Southern California as they fill the space with their seasoned sounds. In many ways, the start of Jazz at LACMA in Los Angeles is a way of ringing in the long months of warm weather and leisure in this city. (After all, we do need a respite from L.A.’s harsh, unbearable winters.) From April through the close of Jazz at LACMA in November, Los Angeles’s denizens come out in the tens of thousands not only to take in the music, but also to catch up with friends over a picnic, grab a drink at the Stark Bar, or, for the multitasking-ambitious types, to see our exhibitions and permanent collections on view in between a set or a bite of pizza.

Some rights reserved by waltarrrrr

Jazz at LACMA is one of three music programs that are offered at the museum throughout the year. Every Sunday, LACMA hosts the chamber-music series Sundays Live, which brings local, national, and international musicians to the Bing Theater. On Saturdays, Latin Sounds, a more-recent addition to the roster of music programming at LACMA (it began in 2006), features world-renowned artists who share the latest sounds from Brazil, Argentina, Peru, Mexico, and our fair city. Latin Sounds makes great use of the public spaces in Hancock Park to create a festival-like environment. Held at the Dorothy Collins Brown Amphitheater, Latin Sounds harnesses the fun that comes with summer and creates a festival-like atmosphere in a relaxing outdoor space.

Some rights reserved by Parker Knight


This year we are inviting music lovers to give back to the program by donating $10 to help support free music at LACMA.

Want to donate? Simply text MUSIC to 50555. (Charges will appear on your wireless bill, or be deducted from your prepaid balance. Message and data rates apply.*)

music text
Through your support, LACMA will be able to continue its rich music programming for Angelenos to enjoy for free.

*$10.00 donation to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Charges will appear on your wireless bill or be deducted from your prepaid balance. All purchases must be authorized by account holder. Must be 18 years of age or have parental permission to participate. Message and data rates may apply. Text STOP to 50555 to STOP. Text HELP to 50555 for HELP. Full terms: Privacy policy:

Sundays Live is made possible in part by The Ralph M. Parsons Foundation, the Colburn Foundation, the Mandell Family Foundation, and the Sidney Stern Memorial Trust. Additional support is provided by the Friends of Sundays Live.Jazz at LACMA is made possible in part by the Johnny Mercer Foundation. Promotional support provided by media sponsor KJAZZ 88.1 and community partner Amoeba Music.

The broadcast of “Jazz at LACMA” is made possible through the support of the office of Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky.

Media support for Latin Sounds is provided by KKJZ FM 88.1.

Mezzotints from the Collection

April 16, 2014

Velvet, fur, satin, metalwork, hair, water, and stone. These are just some of the distinct surface textures that our eyes convince us we can “feel” as we look at mezzotints. Derived from the Italian mezza tinta (“halftone”), mezzotint is an intaglio process that developed in the 17th century in the Netherlands. It is the only printmaking technique that works from dark to light. A copper plate is uniformly inscribed with indentations made by the teeth of a metal rocker, allowing for ink to pool into these grooved areas. Without further manipulation, a solid dark, inky impression would result if one printed from the prepared plate at this stage. To generate the design for the image in the mezzotint, the artist or printmaker burnishes areas on the prepared plate to create the form of the image. These burnished sections enable varying degrees of ink saturation, resulting in a mixture of tones. If the indentations on the plate are completely smoothened and polished away, only the clean surface of the paper will appear in the image—no ink will print in these areas.

Jan Verkolje I,  William III, King of England, c. 1688, gift of David and Francis Elterman through the Graphic Arts Council

Jan Verkolje I, William III, King of England, c. 1688, gift of David and Francis Elterman through the Graphic Arts Council

The pinnacle of popularity for the mezzotint took place in Britain during the 18th century. Allowing for a greater dissemination of images, mezzotints were prized by a discriminating clientele who wanted printed facsimiles derived from paintings. Valentine Green was one of the most prolific and famous of the mezzotint practitioners, and his designs were primarily modeled on portrait paintings by artists such as Joshua Reynolds and genre and scientific scenes, such as those painted by Joseph Wright of Derby.

Valentine Green England, 1739-1813 After Joshua Reynolds England, 1723-1792 Lady Elizabeth Compton, 1781 Mezzotint Mr. and Mrs. Allan C. Balch Collection M.50.5

Valentine Green, after Joshua Reynolds, Lady Elizabeth Compton, 1781, Mr. and Mrs. Allan C. Balch Collection

The current installation includes two portraits by Green after paintings done by other artists, including the elegant portrait of Lady Elizabeth Compton, done after Reynolds. Elizabeth is posed informally in front of a bucolic English garden landscape and the viewer’s eye is drawn to her upswept coiffeur, her dress with its cascading folds of ivory-colored fabric, and her delicate satin shoes.

John Dixon Ireland, c. 1740-1811, active England After Francis Swain Ward England, c. 1734-1805 Omdut il Mulk, Nabob of Arcot, 1771 Mezzotint Gift of Dr. and Mrs. Pratapaditya Pal M.78.148

John Dixon, after Francis Swain Ward, Omdut il Mulk, Nabob of Arcot, 1771, gift of Dr. and Mrs. Pratapaditya Pal

Another stunning portrait is John Dixon’s oriental subject, Omdut il Mulk, the Nabob of Arcut, after a painting by Francis Swain Ward. The turbaned Nabob represents an exotic culture in his non-European costume accompanied by a caparison of weaponry and jewels. The large size of these prints also complements the convincing adaptation of the original paintings in printed form, as they display how the mezzotint technique can adroitly reproduce the details of the original artworks.

The ability of mezzotint to imbue a romantic quality of shadow and light is seen to great effect in prints that highlight landscapes and seascapes, derived from both literary sources and from natural settings.

Joseph Mallord William Turner England, 1775-1851 Frontispiece to the series Liber Studiorum, 1812 Etching and mezzotint Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Martin Medak AC1992.113.1

Joseph Mallord William Turner, Frontispiece to the series Liber Studiorum, 1812, gift of Mr. and Mrs. Martin Medak

Joseph Mallord William Turner’s Liber Studiorum series features the artist’s approach to designing the drawings for each of his subjects which were subsequently given to professional printmakers to copy in etching and mezzotint. The goal was to replicate an appearance of drawing within the printed medium, hence the use of brown-toned inks instead of black to more closely reproduce the sepia tones of Turner’s actual drawings.

Frank Short England, 1857-1945 The Night Picket Boat at Hammersmith, c. 1916 Mezzotint Mr. and Mrs. Allan C. Balch Collection

Frank Short, The Night Picket Boat at Hammersmith, c. 1916,
Mr. and Mrs. Allan C. Balch Collection

Finally, Frank Short’s atmospheric view of London and the Thames River in the early twentieth century has an almost German Romantic aura in its employment of mezzotint to soften and dissipate forms and to suggest distinct sources of light emanating from the boats and upon the water in this nocturnal moonlit river scene.

See these works in the installation on view on the third floor of the Ahmanson Building, across from the elevators.

Claudine Dixon, Curatorial Administrator, Prints and Drawings Department

Reconnecting Roots

April 14, 2014

“I don’t know how to sew,” a little boy whispered to me as he stared at the colorful cloth in my hands. In front of him lay sewing instruments and fabrics spread across a long table. I was at the Boone Children’s Gallery, sewing different patches together to create a traditional Korean wrapping cloth, known as a bojagi, when he came up to me.

“Well, I’m glad you came because I also didn’t know how to sew, but I learned right here!”
“Really?” the little boy asked.
“Really!” I answered back.

Richard Manirath Photography 2014

Richard Manirath Photography 2014

Richard Manirath Photography 2014

Richard Manirath Photography 2014

When the LACMA Education team brought up the idea of creating the world’s largest bojagi, I was given the perfect opportunity to learn how to sew after years of wanting to learn. Sewing has been a part of my family for a long time, but I personally never learned the art of sewing. When my mother was young, there were no department stores in the small town of Nong Khai, Thailand; rather, families would provide services from their own homes. I remember my mother sewing garments all day and into the night. What once was a hobby had become her way of life, however, she never lost her love for piecing things together. Our family eventually immigrated to America, and sewing was no longer essential to our family’s stability. Whether it was because sewing was considered a predominantly female profession or because it was more practical to buy our own clothes, I never took the opportunity to learn.

Richard Manirath Photography 2014

Richard Manirath Photography 2014

My second chance at learning how to sew came when the Education Department at LACMA invited teaching artist Youngmin Lee to share various techniques with us, including the running and whipstitch. It was the first time I threaded a needle, and I had difficulty with tying a knot. As the workshop progressed, I realized that sewing was challenging, and I gained more respect for the craft and for my mother, who supported our family through this art. There were times when I was frustrated because I would drop the needle and lose the thread. And there were times when I would create a complex web of knots. Many of my peers were able to pick up the intricate techniques and sew as smoothly as Youngmin. I, on the hand, was like a fish out of water. Although I tried to play off my clumsiness by laughing about it, it was hard not to feel self-conscious.

Richard Manirath Photography 2014

Richard Manirath Photography 2014

I was embarrassed that I was slow and had to ask for repeated demonstrations. Being a perfectionist, it was hard for me to embrace these mistakes. I realized that sewing is an art that requires patience and an attention to detail, and that pressuring myself would only impede my learning process. The experience motivated me to practice until I became more confident. I was determined to get better, and I wanted to prove to myself that I was capable of doing so.

Richard Manirath Photography 2014

Richard Manirath Photography 2014

After months of preparation and research, as well as some sewing sessions with my mom, I was able to hone the skills that were once foreign to me. I shared part of my story with the little boy who sat down next to me, because I could relate to his eagerness to learn and the fear of making mistakes. I assured him that he could do it with time and to practice just as I had. There were times when he wanted to give up, but I continued to encourage him, reminding him that we all learn at our own pace. We took our time, and, at the end of the day, I was proud that he weaved together different textiles using the various techniques that I taught him. This collaborative project allowed me to connect with my mother, the boy, and hundreds of visitors that came in the following days. The fact that I am able to teach the same techniques that my mother used and share my experiences with patrons as young as four and as old as 80 has made this project truly special for me. Not only are we tied together by our natural curiosity and our instinct to connect with others, but also by this bojagi. So for those out there who say, “I don’t know how to sew,” it is never too late to continue learning.

Richard Manirath, Boone Children’s Gallery Facilitator

This Weekend at LACMA: Meredith Monk in Concert, Montebello Art+Film Lab, Selfies Symposium, and Southeast Asian Art Lecture, and More!

April 11, 2014

The stage is set for a special concert from Meredith Monk on Friday evening at 7:30 pm, as part of LACMA’s Art & Music series. With more than forty years of groundbreaking work, Monk’s musical compositions and use of voice weave melodies and harmonies unlike others before her. Vocalist Katie Geissinger accompanies Monk in a program not to be missed. Tickets are available online and at the door.

Photo by Peter Ross

Meredith Monk, photo by Peter Ross

In the city of Montebello things warm up at the LACMA9 Art+Film Lab. Friday, stop by the lab to contribute to the oral-history project at 4 pm and then check out the family-friendly flick Clara and the Secret of the Bears at 8 pm. Saturday, be a part of the Mini Docs Workshop at noon, where students of all levels can learn the nuances of capturing and sharing their unique perspective on film. The Art+Film Lab will reside at Montebello City Park through May 4. Also occurring off-site on Saturday, the Family Day at satellite exhibition Kaz Oshiro: Chasing Ghosts invites children and parents to explore the work of L.A.-based artist Kaz Oshiro and participate in a hands-on art project from noon to 4:30 pm.

On Saturday, join the discussion on today’s most popular form of self-expression: the selfie. In this half-day symposium, The Social Self: Selfies, Self-Documentation, and Self-Portraiture, artists, scholars, and technologists look at this modern-day phenomenon and place it in context with contemporary art and culture. The forum is capped off with a screening of I Am Comic at 7 pm. Come back on Sunday for the Eighth-Annual Distinguished Lecture on South and Southeast Asian Art at 2 pm with associate professor of art history at Northwestern University Robert Linrothe as he speaks on the Sumstek shrine, one of the surviving wonders of the Himalayan world. Both talks are free and open to the public.

Sakai Hōitsu, The Sano Crossing, Etsuko and Joe Price Collection

Sakai Hōitsu, The Sano Crossing, Etsuko and Joe Price Collection

Families will enjoy Andell Family Sundays on Sunday, beginning at 12:30 pm, as well as a handful of free, docent-led tours happening throughout the weekend. That evening pianist Svetlana Smolina performs at Sundays Live at 6 pm. When you’re here, see some of our favorite exhibitions including The Color of Life: Japanese Paintings from the Price Collection, Four Abstract Classicists, and The Painted City: Art from Teotihuacan. Can we get an encore?

Roberto Ayala


Our Selfies, Ourselves

April 10, 2014

This Saturday, LACMA’s hosting a symposium that examines our shared fascination (obsession?) with the selfie. While the word selfie was first publicly used over 10 years ago in 2002 by an Australian discussing his dissolvable stitches on a science forum (this is disputed), it is, without doubt, part of parlance today. Your 11-year-old neighbor probably utters the word daily. Your grandparents probably know what it means. (Full disclosure: I was puzzled when I first heard the word, way late in the game in 2012, when the “Texts from Hillary” meme was circulating. I’m sure this ages me.) When Oxford Dictionaries named selfie its Word of the Year in 2013, we all knew the concept formally entered polite society.

Apparently there’s a song about it too, but we’re not going to go there.*

Despite the fact that the popularity of selfies seems recent, its concept isn’t new. There have been countless self-portraits throughout the history of art. While the mechanics behind the making of these self-portraits differ from those that we associate with the contemporary selfie, these portraits essentially featured the subject looking back at her/himself.

Jean-Louis Forain, Self-Portrait, 1922, Mr. and Mrs. George Gard De Sylva Collection

Sir Anthony van Dyck, Self-Portrait, 1626–32, Los Angeles County Fund

We’re certain that neither Jean-Louis Forain nor Sir Anthony van Dyck pointed an Instagram-loaded iPhone in front of their faces to snap these self-portraits. But we do know that these were studied portraits in which the artist-subject carefully considered himself: specific angles of the tilt of the head that would best capture mood, carefully groomed facial hair to communicate distinction to peers, selective omitting of less complementary elements.

When photography came along in the mid-1800s, so did a bevy of self-portraits. These two examples of self-portraits below tell me that these artists relished in seeing themselves through the lens. André-Adolphe-Eugène Disdéri coyly positions his left hand on his hirsute face, knee resting just so on a decorative chair. James Van Der Zee appears confident in his portrait, dressed in what appears to be a casual suit that he tops off with a tidy straw hat.

André-Adolphe-Eugène Disdéri, Self-Portrait, c. 1860, The Audrey and Sydney Irmas Collection

James Van Der Zee, Self-Portrait in Boater Hat, c. 1925, The Audrey and Sydney Irmas Collection

These carefully crafted self-portraits hail from the Audrey and Sidney Irmas Collection, on which the symposium will be based. There’s a rich collection of self-portraits by photographers from the 19th and 20th centuries, all experimenting with the now-vintage notion of the selfie. Join in on a discussion on Saturday with noted writers, thinkers, curators, entrepreneurs, and artists to interrogate the selfie on all levels.

1 pm: Panel Discussion 
Moderator: Susan Bright, curator, writer, and professor at School of the Visual Arts
Nathan Jurgenson, contributing editor at The New Inquiry, researcher at Snapchat, and PhD student at the University of Maryland
Aimée Morrison, associate professor, English language and literature, University of Waterloo
Sean Rad, founder and CEO, Tinder

2:30 pm: Break

3 pm: Conversations
Amanda Ross-Ho, artist, and Michael Ned Holte, writer, independent curator, and faculty at the California Institute of the Arts

Heather Cassils, artist, and Jack Halberstam, professor of American studies and ethnicity, gender studies, comparative literature, and English at the University of Southern California
Ilene Segalove, artist, and Michael Renov, professor of critical studies at the University of Southern California

7 pm: Film screening, I Am Comic
Opening with comedian Adam Grabowski
2010, 87 minutes, directed by Jordan Brady

Many a selfie has been created at LACMA by our visitors and fans. Here are a few to whet your palate in preparation for Saturday’s event.

With installation of the cabana featuring the 1969 film LIONS LOVE (…AND LIES) by Agnès Varda, as seen in the exhibition  Agnès Varda in Californialand, courtesy of untitledalbum_x

Courtesy of ‏@jessalyn_p  on Twitter

With Chris Burden’s Urban Light, courtesy of ‏@jessalyn_p

Courtesy of  HariNd Arvati

With Andy Warhol’s Campbell Soup Can, courtesy of HariNd Arvati

*Just in case you wanted to go there.

Linda Theung, editor
Maritza Lerman Yoes, Social Media Manager


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