Art & Music Series 2013: Caravaggio Ballet, Steve Reich, Stewart Copeland, ICE, more

January 29, 2013

Unframed‘s Stephanie Sykes spoke with Mitch Glickman, LACMA’s director of music programs, about the upcoming season of LACMA’s Art & Music concert series, an innovative series that pairs music and dance performances with LACMA’s collections and exhibitions. This season gets underway with the ballet Caravaggio, performed by the Los Angeles Contemporary Dance Company, on February 6.

Stephanie Sykes: How did you develop the Caravaggio-focused program for LACMA’s first Art & Music event of 2013? 

Mitch GlickmanArt & Music is a contemporary-themed concert series, so the question is: How do you take a Baroque artist and make it modern? And how do you celebrate the numerous paintings in the exhibition that feature musicians and instruments from the day? With this concert celebrating Bodies and Shadows: Caravaggio and his Legacy, I am trying something very different for our Art & Music series. The first half of the program features Baroque instrumentalists performing throughout the galleries in front of paintings depicting musicians. These performances take you through the entire exhibition and will establish connections to the work; for example, you will have a lute player in front of a painting of a lute player. The second half of the concert program moves to the Bing Theater for a special performance of the ballet Caravaggio.

Theodoor Rombouts, The Lute Player, c. 1625–1630, Philadelphia Museum of Art, John G. Johnson Collection, 1917, photo © 2012 Philadelphia Museum of Art, all rights reserved

Theodoor Rombouts, The Lute Player, c. 1625–1630, Philadelphia Museum of Art, John G. Johnson Collection, 1917, photo © 2012 Philadelphia Museum of Art, all rights reserved

SS: What is the story behind Caravaggio and bringing the performance to LACMA?

MG: The presentation of ballet is another first for the Art & Music series. I am indebted to Alberto di Mauro, director of the Italian Cultural Institute, for introducing me to a new ballet by leading Italian composer Giovanni Sollima appropriately titled Caravaggio. The ballet is a brilliant fusion of past and present, Baroque and contemporary, expertly choreographed by the resident choreographer of Balletto Teatro di Torino, Matteo Levaggi. Through the support of IIC, we were able to bring out Mr. Levaggi from Italy to work with one of Southern California’s leading dance troupes, the L.A. Contemporary Dance Company, led by Kate Hutter. We are thrilled to be able to present the U.S. premiere of this stunning work that captures the energy, passion, and soul of Caravaggio.

SS: What other highlights can we look forward to in the 2013 season of Art & Music?

MG: One highlight this season is our May 7 concert featuring Steve Reich & Friends. The concert features Reich works, old and new, including the LA premiere of Piano Counterpoint with Vicki Ray. Reich will perform in the concert along with percussionist David Johnson and the CalArts Percussion Ensemble, the Lyris String Quartet, and pianist Joanne Pearce Martin. We are also excited to again be working with Long Beach Opera presenting an afternoon with composers Stewart Copeland (The Police) and Mark Gordon (Bang on a Can), and this year’s series closes with the New York–based group ICE (International Contemporary Ensemble) directed by recently announced MacArthur Grant award winner Claire Chase. It is rare treat to experience such a wide array of today’s finest contemporary performers and composers.

Tickets to all Art & Music performances are on sale now

Stephanie Sykes

New Acquisition: Albrecht Dürer, Saint Jerome in His Study

April 25, 2012

The foremost artistic personality of the German Renaissance, Albrecht Dürer was an accomplished painter, printmaker, draftsman, and art theorist. His pictorial innovation and technical bravura transformed the arts of woodcut and engraving, elevating their status to transcend their craft origins and setting standards rarely matched in the history of printmaking. Three works dating to 1513–14 are singled out as the crowning achievements of Dürer’s illustrious career as an engraver: Knight, Death and the Devil; Melencolia I; and Saint Jerome in His Study. Closely related in size and complexity of execution, these three prints are known as Dürer’s Meisterstiche—or Master Engravings.

Albrecht Dürer, Saint Jerome in His Study, 1514, gift of the 2012 Collectors Committee, with additional funds provided by the Prints and Drawings Council and Philippa Calnan

Saint Jerome in His Study evokes an ideal of scholarly and spiritual reflection. Set in the ordered interior of a monastic cell, the learned saint is seen at his writing table. The lion, Jerome’s legendary companion, and the dog blissfully adrift at his feet, contribute an undeniably sympathetic appeal to the tranquil scene. The light-infused setting, cast in a carefully rendered perspective, has been greatly admired by artists, scholars, and collectors, since the sixteenth century. In his 1568 Lives of the Artists, Giorgio Vasari praised the depiction of sun streaming through the bull’s-eye glass windows as having “an effect so natural, it is a marvel,” furthermore claiming that “nothing more and nothing better could be done in this field of art.” Indeed, in its virtuoso handling of light and meticulous description of textures, Saint Jerome in his Study is a demonstration of Dürer’s supreme mastery of the pictorial possibilities of the engraving medium.

This beautiful, rich impression of Saint Jerome in His Study, expertly printed with subtle areas of surface tone, is among the earliest taken from the plate. The careful attention given to the selection of papers and preparation of inks for his engravings strongly suggests Dürer printed his own plates. The artist issued his engravings in limited numbers in response to demand, and as a consequence a qualitative difference can be discerned between various printings. Later impressions can be distinguished from the earliest ones by the progressive dulling of lines and accumulation of scratches in the plate. Here, even the finest and most delicate lines print sharply, rendering a tonal range extending from soft silver to brilliant black to express the play of shimmering light in its most refined nuances.  This sheet is also remarkable for its pristine condition. Its survival through five hundred years guarded from even minimal creases, tears, or stains is testament to the high regard in which it was held by its successive owners.

LACMA’s holdings of Dürer’s prints constitute one of the greatest strengths of the Old Master works on paper collection. The collection includes beautiful, early exemplars of Dürer’s masterpieces of engraving, including Knight, Death and the Devil and Melencolia I, in addition to other important works as Adam and Eve and Saint Eustace.  With the acquisition of this exquisite impression of Saint Jerome in his Study, LACMA now boasts the complete Master Engravings.

Naoko Takahatake, assistant curator, Prints and Drawings

New Acquisition: Baratta’s Wealth and Prudence

December 1, 2011

On view now in our European galleries are two life-size allegorical figure statues, Wealth and Prudence, by the late Florentine Baroque master, Giovanni Baratta (1640–1747)—just acquired through the largess of The Ahmanson Foundation. The rediscovery of these sculptures has been recognized as a major contribution to the study of early eighteenth-century Florentine art.

Giovanni Baratta, Wealth (left) and Prudence (right), 1709, gift of the Ahmanson Foundation

Originally part of one of Baratta’s most illustrious commissions, the works are noted for their refined elegance. The sculptures were commissioned by Niccolò Maria Giugni (1672-1717) for the gallery in his Palazzo on the Via degli Alfani in Florence. Facing one another at either end of the gallery, they were part of an elaborate iconographic scheme intended to glorify the Medici family and celebrate the Giugni family’s allegiance to the Medici. The choice of Wealth and Prudence was particularly appropriate to illustrate the joint virtues of the families, as some members of the Giugni family had advised the Medici in various aspects of their governance.

The two allegories closely match the iconology of the subjects: Wealth is a woman bedecked with jewels and holding a crown in one hand, a scepter in the other (the scepter may either have disappeared or never have been intended by the sculptor); Prudence is identified by the mirror she’s holding as well as an arrow and eel, all of which appear distinctly in Baratta’s sculpture.

In addition to their size, the extraordinary quality of carving in the sculptures is noted. Of particular beauty are the hands whose fingers delicately press the fabrics, and folds that are thinly and sharply executed in a way that carries into the eighteenth-century tradition of Bernini, in whose studio Baratta’s uncle had worked. The sculptures were executed shortly before 1709, at the height of Baratta’s fame. Shortly after, with well-established international recognition, he received commissions globally, including those from the Duke of Marlborough (“Princely Glory”, Cambridge, Fitzwilliam Museum), the King of Denmark (Peace, Fedensborg Castle), and the Royal House of Savoy in Turin (Decoration of the Church of St. Hubert in the Venaria Reale).

As the first marble examples of Baroque Florentine sculptures to enter the collection, Wealth and Prudence are an important addition to LACMA’s extensive grouping of late seventeenth- and early eighteenth-century Florentine sculpture. The Baratta works join a bronze by Antonio Montauti, as well as a gilded terra-cotta, a wax relief, and medals by Massimilliano Soldani-Benzi, amongst other notable works currently on view in the museum’s European galleries.

J. Patrice Marandel, the Robert H. Ahmanson Chief Curator of European Art

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