Contemplating Color and Form

November 18, 2010

Interesting interactions between art and architecture are diverse and plentiful on this campus. Right now, you can contemplate architectural minimalism as a foil for ancient Olmec sculpture in the Resnick Pavilion; study a wall of Impressionist masters in a gallery illuminated by a bank of windows overlooking the palm trees of Wilshire Boulevard; and be captivated by the emotive brushwork of seventeenth-century Zen monks in the luminous natural light of Bruce Goff’s Pavilion for Japanese Art.

But a new installation on the top floor of BCAM has me ascending the escalator over and over again lately.

Curator Franklin Sirmans installed Color & Form, a selection from the Broad Collection, on the east side of the building’s top floor. Works by Imi Knoebel, John McCracken, Christian Eckart, Gunther Forg, and Peter Halley populate the vast white walls beneath the Renzo Piano skylights.

The installation is interesting on a number of levels. In terms of the story of art history, it ties in directly with the Blinky Palermo show one level down (Palermo and Knoebel were close). It also continues a story begun with our 2009 Joseph Beuys installation, as Knoebel and Palermo were his students. It extends an investigation of color and form begun by an earlier generation of European modernists like Malevich and Mondrian (our Mondrian is on view one building over in the Ahmanson galleries.) And it suggests a thread of continuity leading right up through Jeff Koons (in galleries adjacent to Color and Form) and beyond. (Halley and Koons were peers in the New York art scene of the 1980s.)

So it’s a presentation with a lot of connective tissue. But all of that aside, I enjoy seeing people moving through these skylit galleries. They look spectacular and randomly choreographed populating that landscape of big, vivid, paintings. When we were editing the video interview with Frankin, below, I found that the silent b-roll images of visitors passing through the galleries were accidentally beautiful unto themselves.

The curator thoughtfully left certain walls empty, a visual breath between affecting fields of strong color. (Peter Halley’s Initial Sequence is a downright electrifying orange.) He also included enough benches so that you can rest and be enveloped by the environment of the galleries.

Amy Heibel


Mystery Train

October 2, 2008

Train, work in progress, © Jeff Koons

It’s inevitable, I suppose. Offer to suspend an extremely large object high above a public place, and people will talk about it. I’m referring to LACMA’s plan to build the Jeff Koons sculpture Train, a notion that became public in February 2007 and has been resurfacing every once in a while ever since. It was mentioned in coverage of this week’s Phase II announcement, and Esquire just predicted that Train will be the first iconic monument of the new century—”if it indeed gets built.”

Train would be a lifesize replica of a 1940s steam locomotive, suspended from a 161-foot-high crane. Three times a day it would perform: wheels churning, whistle sounding, smoke blowing.

At a talk that unveiled the project, Koons recalled his moment of inspiration. He was in Sweden, trying to come up with an idea for a site. ” I really didn’t have any ideas, but I saw off in the distance a crane out in the field,” he said. “And I thought, you know, the crane’s such a great image, it’s a wonderful readymade, it’d be really nice to do something with it. And I guess also, on kind of a subconscious level, it’s like a Led Zeppelin stairway to heaven or something.”

But will it get built? It sounds like it will, though not soon (installation is projected for 2012). John Bowsher, LACMA’s director of special art installations, told me that the feasibility study should be finished this fall, and the next step would be a high resolution scan of the 2900 series locomotive, an example of which has been found in Albuquerque. “This will be the first step in reverse-engineering in order to fabricate the locomotive,” Bowsher wrote in an email. “It will be a long lead process. Current estimates are 8-10 months to complete the scanning and create the digital files.”

Tom Drury


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