This Weekend at LACMA: Eakins Lecture, Film Foundation Series, and More

October 8, 2010

Exhibitions, lectures, concerts, films… we’ve got a little of everything this weekend. On the exhibition front, there are seven different special exhibitions on view right now, starting with Olmec, Fashioning Fashion, and Eye for the Sensual in the new Resnick Pavilion. In the Ahmanson Building you’ll find In the Service of the Buddha: Tibetan Furniture from the Hayward Family Collection and EATLACMA. Harvest time is approaching for the artist-created gardens of EATLACMA, so keep on the lookout as you walk around campus. Finally, there’s Catherine Opie: Figure and Landscape and Manly Pursuits: The Sporting Images of Thomas Eakins, both of which close next week.


Thomas Eakins, Wrestlers, 1899.


Saturday would be an ideal day to take in Eakins, as we’re also holding a special symposium, “The Body Imagined: Sports & Art in American Culture, Then & Now.” Tad Beck, the artist behind the Palimpsest exhibition embedded within Manly Pursuits, will be on hand, along with Los Angeles Times sports journalist Mike Bresnahan; Jennifer Doyle, professor at UC Riverside; and Amy Werbel, professor at St. Michael’s College, all discussing the role of sports and art in the evolving cultural attitudes toward the human body. The lecture is free and starts at 1 pm.


Muhammad Aza, Portrait of Nasir ud din Haidar, c. 1830. India, Uttar Pradesh, Lucknow. Oil on canvas 36-1/4 x 28-3/8 in. (92.1 x 72.1 cm). Collection Drs. Aziz and Deanna Khan. Photo courtesy Drs. Aziz and Deanna Khan.


Sunday sees another lecture, also free: “Lucknow through the Lens of Bollywood.” The lively presentation of film clips from Hindi and Bollywood directors from the 1960s to the present will also include a live tabla performance. This will be a good primer for our upcoming exhibition, India’s Fabled City: The Art of Courtly Lucknow, opening in December.

If music is your game, we’ve got two free concerts. Tonight (Friday), the Ernie Watts Quartet plays Jazz at LACMA. Watts is a two-time Grammy winner and has played with plenty of greats over the last forty years, from Cannonball Adderly to Frank Zappa. Sunday, we continue our Sundays Live series with another concert be performers from the New England Conservatory, in celebration of Robert Schumann’s bicentennial.

This weekend also kicks off our latest film series, a 20th Anniversary Tribute to the Film Foundation. The series will run every weekend for the rest of the month and features a diverse slate of films—all of which have been restored and preserved by the Film Foundation. Tonight sees a noir double feature with The Big Combo and They Made Me a Fugitive. Saturday, the foreign masterpiece Pather Panchali will be followed by the dance classic The Red Shoes. Here’s a trailer for the latter:

Stretching into next week, we should note that Monday is a holiday—we’ll be open (but not free, as we are for other holiday Mondays). But Tuesday we will be free, as we are on the second Tuesday of every month If you’re free you should come down, maybe catch The Swan, with Grace Kelly and Alec Guinness, during the Tuesday Matinee—just two bucks!

Scott Tennent

Tad Beck on his Installation, Palimpsest

August 2, 2010

Inside the exhibition Manly Pursuits: The Sporting Images of Thomas Eakins is a gallery of works by contemporary artist Tad Beck, whose exhibition Palimpsest, works in dialogue with Eakins’s paintings and photographs. We asked Tad to guest blog on Unframed today, connecting the dots between the two shows.

During the installation of my exhibition Palimpsest, I was able to have my own private exploration of Manly Pursuits. I had never seen many of these works in person, though Eakins has been one of my primary influences since parallels emerged with my own practice. The first similarities appeared between my video installation, Roll (2003) and Eakins’s painting The Swimming Hole (1884–85). Both Eakins’s and my own work focus on nude models. The locations look very much the same, and both Eakins and I are treading water. There was even similar passion for creating axis. While none of these parallels were intentional in Roll, they became definitive and almost seemed beyond coincidence.

Thomas Eakins, The Swimming Hole, 1884–85, Amon Carter Museum, Fort Worth, Texas, Purchased by the Friends of Art, Fort Worth Art Association, 1925; acquired by the Amon Carter Museum, 1990, from the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth through grants and donations from the Amon G. Carter Foundation, the Sid W. Richardson Foundation, the Anne Burnett and Charles Tandy Foundation, Capital Cities/ABC Foundation, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, The R. D. and Joan Dale Hubbard Foundation and the people of Fort Worth

Palimpsest was created in part to examine my connection to Eakins, to make the parallels a primary issue in my creative process. Brian Allen of the Addison Gallery of American Art had given me reproductions of the Circle of Eakins’ Grafly Album, which provided me with images that evoked an artist/model dynamic I was very interested in. I shot the Palimpsest models in my own studio, simulating the light of Eakins’s studio and reenacting the poses of Eakins’s models. My models were then digitally inserted into Eakins’s studio.

Despite the consuming installation of my own photographs, I was struck by one of Eakins’s works in particular—Male Clothed, Standing, and Male Nude Named J. Laurie Wallace Nude, Reclining on Platform in Wooded Landscape (1883). This photograph is a study for The Swimming Hole, but it was not shot at the swimming hole; rather at an entirely unrelated location and time with the figures posing on a constructed stage that simulated the perspective and lighting of the location in the painting and other photographs.

Thomas Eakins, Male Clothed, Standing, and Male Nude Named J. Laurie Wallace Nude, Reclining on Platform in Wooded Landscape, c. 1883, The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Charles Bregler’s Thomas Eakins Collection. Purchased with the partial support of the Pew Memorial Trust, 1985.68.2.476

One of the model’s poses in this image is seen in the painted Study for Swimming Hole. While it is clear that Eakins used photographs to paint from, this photograph represents the more complicated strategy of a self-aware cinematic or fictional use of photography that really came into critical discussion in the Pictures generation. It is not just a photographic moment to be reproduced in paint. In ways it resembles the photographs I initially shot before I digitally inserted my models into Eakins’s studio in Palimpsest. The figures are engaged in an activity that does not match their background or their time, primed for insertion into a fictional or constructed scene made up of various other photographic moments.

Although some may have issue with Eakins painting from photographs, I have no qualms with it, rather I celebrate him for it. My real interest is in Eakins’s relationship to what photography does, to what the choreographed and assembled reality that photography provided him. Surprisingly I found myself even more closely aligned with Eakins because of a contemporary method that requires the artist to unify a variety of moments into one realistic composition. As viewers, we are able to embrace the fiction of that warm afternoon swimming, but also the reality of each ingredient of the composite seen in the accompanying photographs. This duality is at the heart of Palimpsest and apparently The Swimming Hole as well.

Tad Beck, Palimpsest One, 2009, courtesy the artist

Tad Beck

Happy Birthday, Eakins!

July 22, 2010

This Sunday, we will be opening a new exhibition, Manly Pursuits: The Sporting Images of Thomas Eakins. That day, the July 25, also happens to be Eakins’s birthday. Eakins is no longer with us (he would be 166), but his art is a good stand-in.

Unknown, “Eakins, in the Chestnut St. Studio, Three-Quarter View,” c. 1891, The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Charles Bregler’s Thomas Eakins Collection. Purchased with the partial support of the Pew Memorial Trust, 1985.68.2.581

The opening of the exhibition, which concentrates on Eakins’s depictions of the modern heroes of American life, the athletes of the late nineteenth century, is especially eventful for me not just because I organized the show. Eakins and I shared significant backgrounds. We were both born and raised in Philadelphia. Also, the art bug and the “City of Brotherly Love” were strongly ingrained in both of our psyches. Eakins’s also was a significant force in determining my profession. As a child I began going regularly to the Philadelphia Art Museum, which has the largest collection of Eakins art and archives. You see, my father loved art and history and for vacations he would take my mother, my sister Tina, and me on automobile excursions up and down the East Coast to visit historic houses and museums. As a result Tina became an artist and history buff and I became an art curator. It was Eakins who determined my focus on American art, as the first memory I have of visiting the Philadelphia Museum was to see a display of perspective drawings that Eakins created as preparatory work for his rowing paintings. I can still remember the gallery full of those large studies.  They are meticulous pencil and ink drawings that will amaze you. And you now can see them for yourself as several are on view in Manly Pursuits at LACMA.

The exhibition will only be shown in Los Angeles. So why don’t you go visit the Eakins exhibition on July 25, enjoy the rowers, the men skinny dipping, the equestrian riders, the bicyclists, boxers, and wrestlers, and then walk across the museum plaza to Pentimento and celebrate good old Tom’s birthday  with a sweet dessert and bubbly, and sing “Happy Birthday” to him. I know that’s what I plan to do on Sunday!

Ilene Susan Fort, Curator

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