Posts Tagged ‘contemporary art’
SFMOMA, Cantor Arts Center, LACMA
This week, SFMOMA released additional renderings of its eminent expansion including new views of the interior. Snohetta (the chic, Norwegian architects) and SFMOMA haven’t been apologetic or really skirted the issue about plans to basically gut the entire existing building, keeping only Mario Botta’s postmodern façade. Climbing SFMOMA’s imposing stairs is literally my first memory of being in a museum. As a kid, I tried to recreate the alternating bands of polished and flame-finished black granite of these stairs with a set of sleek dominoes on my living room floor. A friend and I lamented the demise of Botta’s staircase the last time we visited SFMOMA and we brainstormed potential artist projects that might utilize the soon-to-be-dismantled stairs. (The SFMOMA expansion is going to be LEED Certified so maybe some of the black stone will be reclaimed.)
Alas, the released images show all of this will be eliminated in the expansion, sacrificed for the sake of greater street presence and improved openness to pedestrian traffic flow. (The $555 million expansion will also double the current amount of gallery space, so there is that.) New public space includes a multi-storied, glass-fronted gallery open to Howard Street. In the renderings, this gallery space is filled with a massive Richard Serra corten-steel sculpture. This isn’t just a filler “scalie” artwork; Serra’s Sequence (2006) will be installed in the new space when the Snohetta expansion opens in 2016. Sequence is part of the Fisher collection, the donors who generous donated many buckets of ducats for the expansion, and who are kinda-sorta donating their incomparable trove of contemporary art to the museum.
Norton Simon Museum
As I was finishing up in this exhibition, I overheard a tour being given to what I presumed was a UCLA summer painting course. “We have the Getty in our own backyard, but the Getty’s collection kinda sucks. The Norton Simon’s is the really great collection of LA,” the teacher harped. I am paraphrasing. While I detest uninformed and unnecessary opinions (especially from arts educators) about which museum has the “best” collection, I can’t deny the Norton Simon has a pretty amazing one, and I don’t even like Impressionism. Significant Objects: The Spell of the Still Life presents a thematic cross section of the museum’s diverse collections and is an examination of “the ways in which these ostensibly mundane and insignificant subjects [harsh!] portrayed in painting and sculpture and works on paper are indeed significant.” Significant Objects does not present groundbreaking, paradigm shift-type discoveries or research, but is a huge success as a rich, educational opportunity for general audiences utilizing the permanent collection. Permanent collection show hurray! Here are the facts:
Private Collector Museums
As promised, lets explore a series of amazing/crazy collectors around the world who have built museums to house their collections. First up, David Walsh
Let’s begin in a dark corner at the bottom of the world, Tasmania. It is there that eccentric collector David Walsh (who made his fortunes developing gambling systems) built the Museum of Old And New Art to house his collections of antiquities and contemporary art. It is the largest privately funded museum in Australia with an $8 million annual operating budget. The funding comes from Walsh, and from other business Walsh developed on the sprawling Morilla estate where the museum is located.
Norton Simon Museum
As the title suggests, the Norton Simon currently has a display of Ellsworth Kelly lithographs. The Plants, Flowers and Fruits have been installed into the Norton Simon’s small, first floor, temporary exhibition space. The room, while only slightly smaller than my studio apartment, is packed full of 20 Kelly lithographs (all from the museum’s permanent collection).
On all of the walls the works are hung so close together that the frames literally chaff each other. The result of this tightness feels like entering into a large coloring book: the stark black lines of the lithographs beg to be attacked by comically large crayons.
This coloring book can also seem like stepping into a monumental artist’s book. The mass of white pages that make up this “book” are balanced out by the wall color: a strong royal blue. Above each print, in white text, is a label simply stating the flora featured in each work (which is also the title): “Cyclamen I,” “Camellia I” and “Camellia III.” With the addition of these words the oversized coloring book has been turned into abstracted horticultural study.
It seemed that there was an effort to create a special room for this exhibition, an effort that attempted to remove the room from the viewer’s experience. The works are so large and packed in so tight, that the room seems to disappear, and one gets lost in blue. This effort was not done without some fudging. On the back wall of the room was a door that, along with its molding, had been painted the same royal blue. This was the only inconsistency in the otherwise uninterrupted experience of the room.
Another design element of the exhibition was the non-distracting, lightly-painted reproduction of leafs from one of the lithograph. The subtle, barely visible leafs hid behind the white title of the exhibition.
The subject matter of the prints (fruits, plants and flowers) reminded me of the magnificent still lifes elsewhere in the Norton Simon and begged comparison. A visitor only needs to walk a few steps to see Zurbaran’s Still Life with Lemons, Oranges and a Rose from 1633. Or a few steps in the other direction and see Peter Benoit’s Flowers in a Glass Beaker from 1620.
The proximity of these baroque paintings to the Kelly lithographs creates a dialogue about the evolution of the still life in art. At one end is the almost maniacal urge to render in life-like detail every vein in a petal, and every drop of condensation on a glass vase. And on the other end are the Kelly lithographs, the subtraction of the baroque elements and the abstraction of the same forms.