Exhibition Inquisition

The stuff you look at, but don't see.

Posts Tagged ‘Geffen Contemporary

Chapter 1 (Part 3): MOCA’s White Knight

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“I had no intention of getting involved in MOCA, until it got into trouble[i]
- Eli Broad

In fall 2008, a long-term beneficiary of Eli Broad’s largesse was in alarming financial trouble; the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) could no longer hide its vertiginous financial mess.  In an article titled “L.a.’s Moca In Deep Financial Trouble,” the Los Angeles Times reported MOCA had mismanaged its finances for more than a decade.[ii]  The board of trustees had almost completely drained the $200 million endowment by regularly dipping into it to cover costs of expensive exhibitions and operating overhead; overspending an average $1 million a year since 2000.[iii]  The public was shocked and enraged; consequently, there was a rapid exodus of board members.[iv] MOCA needed a hero with a rescue plan.

LACMA’s Michael Govan proposed one rescue plan: a partnership in which MOCA would maintain its independence and retain at least one of its venues (the Geffen Contemporary in Little Tokyo) and in exchange MOCA would share its collection with LACMA.[v]  Details of the offer were never fully disclosed, but it seemed to be Govan’s attempt to secure a large and well-regarded contemporary art collection for LACMA, and a way to reduce (if not eliminate) LACMA’s need of the Broad collections.

Govan’s offer seemed to be the final straw in the already strained relationship between him and Broad.  Broad openly chastised Govan in the Los Angeles Times for his proposed merger plan, and curiously quoted the film Jerry McGuire to demand, “Show me the money.”[vi] Broad had proposed his own rescue plan and was offering a $30 million lifeline to MOCA.  Govan was meddling in his plans.

Eli Broad in the first museum he founded on Grand Avenue.

Eli Broad in the first museum he founded on Grand Avenue.

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Siqueiros Americá Tropical Project

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El Pueblo Historic Monument

Street art is having something of a moment right now in Los Angeles.  MOCA’s Art in the Streets show is totally loved and totally hated. And somehow MOCA has managed to underplay the censorship issues that arose months ago when the graffiti artist Blu’s mural was whitewashed from the Geffen Contemporary’s north wall.  I’ve been told Blu wanted to show Deitch sketches for the mural, but Deitch couldn’t (wouldn’t?) because he was too busy at Basel in Miami…

Caught in the act.

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Geffen Contemporary North Wall Murals

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MOCA

I can’t wait to get back to LA to see Art in the Streets. Everyone is going crazy for it, or going crazy because of  it.  Taggers have converged on Little Tokyo and the Popo don’t know what to do.  Deitch says it’s inspirational and motivational. But it has also been controversial.  Small reminder:

MOCA’s Geffen Contemporary’s North Wall in December 2010:

Blu’s mural for MOCA, whitewashed.

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Dennis Hopper: Double Standard

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Museum of Contemporary Art

Title work, a visual pun

It’s been a long while since we (yes, the royal we) posted about a MOCA exhibition, which is sad since it was the museum that was closest to where I used to live in LA.  A lot has happened since Collection: the First 30 Years opened not so long ago.  MOCA is under new management, Jeffery Deitch from New York.  Changes are afoot, and Deitch wasted no time organizing new exhibitions. The show is curated by (non-MOCA employee) Julian Schnabel, who like Hopper, is also a director slash artist.  The show is, of course, Dennis Hopper: Double Standard.  The show was being organized while the famous director/actor/artist? was still alive, but sadly Hopper passed before the show opened in the beginning of July.  The show is presented at the Geffen Contemporary in Little Tokyo.

You enter the space down a flight of stairs and immediately see the ass of a large colorful sculpture of a man in a sombrero.  This retrospective is not organized chronologically which I actually don’t mind in the slightest, the groupings are thematic or organized by medium.  There is a combination of large-scale sculptures, photographs and other media in the first room—an introduction to all the kinds of media that Hopper dabbled in.  As previously mentioned, the first thing you see is the ass of Salsa Man (2000) a massive pop sculpture of a mustachioed man holding a tray.  You have to walk around the man to see him frontally which is the kind of curation that demands movement.

Salsa Man’s big ass.

This movement gets visitors to the wall text, which is actually chalk full of information, but is still all the info provided for the whole show. Some things at MOCA will never change.  Other than thanking the sponsors (duh the Broad Foundation, which doesn’t own any Hopper works), the intro walltext also gives a concise rundown on the works in the show.  It explains Hopper’s interest in AbEx, how all but one of his AbEx paintings were destroyed in a fire, which begs to question: Where is this one painting MOCA?  It also explains the gap in Hopper’s artistic production from the end of the 60s until ’81.

Salsa Man is paired with a sculpture on the same scale Mobile Man (2000), both face out away from the rest of the exhibition towards the large garage doors of the gallery space.  This seemed odd to me, until I looked at photos from the opening reception where the garage door was open and people entered the exhibition that way.  This enforces speculations about the purpose(s) of this show, is it really to promote this artist?—Or to be attendance booster? And what kinds of people (Hollywood types) is Deitch trying to get involved with MOCA? Regardless the garage space in interesting considering its similarity to Hopper’s mixed-use home/workshop space out in Venice.

Can I get away with the word “Bomb” on my blog?

The second room is dominated by Bomb Drop (1967/68/2000); I have no idea what the slash in the date is for (maybe it is a recreated piece) thanks for the explanation MOCA.  The piece is very reminiscent of that Oldenberg Swiss Army Knife Boat (that wonderful prop).  This is pretty much characteristic of Hopper’s work, it was obviously inspired by other artists, many of whom he was besties with.  This room seems to be devoted to Hopper’s dabbling (yes I’m going to use this word multiple times) with Pop Art.  A Coca Cola Sign (1962) hangs in this gallery.  It is labeled as a “found object,” which begs to question the authorship of the piece, did Hopper even consider this one of his works, or was it something he had in his house that he hung on one of his walls?

I’m not sure you’re telling me this is art MOCA.

The next two rooms, and my favorites, were all about photographs.  The curators used the whole length of the walls and hung works on high and on low (much more stimulating than hanging them all in a row at the standard level).  The photographs were clustered into themes: Pop Images, Civil Rights, Spain and Bullfighting (very Manet), Celebrity Friends, Artist Friends…Instead of having labels on the wall visitors were provided with laminated cards attached to a ring (kinda cheap) with all the info listed there.  It was a fun game (for a while) to focus on one photo and attempting to find its label on the laminated sheets.

Hopper’s sexy celebrity friend, Paul Newman.

The most telling clumping of photos was the ones of Hopper’s celebrity artist friends.  Present were: Larry Bell, Bill Al Bengston, Robert Irwin, Allan Kaprow, Craig Kauffman, Ed Kienholz, Claes Oldenberg, Ed Ruscha, and Andy Warhol.  (Notice a lot of big LA names—who’s looking forward to PST?—I am!)  This wall of famous artist friends is very telling about the kinds of people Hopper surrounded himself with, and makes a lot of sense when examining his artistic practices.

Big paintings?

Following the two photography rooms, was a room with three humungous paintings.  All of them were blown up versions of photographs from the previous room.  The title work Double Standard (2009) was accompanied by Biker Couple (2000) from a ’61 photograph, and Rope (2003).  I wonder if Double Standard was commissioned specifically for this show, it’s unclear how these works were executed, and whether Hopper actually painted them himself, or if they were just printed on huge canvases.  No collection or other notation is mentioned on the labels for these works.

At the back of the gallery is a dark theater with seating where there is a selection of movie clips called “Excerpts on Freedom” edited by Julian Schnabel.  It features clips from movies Hopper either acted in or directed: Easy Rider, The American Dreamer, Out of the Blue, Apocalypse Now, Giant, The American Friend, True Romance (damn that’s a lot of imdb links).  This theater acts as a kind of footnote: oh yeah and Hopper was an actor and director.  But wait, that’s what he is actually most known for, you’re trying to convince me he was an artist remember MOCA.

Warhol hiding behind a flower.

Another wing of the exhibition features additional large scale photorealistic paintings.  Henry Geldzahler (2009) form the Met, and Lichtenstein (2000) no collection mentioned hang with Warhol with Flower (2004) from a ’63 photograph in the other room.

The exhibition as a whole was much better than expected, I thought that the curators might attempt to deemphasize Hopper’s influences (his artist friends) and promote Hopper as more original then he really was.  The show is very honest; the writing is on the wall: in the form of Hopper’s portraits of his famous artist friends.

And now for your delight I present a complete waste of money spent shooting and editing a girl flipping through the Hopper exhibition catalogue.  Really? Really!  Is this necessary for any reason MOCA?

Thumbing Through Hopper from MOCA on Vimeo.

- H.I.

Oh and in case you missed it, MOCA has a blog. Who knew.  The curiously titled The Curve looks like it is fairly old, but didn’t go public until fairly recently. And look they do posts just of installation shots (I’m sure a lot of work went into crafting this post).  Now you don’t even need to go see the exhibition.

Collection: The First 30 Years – Part 2 (Geffen Contemporary)

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Museum of Contemporary Art

Like the banner says.

After seeing the first part of Collection [link to part one post] at MOCA’s Grand Avenue location I was surprised to see that the seemingly meticulous chronological organization used there, had been abandoned at the Geffen Contemporary portion of the exhibition.  At Grand Ave. a single narrative was created with a series of rooms leading one to another.  The architectural space at the Geffen does not have a series of rooms, and instead has an open floorplan of a warehouse, which does not lend itself to a singular viewing path.  The experience at the Geffen is less rigid but also has little direction.

Burden’s Big Wheel keeps on turnin’.

Because of the lack of a set path, I was free to choose my own, and the first thing I was drawn to was Chris Burden’s Big Wheel.  It’s a large moving object and set right next to the admission counter, so it’s hard not to be drawn to it.  From there I followed a rampway up, passed an awkwardly placed Richard Hawkin’s painting Disembodied Zombie Skeet Pink, and continued on.

(Oh look! A zombie head I completely missed.)

You don’t want this Santa coming down your chimney.

The special installations, like Ruscha’s Chocolate Room at Grand Ave, continued in the second part at the Geffen.  Paul McCarthy’s installation of tarnished Christmas trees festooned in dust-covered flowers and ornaments, along with worktables and photographs of creepy, pervy Santa’s made up the piece Tokyo Santa, Santa’s Trees.

This is not to be looked at, but it kind of is; it’s an exhibition catalogue.

The usage of artists quotes for artworks was carried out again at the Geffen, MOCA’s best attempt at education.  In an additional attempt at education several benches were placed in the galleries with exhibition catalogues.  I wonder how many people actually read a single essay out of the catalogue.  The cover of the exhibition is Baldessari’s work This Is Not To Be Looked At, which is featured at the end of the of the Grand Ave portion of the exhibition.

Varying access to details, from left to right: Hirschorn, Altmejd & Sone.

Large sculptures were placed with enough space for a viewer to completely circumnavigate them.  This was necessary for examining the details of complex works like Thomas Hirschhorn’s Non-Lieux and David Altmejd’s The Egg.  The exception was with the installation of Yutaka Sone’s Hong Kong Island, which was surrounded widely with by black tape and kept the viewer too far to really appreciate the tiny details of the piece.

Outside-in, portals to the video art.

Underneath the platform of the previous galleries one could find creepy little tunnels leading to the video works.  Spelunking into the caves created a sensation of tension that overwhelmed the works; I was more freaked out than really concentrating on the works themselves.

Big, bigger, biggest.

In one room issues of scale were played with.  The attempt to balance large works within the same space, and not have them compete with one another, was successful.  Thomas Struth’s Pergamon Museum II, Berlin seemed large until viewed next to Thomas Demand’s Space Simulator, and that even seemed small with Fred Tomaselli’s Hang Over down the hall. And then the leviathan Khedoori Untitled (Seats) was right next door.

BIGGEST- Khedoori

Certain artists were featured in multiple places in the Geffen.  Baldessari was hung at the very back and also at the very front.  A series of Opie photographs was hung far from another self portrait.  Why do this? The artworks from the same artists did not necessarily speak more to the works they did hang by, and would have been more informative of the artists careers to compare earlier and later works.

Finally, after all of my meanderings, at the end of the exhibition, I came to the introductory wall text.  The bland and uninformative sentences were accompanied by Bruce Nauman’s colorful work Welcome.  The work’s title was appropriate for this placement, but that was about all that was appropriate about it. Now I understood the content warning label at the entry of the exhibition.  I also realized at this point that I had traversed through the show in the wrong direction.

What a Welcome.

I had made it through the show with little direction, which seemed to sum it up.  At the Grand Avenue portion of Collection, it seemed MOCA was presenting a cannon of contemporary art, explicitly creating a narrative.  Where as at the Geffen Contemporary Grand portion, MOCA allowed a visitor to create one’s own narratives.

- H.I.

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