Exhibition Inquisition

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

Posts Tagged ‘walltext

Paris: Life and Luxury

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Getty Center

Oh how the rich suffer!

NOTICE: This is the last week to see Paris: Life and Luxury, at the Getty Center. I’ve seen it twice, and am going back a third time this weekend.  There is a lot to see; there is also a lot to read, lots of walltext, and a lot of it is hilarious.  Beginning with the intro walltext, which explains why most people are unfamiliar with French decorative art from this period:

Largely unfamiliar and underappreciated today, over shadowed as they are by the tumultuous social and political events of the French revolution of 1789.

Oh my god, this stuff is so underappreciated! Who doesn’t love Rococo?  If an 18th century French peasant saw all the wealth/golden filth in this exhibition, the Revolution would have happened a WHOLE lot sooner.  Read the rest of this entry »

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.

Sojourn to San Francisco (Pt. 2)

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de Young Museum

This isn’t a harbor—the de Young Sub

Across from the recently reopened California Academy of Sciences is another new building.  The de Young Museum (part of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco) looks like a beached and rusting submarine, parked awkwardly in the middle of Golden Gate Park.  Vestigial elements of the old building remain; a pair of sexy art deco sphinxes mark where the old museum’s entrance used to be (a few hundred feet from where it is now).

Something predictable, and something delightfully surprising

Several of the museum’s collections are displayed on the first floor: Alaskan art, some contemporary decorative arts, Pre-Columbian, and modern and contemporary American painting and sculpture.  Alaska art (mostly small crafts pieces) leads to the contemporary decorative arts gallery.  This room contains a mixture of tacky glass pieces from the 80s (purple and teal color palette dominates), predictable pieces like Chihuly, and a Nick Cave body suite thrown in.  The dec arts room leads off in two directions, one to the randomly linked pre-Columbian galleries, the other way along a window-lined hallway to the modern and contemporary galleries.

Size matters, but so does space

These collections are given the most real estate—allowing the large sculptures and paintings space to breathe without competing with each other.  For example: even though Josaih McElheny’s Model for Total Reflective Abstraction (after Buckminster Fuller & Isamu Noguchi) takes up most of the floor in one room, a hanging fixture of burn wood, Cornelia Parker’s Anti-Mass, and Al Farrow’s cathedral reliquary made from ammunition are all given their due space.

Best way to show this Ruscha?

Several rooms of painting later, was a smaller room with a special curatorial title and wallpanel.  Photo / Synthesis features works by eight contemporary artists “who have explored various methods of assembling and organizing photographic images into multifaceted constructions.”  Predictably Ruscha is included; in a series of parking lots, and of course Every Building on the Sunset Strip. I was surprised with how awkwardly the accordion book was displayed, it was even worse than how it was displayed in LACMA’s New Topographics.  The form of book was completely denied in the de Young’s display, which was laid out in a ring standing up on its side.  The display of Every Building that I think was the most successful was how it was displayed in a show at the USC Fisher Museum of Art.  In a long display case that reached almost from wall to wall, the accordion book was laid out flat and almost to its full length.

They saved this thing!?

I circled back to explore the Pre-Columbian galleries.  Pre-Columbian galleries interest me especially since seeing the Jorge Pardo designed galleries at LACMA.  (Look for a post comparing LACMA’s Pre-Columbian galleries to the Natural History Museum’s galleries soon.)  Had I come out of the dec art gallery into the Pre-Columbian galleries, the first thing I would have seen would have been the dominating wall mural.  This kitchy map of the world displays various flora and fauna, and seems more educational in function than artistic.  The de Young sometimes has an odd way of connecting adjacent galleries with seemingly unrelated works.  This map is one of those odd ways.

The display of the Pre-Columbian collection is fairly standard, other than being in a glass walled, natural light-flooded room.  At the de Young wall cases, and free standing glass vitrines are light naturally, somehow making the objects more relatable and utilitarian, rather than simply being elevated to the level of an art object.

Doggy style—West Mexican ceramics

Little explanation is given for many of the objects, especially in the case of the Western Mexican ceramics.  These objects are notoriously looted, and became popular with collectors especially in the early half of the 20th century.  One of these ceramics even features prominently into an Alfred Hitchcock film.  Similar like ceramic objects are gathered into vitrines, one has a cache burnished dogs in various activities, even including copulation.

I've seen this pair before

Another thing that struck me about some of the Western Mexican ceramics was the similarity of works, with ones I have seen in Los Angeles.  The female and male burial pair with odd geometric appendages is almost identical to ones found in the Natural History Museum.  A figured with a white running geometric design is a twin of one in the Natural History Museum, and a triplet to another at LACMA.  These “types” are so prevalent in collections, and yet so little is known about them as they are scavenged from burial sites with no archeological information known about them.

I know waaay too much about this type of figurine

Other works in the de Young’s collection do have a lot of attribution, explanation, and even respectly present this information.  One dim room contains a collection of murals from Teotihuacan from the Wagner Collection. The wallpanel is almost apologetic and therefore praiseworthy for its honesty and its explanation about museum collecting practices.

“Owing to the size and importance of the donation and ethical issues regarding cultural patrimony, the museum approached officials in Mexico to discuss a cooperative program of conservation and care and the voluntary return of at least half of the murals to Mexico.  After several years of negotiation, an agreement between this museum and Mexico’s National institute of Anthropology was executed, providing for the joint conservation, exhibition and disposition of the collection.”

I am really struck with the honesty of this wall panel, and think that it should be seen as an example of the correct way to handle issues of cultural patrimony, and the transparency of the museum’s wheelings and dealings.  Okay, I’m getting a little choked up about the walltext…didactics aside, the murals were in excellent condition, the color looks like it was applied days ago instead of the centuries ago that it actually was.

Struck by the artwork, and by the honesty in a walltext

The last thing of note on the ground floor of the museum was a tiny little annex of a room which contained two mural cycles.  The two murals, The Land and The Sea, were painted by Gottardo F.P. Piazzoni between 1929 and 1932.  More transparency! The labels for these works say they are a “transfer” from the S.F. Arts Commission and the Asian Art Museum.  The two, five-panel murals were painted originally for the Old Main Library, and suggested views that might have been seen through the walls of the building.  The murals were removed from the Beaux Arts building when it was converted into the Asian Art Museum.  The room in which they are now displayed “was designed to reflect the dimensions and arrangement” of the original location.  I have a soft spot in my heart for projects like these since I worked a mural cycle, which had been removed from its original home.

Murals I'm glad they kept

The second floor has galleries reserved for temporary exhibitions, as well as the display of its early American, African, and Oceanic collections.  A curatorial trend I’ve noticed with the display of African art is to introduce it with contemporary works.  Both in L.A. (at LACMA recently) and at the de Young this took the form of an El Anatsui work.   The massive wall hangings, which look like glittering golden weavings by El Anatsui are actually made from recycled metal liquor bottle caps.  The works are made in El Anatsui’s native Ghana.  The contemporary work which is still craft-based is supposed to related to the more traditional African works in the galleries like masks and ceremonial objects.

El Anatsui, diplomatic work to contemporary visitors

Across from the El Anatsui work is the intro walltext for the African galleries.  More honesty and transparency:

“The museum’s collection of African art originated in the California Midwinter Exposition of 1894, when exhibits from “the colonies of Africa” and countries around the world were displayed in pavilions in Golden Gate Park.  The objects were presented as exotic curiosities in a stereotyped, even racist, manner; few people saw them as works of art.”

It then explains how the collection grew mostly randomly from various sources and that the objects on display are “mostly traditional-based arts,” but that the museum hopes that it will “grow in multitude and dimension in the future.”  This declaration for pursuing an increasingly scholarly and serious collection makes the collection more valuable to the public.  It also seemed to be a genuine statement of redress .

Yikes, that’s a lot of grubby fingerprints

Linked to the African galleries are the Pacific Island galleries (typical museum strategy for putting the “primitive art” next to one another.  The de Young never uses the term “primitive” I should add.)  The large wooden vitrines are massive and beautiful in their own right except they seem in desperate need of cleaning.  Finger and large handprints were strikingly visible on the glass of the cases, and they seemed neglected.  This bothered me mostly because the remedy seems so easy, grad some Windex!

Take a seat

The de Young also has an extensive collection of earlier American art installed on the second floor: painting, sculpture, decorative arts and furniture.  One of my favorite installations of objects from the permanent collection was an installation of a slew of various chairs in a skinny corridor.  This installation seemed Warholian, and reminded me of Warhol’s curated show Raid the Ice Box at the Rhode Island School of Design.  Unlike Warhol’s exhibition, all of the chairs in the de Young display are well conserved, but viewing them like this in one line allows for a visitor to see trends in object-making and compare materials and craftsmanship.

Popular tourist spot

Crowning the museum is an observatory tower whose top floor can be accessed by the public and allows for sweeping views of Golden Gate Park, and on less-foggy days amazing unobstructed views of the city.  The de Young also has special exhibition space.  The largest of these exhibition spaces is on the lower level of the building.  The next post will be a review of Birth of Impressionism, a traveling exhibition of works from the Musee de Orsay.

- H.I.

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.

Collection: MOCA’s First Thirty Years

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Museum of Contemporary Art

Right in time for its 30th anniversary, MOCA presents Collection: MOCA’s First Thirty Years, on view through May 3, 2010.  The exhibition celebrates MOCA’s collection in a big way: more than 500 works by more than 200 artists.  Collection also takes up a lot of real estate and is spread out between MOCA’s two downtown locations. This is why this inquisition will be dished out in two parts.  Beginning at Grand Avenue with the 1940s and Abstract Expressionism, the show is organized chronologically. The show continues at the Geffen Contemporary with art from the previous 30 years (check back for part two).

Not only is MOCA showing its much bragged about permanent collection, it actually provides some informative/educational wall texts, or as close to informative/educational wall texts as MOCA would go.  Throughout the many galleries, the curators have integrated quotations from the artists on display. The quotes range from remarks on art theory to explanations about artistic process.

The show is curated using several tactics. Two of these tactics were creations of suites of a single artists work, and another was the system of juxtaposing a series of a single artist’s photographs with a sculpture.  This second tactics was my favorite and used twice with very successful results.

Suite no. 1: Rothko

The first suite of artist work was given to Rothko, a venerable chapel had been created for the massive abstract expressionist pieces.  The curators also utilized temporary architectural elements to their advantage in this space (and throughout) to separate rooms into sections, but more importantly to highlight through framing particular works.  This was used in the following gallery for a Pollock.

Savanna scene—Kline suite

The second major artist suite was organized for Franz Kline. I’ve never seen Kline hung in such a serial way. I didn’t particularly enjoy the suite because it began to look like a herd of zebra.

Forgot to snap a picture, Frank and Chamberlain

Then came a room which was installed using the second tactic: the juxtaposition of a photographic series and a sculpture.  This one combined a series of photographs from Robert Frank’s The Americans series with the metal sculpture Rayvredd by John Chamberlain.  Unfortunately I didn’t manage to snap a picture of this room’s installation, so I made a poor mock-up in my favorite program Microsoft paint.  I like this room not just because I am insanely fond about Robert Frank (yes I own the expanded edition of The Americans exhibition catalogue) but because the combination of a multiplicity of photos compared to a single unique, seemingly irreproducible sculpture made me think on implications of media and display of various kinds of media.

Rauschenbergs large and small, this one, “Coca Cola Plan,” small.

This room was followed but another large suite containing MOCA’s extensive collection of varying and impressive Rauschenberg combines.  The spacing in this room was effective in that it allowed for a consideration of individual works while still making obvious the trends in Rauschenberg’s work.

Works from “The Store” on the wall and on a stage

Another room that operated similarly in contrasting sculpture and painting was the room with the Oldenberg sculptures from The Store.  These garishly painted works were mounted from the walls (like paintings) and set up on a kind of stage that separated them from the viewer’s space.  The paintings in this room were Warhol and Lichtenstein.  MOCA presented one of each from its own collection; both were in black and white.  But full-color works from these two painters were also displayed, a Warhol Campbell Soup Can, and Lichtenstein’s I…I’m Sorry, both borrowed from the Broad Art Foundation.

Broadworks filling the gaps.

Wait a second; I thought this show presented works from the permanent collection, to the Broad collection!  These two works filled a gap perhaps in MOCA’s collection. (A similar gap must also be in LACMA’s collection since these two works were also borrowed in the inaugural installation of BCAM).

Then came the long corridor.  I’ve seen photographs displayed in this space before, but I sadly ignored most of them once I saw what was at the end of the corridor.  The florescent bulbs of Flavin’s monument for V. Tatlin beckoned me to the end of the corridor; making breeze past what I’m sure was a treasure trove of photography.  Flavin’s work really got me going.

Light at the end of the tunnel, Flavin’s "monument for V. Tatlin"

Once I was at the Flavin I realized I’d made my way to a kind of halfway point, since I’d been through half of the cycle of room at Grand Ave. There is a definite suggested route throughout these galleries, counterclockwise following the canon of contemporary art chronologically.

Unframed room

In another room were works all without frames, yes frames my other obsession.  The works in this room were by Frank Stella, Bridget Riley, Jo Baer, and Elaine Sturtvant.  All of the works were without frames, for various reasons. (I imagine it would be hard to find or created a frame to accommodate the curvilinear sides of Stella’s work.)  All of these painting were humungous which made it hard for any one of them to dominate the space.  This equality was created by the paintings’ demand for equal amounts of attention.

Shoe self-reflection, Smithson’s “Mirage No. 1”

MOCA aside from the major suites also created mini-suites of a single artist’s work.  Two mini-suites were organized for Diane Arbus photographs and another for Smithson works.  The Arbus mini-suite contained photographs mostly of pairings of people which was a selective decision on the curator’s part.  The Smithson mini-suite showed the variety of media Smithson worked in, from sketches of spiral cinnabars to the row of mirrors hung at floor-level, Mirage No. 1.

I didn’t want to remove my shoes, so I didn’t go in, but I could have, and so can you.

The MOCA press release for Collection also mentions a series of special installations.  One such installation was Doug Wheeler’s RM 669.  A gallery attendant had a constant vigil to remind visitors to remove their shoes before entering the ghostly/heavenly space.  Other light and space works were near by which were combined with finish fetish works.  I had never realized that the two movements aesthetic both rely on perfection of execution to be really effective.

Cross-town connection, Baltz’s Industrial Parks

A series of photographs I didn’t ignore or rush by was Lewis Baltz, his series of structures from Industrial Parks near Irvine.  The photos were familiar to me since I had just seen some of them at LACMA in the New Topographics show.  LACMA displayed far fewer than MOCA does.  I think I favor MOCA’s display because it is so much larger showing how extensive the series really was.

I saw, I smelled, but I did not taste

Another special recreated installation was Ed Ruscha’s Chocolate Room.  I’m a fan of having my senses (beyond sight) engaged when I visit museums.  I like hearing a work of art from rooms away and then gradually finding my way to it.  Ruscha’s work engaged another sense, smell.  The smell of chocolate wafted through the galleries leading me to the chocolate covered papered walls of Ruscha’s installation.  It reminded me of Dieter Roth’s Chocolate Lion Tower that was in LACMA’s Art of the Two Germanys exhibition where you smelled the artwork before you saw it.  Both Chocolate Lion Tower and Chocolate Room turned a chalky white once the chocolate began to oxidize in the gallery spaces.  The gross white layer was the only thing keeping me from licking the walls.

Sexy room, Goldin above and Kusama below.

Another room installed using the tactics of photography series and sculpture combination was a small room hung with a fascinatingly sexy display of Nan Goldin photographs and a Yayoi Kusama sculpture.  The work on the walls and the phallic sculpture on the floor made this intimate room feel scandalous, but in a subtle way that I enjoyed. It was probably the smallest room, and also the room I spent the most time in.

Mendietta Silueta Suite.

A final suite was organized for Eva Mendietta.  The two walls of photographs of her her siluetas were the last thing I saw before I was scurried out the door at closing time.  I managed to see everything (some things were more actually browsed) in part one of Collection.  I must say bravo to MOCA for organizing this show (whatever the reasons).  MOCA constantly brags about its monumental permanent collection, but rarely shows it. Well, MOCA finally is actually showing it.

- H.I.

P.S. Check back for part 2, the Geffen Contemporary portion of Collection.

Divine Demons: Wraithful Deities in Buddhist Art

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Norton Simon Museum

The “Fierce deities with bared teeth, flame-like tongues, and wicked expressions” of this exhibition are contained to a small concise space, but the show itself is rich and meaningful.  The show is unavoidable because of where it is located.  At the bottom of the staircase down to the Asian galleries of the Norton Simon, there it is: a nice little alcove of a space, nicely tucked away.

Can’t miss this exhibition

Can’t miss this exhibition

Only approximately 20 works make up the exhibition, most of them are small-scale and necessitate a closer, intimate inspection.  The Norton Simon has also done an amazing job with the education of this show.  There is a large wall text which nicely explains the items in the exhibition:

“These powerful figures also destroy demons and inner obstacles to enlightenment, such as greed and anger. Their frightening appearance belie the good deeds they perform in protecting individual devotees, monasteries and Buddhist doctrine…In the photo below, the Dalai Lama of Tibet, holding a ritual thunderbolt and bell, performs an initiation ceremony seated in front of a large appliquéd image depicting wrathful gods.”

This wall text was very informative, though some sentences were constructed awkwardly. The mention of the Dalai Lama seemed to be a reference to something from Tibetan culture which perhaps was somewhat recognizable the audience of museum.  Along with the introductory wall text, every item in the exhibition had an accompanying wall label with an educational paragraph

Interesting to me was the color chosen in this room.  The medium-tone blue paint was too-odd-to-be-a-coincidence similar to the blue-colored walls in LACMA’s Tibetan galleries.  To be fare the color was located elsewhere in that level of the museum, but I’m curious as to why this color is so popular in being partnered with Tibetan art.

Blue on blue, nice frames

Blue on blue, nice frames

The museum has provided two small, wooden, yet comfortable benches in the small space. The only medium not present in the small exhibition was stone sculpture, but these works were displayed right outside this space, and were all very large.  The show was focused on the close inspection of small intimate objects.

Show and tell of Buddhist treasures

Show and tell of Buddhist treasures

The exhibition was strikingly symmetrical.  The C-shaped exhibition was reflective on left and right.  Along the right wall were watercolors and small sculptures.  One watercolor was framed in a blue mat and ark wood frame, which matched another watercolor across the room which made me think that the works might have been acquired by the same time, or come from the same place.

It's in the details: flames and skulls, very rock & roll

It's in the details: flames and skulls, very rock & roll

The display case along this wall contained six objects.  The objects are made from a wide range of medium, from different times, but all from Tibet.  An accompanying diagram to the right of the case provided the labels for these objects as well as more educational information.  This small case was like a treasure chest full of precious objects. The workmanship and the details were beautiful in this case, including the carving of a conch shell, and the small inlaid eyes of a skull.

Chakrasamuara: decapitated-head necklaces are so in right now

Chakrasamuara: decapitated-head necklaces are so in right now

Another example of small scale details was in another small plexiglass display case.  The small bronze sculpture of Chakrasamuara & Vajravarchi (China, lat 18th c.) invited close inspection.  The wall text described in detail the gruesome nature of the details: “Each of Chakrasamuara’s four faces has a fierce expression, a fierce eye and a skull tiara. In addition he wears garlands of skulls and severed heads and in his 12 arms holds various attributes: a lasso, and arrows, as well as a thunderbolt and bell.”  This description encouraged further investigation of the piece, were those really garlands of heads draped around the figures neck?—Why yes there were, isn’t that precious…

Mandala at the center of the universe / exhibition

Mandala at the center of the universe / exhibition

This work led to the central (in terms of location) work of the exhibition.  The Mandala of Chakrasamuara (Nepal, Kathmandu, 1648) is a large painting featuring the same demonic character as the sculpture directly to the right.  Again, a beautiful description accompanies: “surrounding the palace are eight graveyards, separated by stylized waves representing rivers. These charnel grounds…” All of the wording of these texts is very vivid, and helps to explain not only what we are seeing, but also utilizing colorful language which achieves a grim effect integral to this installation examining violence and demons.

From the prop shop?—No, from the Norton Simon

From the prop shop?—No, from the Norton Simon

Speaking of violence, the case to the left of the Mandala painting holds some sensational objects, which honestly look like props from a Hollywood movie.  The case with ritual weapons holds a Ritual Staff or Club (Tibet 20th c.) and a Ritual Axe (Tibet 20th c.).  These objects finalize and literalize the exhibition’s theme of violence.

Orange is the new white box

Orange is the new white box

Among the hall of blue were accent colors.  Three items were distinguished by their special mounting in the exhibition.  A wooden ritual sword from Tibet, a bronze sculpture of Hayagriva, and a mask of Bhairara were displayed differently from the rest of the works in the room.  All of them were displayed in specially made shadow boxes.  The frames clearly had been made specially for this exhibition because they were made to look like they were attached to the walls permanently, and painted the same blue color.  However, the accent was the orange color used on the interiors of these frames.  But why the bright orange color? To admit the first thing I thought of when I saw the color in this context was that it was the color of Buddhist monastic robes (which could be seen in the images of the Dalai Lama in the exhibition). The orange accents did a lot to subtly highlight these works.

Diagram of back wall, thanks Microsoft paint

Diagram of back wall, thanks Microsoft paint

These objects fit nicely into the symmetry of the exhibition.  All in all the small show was informative and beautiful, showing that even topics of violence can be beautiful.

- H.I.

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