Exhibition Inquisition

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

Glorious Excess (Dies)

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JAPANESE AMERICAN NATIONAL MUSEUM

The Glorious Excess (Dies) exhibition showcases the work of Mike Shinoda of Linkin Park. This is technically part two of the exhibition, part one was called Glorious Excess (Born), and ran from July 12 to August 3, 2008.  (Dies) has some of the same works as (Born) with additional new works.  The show roughly follows a story of a fictional character Glorious Excess, a skeletal rock and roll star.  The two shows follow the course of his life: birth, life of glamorous celebrity, death and beyond.

Discrete exterior banner

Discrete exterior banner

Even before going into the exhibition space it is obvious how large this show is for JANM.  On approaching the museum one is confronted with a large banner hung outside the museum announcing the exhibition.  Then, after entering the museum, a visitor has to walk past a large step-and-repeat of the show’s sponsors before entering the exhibition space.

Discrete exhibition sponsors

Discrete exhibition sponsors

All of this is reminiscent of a red carpet event, and the shining spheres of celebrity the show claims to be about.  A final nod to the entertainment industry are labels on the doors leading into the exhibition galleries, on both of the double doors are “Parental Advisory – Explicit Content” labels, which often appear on albums with explicit content.

Greeting / Warning Label on exhibition entry doors

Greeting / Warning Label on exhibition entry doors

The introductory wall text is probably my favorite thing in the exhibition.  The text used two fonts, one the black swirling baroque font used for the title, and the other was a standard font in chewable bright pink.  The choice of color for the font matched words in the text “bubble gum” which was one of the cliché statements used in the intro wall text about celebrities, paparazzi, tabloids, etc.

Across from the wall text is a large wall positively covered in clippings from tabloid magazines.  The large collage/mural features recognizable faces, and seemed like something an obsessive stalker might create.

Stalker Locker – Tabloid Installation

Stalker Locker – Tabloid Installation

The exhibition is relegated to two coffin-like halls—very dark, the walls painted a dark grey.  The artworks and wall text were all overly-dramatic spotlighted like portraits in a haunted mansion. Quotes from a variety of sources, written in the deliciously-bright pink font, were integrated into the exhibition. Quotes from Alice Roosevelt Longworth, Ice Cube and Neil Young were included…how they all related to one another, or to the exhibition is still confusing to me.

A series of four paintings, which all had the same image only in different colors, was hung two by two in way that established a repeating pattern. I liked how these works and their installation addressed serialism. The repeating pattern was reminiscent of both the step-and-repeat outside the exhibition, as well as the repetitive Louise Vuitton “LV” pattern which was used in the background of the four paintings.

In another wall text half-way through the exhibition, Shinoda discusses the image of the skull, and his reasoning for using it in his artworks.  He explains he was inspired by the skull in traditional Dutch painting as it functions as a vanitas, as well as the modern usage of the skull in Damien Hirst’s For the Love of God.

A celebrity for all seasons

A celebrity for all seasons

Another series of four paintings was hung in a traditional row. The cycle of the seasons: Spring – Warhol, Summer – Cobain, Autumn – Dean & Winter – Lennon, are all hung at the same level in seasonally-correct order.  The four dead celebrities’ portraits lead up to the “death” of Shinoda’s character Glorious Excess.

Open-Casket - Glorious Excess’s Funeral

Open-Casket - Glorious Excess’s Funeral

At the end of the two dark halls is an open coffin, with gaudy fake flowers, fake electric candles, and a terrifying and outlandishly comically-fake silver skeleton inside.   This is the wake of Glorious Excess. His life and times were too short.

Then after the funeral, the visitor enters into the two story open atrium. Blinding natural light floods this space, even brighter after the dark caves of the exhibition.  On one wall is a mural of a now be-winged Glorious Excess.  He is either on his way to up to Heaven or on his way down to somewhere else.  Because of his wings, and the brightness of the room, I think he is probably on his way up; this is a scene of Glorious Excess’s assumption.  It is also the end of the exhibition.

Glorious Excess rises to heaven?

Glorious Excess rises to heaven?

There is also closing wall text, which features more boring language and the following statement: “Relief serves as a reminder that life is temporal, transient and too short to obsess with the excess; moreover it is imperative that we realize that we each have a role in creating the world we hope to live in.” This random statement seems to be promoting Shinoda’s charity rather than making an artistic statement.

To exit the exhibition a visitor had to first go into the small theater adjacent to the exhibition.  But wait!—first the visitor has to wait for the next showing. A conveniently-obnoxious red digital clock counts down the seconds until a visitor is allowed in to view the movie.

Final countdown

Final countdown

The theater is small and lined in grey fabric; it is similar to a sound-proof recording studio, which is of course another reference to the music industry in which Shinoda works. The movie is not video art, but a documentary video (?). The content compromises shots of Shinoda at work, Shinoda on a Hollywood star tour, shots of red carpets and interviews with paparazzi.  Two celebrities that garner focus in the movie were Michael Jackson and Princess Diana.  The content about Michael Jackson is relevant, and was probably produced fairly quickly considering the events of Jackson’s death happened only two months before the Glorious Excess (Dies) exhibition opening.

Shinoda’s custom kicks

Shinoda’s custom kicks

After exiting the theater two more art works are displayed in the lobby: customized DC sneakers and Honda motorcycle.  Both products were customized by Shinoda, but more importantly DC and Honda are sponsors of the show. Clearly JANM is not considered with being discrete about its sponsorship.

And to finish, more product placement

And to finish, more product placement

– H.I.

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