Archive for the ‘Hammer’ Category
LA, or certain people who write about the art scene in LA, or people who get quoted about the art scene in LA, seems to have an inferiority complex. Everything that happens in the arts (a new exhibition, a new art fair, a new museum director…) is deemed the thing that will finally turn LA into an/the art capitol. William Poundstone did a survey of this decades-long mentality[ii] this week inspired by an article in The Economist titled, “2014 may prove a turning point for art museums in Los Angeles.”[iii] But come on – LA, people who write about the art scene in LA, people who get quoted about the art scene in LA, and the people of LA have nothing to prove. The Getty squashed that issue a few years ago, didn’t it?
Back in 2011, the Getty’s ten-years-in-the-making endeavor, Pacific Standard Time (or PST as it has come to be known) opened. Over 60 institutions across Southern California presented exhibitions focused on the region’s art scene between the years of 1945 and 1980. The Getty’s goal was to record, preserve, and present the many contributions Southern Californian artists and arts organizations made to contemporary art during the time period. Initial grants were given to arts organizations to catalogue archives from the period, followed by exhibition grants. Some of these exhibitions traveled to other venues in the country and some traveled internationally. Catalogues from these exhibitions were published and quickly integrated into university curriculums. Besides this trove of scholarship, another goal of PST was to present Los Angeles as an artistic capital.
Every Museum in L.A.
One of my favorite blogs is William Poundstone’s Los Angeles County Museum on Fire, it keeps me updated about L.A. and is always witty, and sometimes sassy. Poundstone recently blogged about the Broad Art Foundation’s new acquisition: Glenn Ligon’s Warm Broad Glow, which was in the recent Ligon show at LACMA. The news made me curious to see what else the Broad Art Foundation has been acquiring.
Oh Hammer Museum, I don’t expect your gallery guards to be able to discuss your art like a curator would, but I do expect them to be able to tell me why I can’t take a picture in certain galleries. When asked why I could not take a photo of Out of the Box, I was told, “oh well, this is a special exhibition.” Yes it is special…But isn’t this part of your permanent collection? “Uh no, um it isn’t.” Actually it IS gallery guard, the works in Out of the Box were recently acquired jointly with LACMA. When asked why I couldn’t take pictures in Selections From the Hammer Contemporary Collection: “Oh well it’s a special exhibition.” Yes it is special…But the reason why I can’t take photos in here is because some of the works are promised gifts not yet officially part of the collection. Maybe the Hammer should spend some time educating their gallery guards.
Now let’s discuss the summer shows at the Hammer. There is an installation by Greg Lynn, Out of the Box (editions of artists’ prints), a selection from the Armand Hammer Collection, and a selection from the Hammer Contemporary Collection. So that’s three shows/installations of permanent collection works, but I was only allowed to take photos in the Armand Hammer Collection installation. (I didn’t ask if I was allowed to take pictures of the Greg Lynn, it’s out in a public courtyard after all.)
Let’s begin with Greg Lynn’s lovely fountain. LACMA on Fire blog had a fun post about the kitchy work, oh and the blogger doesn’t have a secret identity anymore. (That blog somehow seemed more fun when it was a secret and when it wasn’t hosted on artinfo.) The spurting fountain is made from casts of children’s toys and is an apt summer installation. The work is looking a little dirty though and could use some cleaning, or the Hammer could just dump some bleach into it.
Next up is the installation of works from the Armand Hammer Collection. Yeah, he’s that guy that founded this museum. (That’s right LA, Broad isn’t the first collector to found his museum based on his private collection, oh wait, there’s also the Norton Simon, the Huntington, oh and the Getty, well hmmm.) His portrait bust is right there in the room, just like the creepy J. Paul Getty bust in the Brentwood center. I could swear I’ve seen this room installed this exact way before; do the curators reinstall it the same way every time? So much for enlivening the permanent collection…
The gallery is sliced into three sections. The first section has a row of Van Goghs and some other big name impressionists, and some Rembrandts. Interesting to note that there is no mention of Rembrandt in Southern California, an initiative of several Southern California museums to promote Rembrandts in their collections. Way to be a team player Hammer Museum. And of course the striking Singer Sargent portrait of Dr. Pozzi at Home (1881) is hung prominently in the first room, as the first work you see. Dr. Pozzi was a pretty sexy guy, and a gynecologist! I learned this fun little fact from the wall label, so yes there is some informative text in this installation.
The next room features a display of works from the museum’s Daumier collection: some great sketches and a slew of bronze caricature busts of famous Parisians. This room is a little dark, and I’m unsure why they displayed the busts in this overly theatrical fashion.
The last room has some smaller impressionist works flung together and hung closely on one wall. The other works are given a lot of space. All the big name works from the Armand Hammer Collection (the ones Ann Philbin decided to keep, not the lesser works the Hammer Foundation took back) are here. A Titian portrait of a man dressed as a soldier looks in need of cleaning, or maybe it’s just significantly darker than a similar work that hangs in the Getty.
Two Gustave Moreau’s hang in the last room next to each other: Salome Dancing Before Herod (1876) and King David (1878). These works are absolutely amazing, and you can get up very close to them (the gallery guard didn’t yell at me when I did) to see all the tiny application of bright white paint that Moreau used to achieve his sparkling lighting effect.
Now for the contemporary stuff. This installation is composed of acquired works (bought with that Da Vinci sketchbook deacquisition money perhaps) and promised gifts. The intro wall text thanks the Hammer’s “Board of Overseers for annual contributions to the Hammer Contemporary Collection acquisition fund and to several dedicated donors.” This is the third installation of works from the Contemporary Collection; was the second one Second Nature? No it wasn’t. The two earlier shows were this and this.
A lot of the works in the show come from artists who have been shown at the Hammer, whether in monographic shows, in the Hammer Projects series, or in Hammer Invitationals. No photos from this installation unfortunately, which means you have to go see it for yourself. I was really impressed by how contemporary most of the works are; many of them made in the last five years, and acquired by the museum soon after they were created. The Hammer is doing an impressive job at executing its five-year-old initiative to seriously collect contemporary works. Gold star for you Ann Philbin!
The last of the summer shows (that I’m going to discuss) is Out of the Box: Edition Jacob Samuel, 1988-2010. The collection of prints from the Santa Monica-based EJS studio was jointly acquired by the Hammer and LACMA. I wonder how this joint ownership works. (LACMA jointly acquired an El Anatsui work with another UCLA museum, the Fowler, two years ago.) The list of artists represented in this exhibition is a real who’s-who of the contemporary world; check out the roster below (click to enlarge).
Personally I found the majority of the prints really boring. A series of prints of the number two was less then inspiring. There were few exceptions, but this whole project of prints seemed very elitist and overly self-congratulating. The exhibition design was effective but obvious; to clearly separate the projects of each artist a funny paint job had been devised. Each artist project was demarcated by a band of tan paint that segregated each project from the others. The earthtone paintjob was only about two feet high, and was immediately recognizable as an organizational strategy.
Admittedly I may have been overly critical of the Hammer and its summer shows, but when everyone that works there is so damn smug about themselves I expect the best. Maybe it’s just a slow summer. I’m going to admit that prints are hard to make exciting, and to be fair a lot of the work in the Contemporary Collection installation is really fantastic and warrants a long visit. See, I can be mildly subjective.
Just to make sure you don’t miss any of this great and mediocre stuff here is a rundown of when these shows close:
Greg Lynn: September 26
Armand Hammer Collection: ?
Hammer Contemporary Collection: January 30 (you’ve got a while)
Out of the Box: August 29 (opps you’ve missed it)
Second Nature is a display of a selection of a large gift of contemporary sculpture. The works were produced from 1995 to the present. The opening wall text uses several catch-all phrases (my favorite) to describe the collection and the exhibition: “three-dimensional objects” (duh) in a “variety of media.” So the only think linking these works together is they are all sculpture made in Los Angeles from 1995 onwards. The wall text also explains the importance of the show is being “two fold.” First is a personal collection vision (important?), and second is a cultural legacy of contemporary Los Angeles sculpture (which is important).
I would like to give credit for the educators of this exhibition for doing the best job they could with the artworks they were working with. Not every work had an explanative text, but every third work probably did. Some of the works spoke for themselves, and for the works which did not, the writers did the best they could to make me believe these works were actually interesting.
The first room features works of various sizes and mediums, as promised. What struck me immediately was the various ways of displaying art. Hannah Greely’s Weaver, was displayed on a very low white pedestal. Next to it was displayed Jonathan Pylypchuk’s Guy Peeing in Heart Plant was displayed hung from the wall, resting on a simple, rough wooden pedestal, which was part of the work. To add to this assemblage of pedestals were the polished wood of Frank Benson’s Figure 8, and the garish, neon green pedestal on which sat Ruby Neri’s Untitled (Lioness). Both Benson and Neri’s pedestals were part of the artworks. The collection of pedestals was almost distracting, and I focused more on them than I did on the art in the room.
Aaron Curry’s Fragments from a Collective Unity (Standing) is also displayed in this first room. The work is made up of two parts: a tall wooden abstract sculpture and a movie poster set upside-down against a wall. I have to say I was disappointed with the way the piece was installed; the wooden piece was set too close to the wall so a viewer could not walk around it or appreciate from all angles.
A nicely displayed work is Matt Johnson’s The Pianist (Designed by Robert J. Lang, and Folded by Matt Johnson). The large work needs a lot of space, as it is impressively large, and the space was given. It was set alone in an appropriately-sized room allowing a viewer to completely ambulate around the artwork and appreciate all of its blue folded angles, at all angles.
A large room features several works by various artists. All of the works are unified in color scheme: blacks, beige, and some silver. The works include Evan Holloway’s Dichotic Sculpture, Sterling Ruby’s 2 Stacks of Husbands, Patrick Jackson’s Black and Midnight Blue, Evan Holloway’s Black to Purple, and Nathan Mabry’s A Touching Moment. The works are nice together because they invite formal comparisons. This can be done in peaceful, silent contemplation. At least until Dichotic Sculpture turns on. When it started making a horrible, vibrating, electric sound I understood what the ugly black cord connecting the artwork to the wall was for.
The normally pleasing sounds of Pachbell’s Canon started ringing off the metal cans and pots inside the speakers of the work. This elicited the following reaction from my friend: “We learned how to make speakers out of household items in my physics class too” (said with feigned enthusiasm). The sound was so assaulting on my ears that it made me forget my formal comparisons and I quickly left the room.
I turned my attention to find the source of more noise: the disco music which had been bouncing off the gallery walls since I entered the exhibition. (This reminded me of my previous visit to MOCA’s galleries were the sound from an artwork permeated through an entire exhibition.) I found the source of the disco and was disappointed to see it coming out of Martin Kersels’s MacArthur Park. Regardless of my disappointment, the sound permeating out of its ugly exposed stereo did draw me to it. I was glad to see that this piece was one of the lucky ones; it had an informative wall label. From the label I learned the piece mixed low and high forms of art (where the high art aspect was I couldn’t identify) and the piece was also a self portrait…
Another work which I felt rightfully deserved space to circumvent it was Liz Craft’s Untitled (Lazy Daze). Viewers can walk around the piece and see all of the letters in L-A-Z-Y D-A-Z, with the E being chased off by a little creature. The effort in viewing the work made it briefly amusing, until I was distracted away by the less-then-amazing works displayed elsewhere in the room.
Lisa Lapinski’s Nothings of Such and Such a Sort was pushed up into a corner like a heap of trash swept up into a pile waiting to be brushed into the dustpan. While at the same time a work by Ry Rocklen was elevated up on high by a video projector aimed at a corner of the ceiling, placed like a forgotten spider web.
In the following room was the best installation of work. It combined small approachable works like Hannah Greely’s Molly and Johnny and Paul Seitsema’s sneakers, with large-scale works like Sterling Ruby’s Monumental Stalagmite and Jason Meadows’ Untitled (Picnic Table and Beehive), and then also combined artworks that invited the viewer to interact such as Mateo Tannatt’s Turkish Kitchen (where the viewer was invited to don headphones) and Chris Finley’s Damn Mosquitos (which kindly requested in the wall text a viewer to use a flashlight illuminate the painting on the interior of a wooden box). The combination of small intimate objects, with overwhelming large objects, and also with interactive art objects made for an actively installed room.
The final artwork that caught my attention was in the last room of the exhibition, it was Paul Sietsema’s Rococo Room. When you approach the work you don’t know what to expect as all you see is a large black box. Only after circling around the object (thank you to the curators for allowing this space) do you come to a window in the structure to look through. Inside the unrecognizable structure is a luscious miniature Rococo interior.
This work was sticking to me because of its extreme attention to detail: from the tiny gilded stucco work to and the crystal chandelier. The work reminded me of another work I saw recently at LACMA. In the recent exhibition Your Bright Future, there is a work called Fallen Star by Do Ho Suh. These works both have a maniacal attention to detail and it was interesting to me to see that sculpture perhaps concerned with similar ideas was being produced by both Los Angeles artists, and Korean artists.
Leaving the exhibition I felt I did not have a greater understanding about what contemporary Los Angeles sculpture is all about. If there was a message, theme or statement about sculpture, I’m not sure it was communicated well. There is not really a curator’s statement since what is on display was not really of a curators choosing. Instead the statement made is the collector’s statement. As acknowledged in the opening wall text the vision is all the about the collector’s taste rather then an informed curator’s vision.