Exhibition Inquisition

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

Archive for the ‘Installation’ Category

Public Notice 3

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Art Institute of Chicago

Not-so-coincidentally Public Notice 3, by Jitish Kallat opened on September 11, 2010.  You probably remember what happened on September 11, 2001, but September 11, 1893 is also intrinsically important to this piece.  The words from a speech given by the Indian monk and social reformer Swami Vivekananda on September 11, 1893 have been illuminated in thousands of colored LED lights and set into the risers of the Woman’s Board Grand Staircase in the Art Institute.  The “landmark speech delivered at the first World’s Parliament of Religions, in what is now the Art Institute’s Fullerton Hall, by Vivekananda, who called for an end to all “bigotry and fanaticism.”” Another major element of this piece is therefore site-specificity.

Danger, danger, high voltage.

Vivekananda’s words are illuminated in five significant colors taken from the United States’ Homeland Security Advisory System.  It’s been a while since I thought about this color system, so I needed to refresh myself on the meaning/terminology.  Red = severe risk of terrorist attack, orange = high risk, yellow= elevated risk, blue = general risk, and green = low risk.  I kinda forgot about this institutionalized system of fear, and being reminded of it, I realize I can totally live without it.

I wonder what security level the Art Institute is operating at right now.

The message in this work is profound, meaningful, and especially timely—too bad the execution of the work is lacking.  What could have looked high-tech and modern, ended up looking like a cheap lite brite from the 90s.  I will concede that spending a lot of cash on something expensive placed at foot level also wouldn’t fly with me, so I forgive those responsible, and shall consider them frugal and realistic.  One well executed element is that no matter which of the four entrances up the stairs you enter (or exit) you read the same text; you read the whole speech regardless of the path you take.

Standart, they came up with that not me.

A colleague of mine stated Public Notice 3, looked like a cheap version of Jenny Holzer, and this seemed like a tired (done and done better) idea.  I know all about Jenny Holzer, mostly from the installation of her work in the Standard Hotel in downtown LA.  The medium might be similar, but the impact is totally different (mainly because of context: Museum vs. swanky hipster hotel).  To say that Holzer is completely original in using LED lights would also be incorrect; Baldessari was using scrolling LED light messages as early as 1968 in his Lighted Moving Message.

Vintage LED lights, in Pure Beauty.

And if you were wondering, there is indeed a Public Notice 2, and even an original Public Notice.  Number 1 was created in2003, and is made up of five mirrored panels and uses text from a speech given by Jawaharlal Nehru on the occasion of Indian independence from British rule on 15 August 1947.  Number 2, was created in 2008, and is also a physical manifestation of another historic speech, this one delivered by Mahatma Gandhi, on the eve of the epic Salt March to Dandi.  Kallat is an Indian artist, which is probably why he uses speeches from important Indian orators, but the themes in these speeches are (as corny as it sounds) universal, and very topical for an American audience.

Bad ad and small advertising budget.

Chicago art-going audiences might be over art installations on stairs.  Right now, just a few blocks away at the MCA, is another installation on their front stairs.  For the life of me (and almost a half hour of googling it) I couldn’t figure out who this installation was by. And then I read the words again; it says “form, balance, joy” in bubbely, bouncing letters—so it might just be a bad attempt at advertising their recent Calder show.   Apparently the MCA really likes doing the whole installation on the stairs thing and has done a few in the past.  I hope that people in Chicago aren’t bored of stair installations, because this one at the Art Institute is way different (and way cooler) the ones I’ve seen so far at the MCA.

– H.I.

P.S. here are some more photos of Public Notice 3, via the Art Institute’s Flickr, yes they have a Flickr, and yes I approve of them using social media in this way.  And look a blog post too!

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Summer Shows

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Hammer Museum

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.

It’s summer! Let’s play in the fountains.

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.

The man himself.

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…

Trust me, I’m a doctor.

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.

Why the theatrics?

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.

Dark or dirty? Titian.

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.

Get up close and personal with this Moreau.

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.

Elliot Hundley, Pentheus (2010), very contemporary.

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).

Some of these names may be familiar.

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.

Obvious organization.

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)

– H.I.

Written by exhibitioninquisition

September 6, 2010 at 2:51 PM

Lynda and Stewart Resnick Exhibition Pavilion

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Los Angeles County Museum of Art

Today only, except not.

This above sign is misleading…

Because I am an avid reader of LACMA’s Unframed blog, I knew that LACMA was having a two-day only viewing of it’s brand-spanking-new building the Resnick Pavilion.  Of course I made sure to get my self over to LACMA to see the building, I’ve been eager anticipating its completion since I attended the press conference announcing the museum’s Transformation Phase II.  The day of the press conference all that was at the site of the planned building was a huge slab of concrete with red painted words announcing the Resnick Pavilion.

Yes, of course it’s in the Baldessari-designed LACMA font.

Well it turns out that LACMA had such great attention with its first preview, it decided to do another one-day-only viewing about a month later.  I still feel special, but not as special.  I especially wanted to see the building since I won’t be in LA when it opens in the beginning of October.

LACMA's Westside

The soon-to-be-finished building is, like its neighbor BCAM, designed by Renzo Piano.  (The new building has affectionately been dubbed the Baby Piano).  The Renzos face each other, both faced (oh word choice) in travertine marble, and mirror each other with their mostly glass facades.  Both buildings also have signature accents of red.  The BCAM has “the spider” escalator in glaring fire-truck-engine red, and the new Resnick Pavilion has huge HVAC units painted the same optimistic color.

When will this red cease to be an accent color?

Surrounding the building is Robert Irwin’s Palm Garden, which has been an evolving project at LACMA. I am all for palm trees, and was sad when exploring Chicago earlier this summer to discover the palm does not flourish in climes where it tends to snow.  Interior:  The building may seem vapid, but that is because it was designed specifically for temporary exhibitions.  The pavilion serves as a huge art warehouse, an acre of space with which the curator may do what with it he or she pleases.  Think lots of temporary walls.

Reflections of BCAM

The whole front of the building (the side that faces BCAM of course) is nearly a whole wall of floor-to-ceiling glass.  The use of natural light dominates the space; the Resnick Pavilion has the same saw-toothed roof that BCAM has, which allows plenty of natural sunlight to flood the interior.

Term of the Day: "Sawtoothed"

The space is epically big.  And of course Michael Govan wasn’t going to let the public sneak a peak at an empty building.  A temporary installation of Walter de Maria’s The 2000 Sculpture, had been laid out with loving devotion inside the pavilion.  All 2000 polygonal plaster rods of it.

Like throwing a hotdog down a hallway.

The installation of de Maria’s work filled the entire central third of the building.  There are two rows of support columns, which divide the interior into three long sections…Along the otter thirds of the space, one could see (what I think is the only problem with the building) rows and rows of vents.

Equivalent to wire hangers.

The vents are violently distracting in the otherwise uninterrupted flow of the building.  Maybe the vents won’t be so distracting when exhibitions are installed.  Here’s me thinking wishfully.

Room with a view.

Light streams in through the north end of the building as well.  Another almost-entire glass wall looks out onto 6th avenue. It’s unclear where the planned land art piece, Levitated Mass, by Michael Heizer will be placed on the LACMA campus, but maybe it’s going to be somewhere out on that large patch of now, unremarkable dirt.

Coming soon to a pavilion near BCAM!

As mentioned before the leviathan of an interior is divided into three segments by the support columns.  And what a coincidence! LACMA is planning not one, not two, but three! inaugural exhibitions for the Resnick Pavilion (again all opening the beginning of October).  Words cannot describe how sad I am to be missing this opening. I’ve anxiously watched the progress of this building and hope to see the finished product when I visit LA in winter, hopefully before these shows close.

Never forget to thank your donors.

– H.I.

Interesting: when I visited the Resnick Pavilion on the preview day it seemed like a lot of people (most those of us slightly older of age) where having severe problems with the steps in front of the building.  LACMA had station guards (visible in picture on the left) to warn people about the shallow steps, which as you exited the building were actually invisible.  A more recent visit revealed that the life-threatening steps have been jackhammered away.  My guess is that someone (probably important and probably white-of-hair) almost tripped and died and may of have said something.  I actually have no evidence of this, so I’m not suggesting anything. Yay safety upgrades!

Taking care of a lawsuit-waiting-to-happen.

Related: Apparently there is a was being waged in LA betwixt LACMA and MOCA! See this um, interesting Vanity Fair article.  The online version doesn’t have the fab! photograph of Lynda and Stewart Resnick (yes the people that paid for this building) lounging in their Beverly Hills abode.  I’ll try and scan my copy, because this photo is priceless.

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.

How Many Billboards? Art in Stead

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MAK Center for Art and Architecture

Kenneth Anger in caps

Nobody walks in LA; a similar number of people visit art galleries and museums in this city.  In an effort to correct this second problem the MAK Center for Art and Architecture at the Schindler House has organized a new exhibition How Many Billboards? Art In Stead; an exhibition you might not even know you’re seeing, and one you can visit without having to leave your car.

The MAK Center commissioned 21 artists to create new artworks which have been installed on billboards across town.   Given the blank canvas of a large blank billboard, the artists were given little direction, and the result is 21 very different projects which soar above gas stations, freeways, mechanic shops and McDonalds.

David Lamelas next to the golden arches

Some of the artists took similar directions.  Several focused on embracing the medium: Kenneth Anger’s billboard shouts “ASTONISH,” Brandon Lattu’s billboard is taken from actual ad for a used car, and Kenni Tribe’s billboard features clouds that remain static as the sky behind the billboard constantly changes.

Is that a snowball in your mouth Kori?

Race and ethnicity were another major issue in several works.  Kori Newkirk predictably utilized snow as a latent metaphor for black vs. white, Kira Lynn Harris featured the Watt Towers in her work, and Ken Gonzales-Day used images of sculpture (a black man and a white man, though both black in color) from the Getty Museum’s collection.

Two black men – Ken Gonzales-Day

Also noteworthy is Allen Ruppersberg’s billboard.  The huge sign features an exhibition catalogue from LACMA’s well known Art and Technology Program, with the words “Pacific Standard Time.”  This is of course an advertisement for the much-anticipated Getty Foundation-funded initiative Pacific Standard Time, which will culminate in more then 20 simultaneous exhibitions focusing on post-war California art at museums all over Southern California. Ruppersberg has created art, but has also used the billboard for its primary function; he has used it to promote a product that is “coming soon.”

PST is coming soon - Allen Ruppersberg

Inverting the highly visible commercial utility of the billboard and using it as a way to make art visible everyday, is especially timely task when considering how Los Angeles is reconsidering city ordinances about oversized and digital billboards, and the most-loathed-of-all supergraphics.

The MAK Center provides a handy google map with flags marking the locations of the billboards.  Trying to see all 21 of the billboards is ambitious, so use the google map to find a few that are grouped together.  Or, even better, don’t plan a route and stumble on the billboards unintentionally.  Image how many people see these billboards everyday and do not event realize it.  The MAK Center has brought art into Angelenos’ everyday lives.

– H.I.

The Wall Project

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Wende Museum

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Correction: MAJOR BOULEVARD CLOSED

On the night of Sunday November 8th the Wende Museum finally presented The Wall Project.  The event commemorated the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.  I’ve been looking forward to this event for months and months.  I’ve been reading all the press leading up to it wondering what the final wall would look like, first the wall was going to be up all day long and then finally it was decided it would only be up for several hours.  The wall across Wilshire ran across the boulevard right in front of LACMA’s Urban Light.

The event necessitated the closure of Wilshire Boulevard, so no big deal.  The closer of one of L.A.’s major streets signified the divide between East and West Berlin caused by the Berlin Wall.  Wilshire was closed for several hours, giving crews time to construct the wall across Wilshire.  And at midnight that wall came down.

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Wall across Wilshire

Also part of the project was the wall along Wilshire.  This wall had been installed since earlier on in October and remained there for a few weeks after the main event.  This wall was made up of ten pieces of the actual Berlin wall and is the largest section of the wall outside of Germany.

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Sister cities

Official installation video:

When I arrived at the event people were surrounding this wall, in a way that surprised me.  Large lights had been set up along the wall to illuminate it brightly.  People were standing in front of the wall to take pictures, and the flashbulbs were going off like it was a paparazzi event.  The whole scene reminded me of a red carpet, but I guess this is L.A.

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Is this a red carpet event? I did see Sandra Oh there.

After taking some of my own photos of my friends it was time to go see the wall across Wilshire.  This wall was not made from the actual Berlin wall, but was constructed out of wood and Styrofoam bricks.

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Ost (East) - Side of the wall across Wilshire

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...and West-side of the wall across Wilshire

On the front of the wall artist had created murals on the various section.  Shepard Fairey, and other professional artists, as well as art students from several L.A. schools had decorated the panels of the wall across Wilshire.

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Shepard Fairey portion of the wall, my hot little hands couldn’t resist

Thierry Noir was notably involved in the project; he was one of the first artists to paint on the Berlin Wall.  Part of his work was featured in the wall along Wilshire, and he was also invited to decorate a segment of the wall across Wilshire.

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Thierry Noir on the wall across Wilshire

The need for a bathroom dragged me away from the wall across.  A private event for the Wende Museum was happening in 5900 Wilshire (the Variety building).  Directly outside of this event a replica of a section of the Berlin wall was set up.  Sharpie markers were provided for anyone to write messages or sketch doodles on this section of wall.

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Wall comments

Some people simply signed their names, other wrote political messages.  While I was standing in this crowd I realized that the majority of the people there were German.

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This guy was probably German.

The festivities were starting (around 11:15) so I decided to head back to the wall across.

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Germans and Non-Germans gathering.

Significantly more people had gathered, people of all ages, many were my age which was interesting since none of us were alive, or are old enough to remember the fall of the actual Berlin wall.  This is why this event was so meaningful to me, because it served as an event to replace a memory of a historically important event I don’t personally have.

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Seeing East and West / actually North/South

A documentary style video was on the TV monitors showing the fall of the original wall.  Then the presentations started.  Frank Mottek introduced all of the speakers for the night beginning with a broadcast from the mayor of Berlin, Klaus Wowereit.

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Mr. Mayor live, all the way from Berlin

Tom Labonge from the city spoke and made some lame jokes about his efforts to get Wilshire closed off.

Then Ute Lemper was introduced.  She certainly was something, but her speech about her experience living with the wall was very touching.

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A real-life chanteuse

The chanteuse performer only had time to sing two songs before the wall was scheduled to come toppling down. A short while after midnight several people from the Wende Museum and some of the participating artists pulled down a central section of the wall.  This central section was made up of Styrofoam bricks with a thin layer of paper onto which the painting had been done.

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Wall across Wilshire, going, going, gone.

People starting throwing the bricks into the air, their silhouettes dancing created quite a dazzling moment.  Then people started attacking the wall trying to get their own souvenirs.  Opps the rest of the wall across Wilshire was supped to be auctioned off.  I may have gotten a portion of the Shepard Fairey section…

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Some cops were sent out to keep us from completely tearing down the wall.

A Sunday night extremely well spent.

– H.I.

Joseph Beuys: The Multiples

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Los Angeles County Museum of Art

In case you forgot...

In case you forgot...

Continuing their hold of the top floor of LACMA’s BCAM, the Broad Art Foundation presents Joseph Beuys: The Multiples.  A collection of 570 multiples (from 1963-1986) fills the east galleries on the upper-most floor of the citadel for contemporary art. Since the second floor is now a venue for temporary exhibition, it seems the Broad Art Foundation is especially concerned with maintaining their stronghold on the top floor, and since it has been more than a year and a half since BCAM opened, its about time that a new installation of Broadwork was rotated in (at least to half of the floor).

Entry / Image of the artist

Entry / Image of the artist

Up the spider (the red, exterior escalator), and in through the colossal glass doors of the building…The first thing one sees is the Barbara Kruger freight elevator.  To the right are galleries with more Broadworks, Warhols and Koons, and only one Baldessari left.  But to the other direction, to the left, is the exhibition of Beuys multiples.

The first thing one sees is a rack with catalogs of the works in the exhibition.  Honestly, to be up front about it, I think that looking through this nicely designed little book would be more interesting and manageable than this overwhelming exhibition.  And then, Beuys confronts the viewer: an image of Beuys (on of the multiples in the show) is blown up and covers the entire wall leading into the exhibition. The title of the installation is superimposed on this large graphic.  Yes this is an installation and not an exhibition, LACMA has made the distinction. What qualifications make something an installation instead of an exhibition are unclear.

The exhibition installation, was contained in six rooms, which are defined by the pre-existing walls.  The plain white walls from which previously hung Rauschenbergs and Johns have now been painted a very, very dreary shade of grey.  The color is oddly familiar, was it the same color used in LACMA’s Art of the Two Germanys exhibition, those crude metal display cases certainly look familiar from Two Germanys as well.

Diagram, thank you Microsoft paint

Diagram, thank you Microsoft paint

The introductory wall text explains several thing, it explains what a multiple is, and the history of multiples including Marcel Duchamp and his Boite-en-valise.  Then came the rationale behind the organization of all those multiples, as well as some not-so-subtle bragging:

This presentation of the nearly complete set of Beuys’s multiples from the Broad Art Foundation is organized thematically within six rooms. The topics explored include Myth, Fluxus, teaching, environmentalism, political activism and the holocaust, and Beuys in America.

Each of the six rooms came complete with a title in white, an educational paragraph, and weirdly integrated quotes. The format was very thorough. And through all of the piles and masses of multiples, I looked always first for the paragraphs, to get some guiding hand through the many, many, many multiples.  (Do you get the point that there are a lot of multiples?)

MYTH: the paragraph addresses the mythology Beuys created around himself, that he was a pilot in the German air force during WWII and was shot down over Crimea, and then was nursed back to health by the Tartars. Well that was educational.  There was a LOT of stuff. Cases and cases, cases against the walls, lots of stuff hung from the walls, a long case (set on hobby horses) aligned along the hypotenuse of the room to allow for eve more stuff to be cluttered into the room.  There was so much stuff, that really it was the odd piece that stood out.  One such piece was Sled 1699, (which had its own descriptive wall text).  The work was set on a short platform that required some very flattering squatting for closer inspection, and was surrounded by black tape so I wouldn’t squat too close.

Room with a view of Fluxus

Room with a view of Fluxus

FLUXUS and PERFORMANCE: This room had the same format of title and wall text.  The quote that was integrated in: “Actions, Happenings and Fluxus will of course release new impulses which will, we hope, create better relationships in more areas”—a vague quotation.  In this room were also display cases, posters, artifacts of performance art, photographs documenting performances. A major difference from the last room was the tiny video monitor set into a short little pilaster-like architectural element.  Some simple dark wood chairs were set in front of monitor; you had to sit close to really see the video.

Stuff, stuff, lots of stuff own by the Broad Art Foundation

Stuff, stuff, lots of stuff own by the Broad Art Foundation

ENVIRONMENT: If I thought the previous two rooms were crowded, I had no idea what was to come.  The Environment room was the most crowded room, absolutely stuff-full of things. There was very little blank space on the walls, there were so many things hung from the walls that it necessitated a completely separate diagram labeling all of the works.  Some multiples from the same sets hung together, sometimes in rows, sometimes not.  In this room were more of the wooden chairs (no video) just to take in part of the gallery. This room was hung like a Parisian salon; frames rubbing up against one each other.  The work that separated itself from the rest was Hare Stone (1982, Basalt with gold spraypaint), again this piece was displayed on a short platform, but this time was partitioned off with metal wire fence (saw it in the Your Bright Future Show).

Between a rock and a hardplace

Between a rock and a hardplace

TEACHING in the F.U.I.: This was the sparsest room, seemed nicely relaxing on the eyes, especially after the environment room.  This room was nicely packed in, instead of cramped, there was an ease of the packed-in-ness that did not exist in the environment room.

My obsession with seating, some wood chairs

My obsession with seating, some wood chairs

POLITICAL ACTIVISM & The HOLOCAUST: more posters, more cases, more photos, same medium, slightly different subject matter.  The thing that set this room apart was the almost feature on Braunkreuz.  In the 1960s Beuys created this material called Braunkreuz, an opaque reddish-brown medium of paint mixed with other materials. Beuys marks his objects with crosses that allude to the steel cross, reclaiming symbols of Germany and Nazism.  See, I learned so much from the paragraph in that room.  Another video monitor and chairs were in this room in the same configuration as in the Fluxus room.  There was a lot of education in this room, which was really necessary for this exhibition.

I had no idea how high the ceilings were

I had no idea how high the ceilings were

BEUYS in AMERICA:  this room had an ease in the cramped quality of the space as well.  This might have been because the objects hung from the walls utilized the height of the wall: some things high and some things low.  A big banner was one thing displayed awkwardly up on high (like that one photograph in the Collecting History show at MOCA). In this final room was also a wall text likening Beuys to Yves Klein (French) and Warhol (American), claiming all of these artists created a artist-celebrity personality.  This is a nice attempt to create a continuous flow into the corridor which leads to the west-side of the top floor of BCAM.

In the hallway are some photos and objects, displayed in a tall case, from a collaborative project between Beuys and Warhol, but no information in provided, how frustrating. A continual comparison was made between Beuys and Warhol, and then also to Koons.  Two TV monitors with seating, two bookshelves full of books, and more upholstered chairs and a comfy couch created an odd domestic-like space in the cold sterile setting of BCAM.  Continuing with the usage of quotes, the curators include one quote each from Beuys, Warhol and Koons.

At home with Beuys, Warhol and Koons

At home with Beuys, Warhol and Koons

The west gallery on the top floor had been changed from its inaugural form, but only slightly altered and is still full of Broadworks. One wall was removed, which effectively eliminated the space that had previously displayed Baldessari, and now there is only one Baldessari left, on the wall which remains oddly alone in the space. The Koons had been spread out to fill the space. The space behind the lone wall is still only for Warhol: some works have been removed and tons more Kelloggs boxes have added, huge piles of boxes actually, created mountains of faux-cardboard containers.

It is great to see contemporary art in a space that was constructed to showcase exactly that.  The Beuys installation is a fitting example of post war German art because of its nice connection to the Art of the Two Germanys show.  But it also seemed like the installation was a way for the Broad Art Foundation to maintain its claim the top floor of BCAM as exclusive space to display their art. Also the wording of the text seemed to not-so-subtly brag about their near complete collection of Beuys’s multiples.

Some lovely "Urban Light"

Some lovely "Urban Light"

It was also exciting to see LACMA at night, especially the space of BCAM, which is lit so different at night, it really is a must see. Especially when you get to scamper, swing, dance through my favorite public artwork in Los Angeles, Urban Light.

– H.I.