Exhibition Inquisition

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

Posts Tagged ‘Getty Museum

Leadership

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The Getty

There have been a lot of announcements from on high lately.  The critics have begun to weigh-in on the recent appointment of Timothy Potts as the new director of the J. Paul Getty Museum.  The Getty also disclosed a list of its highest paid personnel.  Here’s an infographic to help make things easier.

The Trust officers are google image search shy.

 

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Aztec Pantheon and the Art of Empire

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Getty Villa

It’s the first exhibition of neither Greek nor Roman art at the Getty Villa.  So why is there an exhibition of Aztec art on display next to rooms full or red-figure amphorae and marble portrait busts?—The Getty curators rationalize that when the Old World met the New World, European explorers rationalized the new civilizations they came in contact with by referencing what they already knew something about: the Greek and Roman civilizations.  Or as stated by the Getty:  “The premise of The Aztec Pantheon and the Art of Empire is a unique one: that just as classical antiquity colored Spanish perceptions of Mesoamerica, the experience of Aztec civilization piqued curiosity about Renaissance Europe’s own ancient heritage”.  I’m not going to discuss whether I was convinced of this after seeing the show, but will discuss the display of this idea.

Traveled 1,589 miles, from Mexico City

There are mere weeks remaining to go see Aztec Pantheon and the Art of Empire at the Getty Villa, and if you are not planning on going to Mexico City anytime soon, I would suggest you go.  The artworks on display are on loan from the collections of the National Museum of Anthropology and the Templo Mayor Museum.  Monumental, multi-ton, stone sculptures and delicate votive figurines have traveled from Mexico to Los Angeles as a way to celebrate the bicentennial of the Mexican Revolution.

1-uped: Traveled 6,121 miles, from Florence

Another star attraction is the Florentine Codex, which has traveled even farther, from the Medici Library in Florence, Italy.  This is the first time the codex has been in the Americas since it was brought to Europe centuries ago.  These loans are displayed alongside objects from the Getty’s collection (mostly small figurines) as well as documents from the special collection of the Getty Research Institute.

The temporary exhibition space at the Getty Villa is an awkward space.  The row of adjacent, small-sized galleries combined with the large scale works on loan from Mexico could have been disastrous, but the exhibition designers and curators did a successful job stuffing the herd of Mexican elephants into these small rooms. (Click here to see what it took to display these elephants.)

Some elephants: Xochipilli & Cihuacoatl.

The exhibition space is also odd because of the hallway that links the rooms; it is architecturally unavoidable because it circumvents the inner peristyle garden of the Villa.  The wall title of the exhibition and several large-scale works were placed in this window-lined hallway and lure visitors into the rest of the exhibition.

The rooms were organized thematically: Tenochtitlan, First Encounters, The Florentine Codex, Parallel Pantheons, and Art and Empire.  This was predictable technique, but the content of the rooms was not.  Seeing Aztec objects displayed next to European objects, like a painted screen depicting the Spanish conquest, was a totally new and unprecedented exploration of history and art.

What a lovely piece of domestic furniture depicting the Spanish conquest!

Located in the center of the room, the looming terracotta Tzitzimitl (Demon) sculpture dominated the first space.  The surrounding walls had a variety of objects, maps, scrolls, and other documents.  This was simultaneously a display of masterpieces of Aztec art and also a subtle (and possibly unappreciated) display of the impressive collections of the Getty Research Institute.

No that’s not a flower coming out of his chest, it’s his liver.

At the end of the exhibition was my favorite room.  On one wall was a painted reproduction of sketch of the Templo Mayor.  It was a light element of the exhibition design that was sophisticated and smart.  In this room was another looming figure: the unavoidably menacing sculpture of a warrior in an eagle costume.  This theme of the Imperial Eagle (Imperial for both the Roman and Aztec civilizations) was continued by two other objects in the room.  A massive stone eagle from the Templo Mayor was placed literally face to face with a Bronze statue of an imperial Roman eagle.   This confrontation of cultures was direct and beautiful.

Eagle v. Eagle

As stated before, you should go see this exhibition because the works on loan are rarely seen outside of Mexico.  But you should also go see the exhibition because never again will you see these objects like this; in dialogue with objects from the Getty.  And finally you should go see this exhibition because contained in it is a brief peek into the extensive collection of the Getty Research Institute, which is a hushed but vital portion of this show.

Traveled 13.4 Miles, from the Getty Research Institute.

– 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.