Exhibition Inquisition

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

Posts Tagged ‘Hammer

Chapter 3 (Part1): Collector-Created Cultural Capitals

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Los Angeles in my view is becoming the contemporary art capital of the world.”[i] – Eli Broad

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?

Getty_Pacific Standard Time_PST_Street Banner_Palm Tree

Do you remember?

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.

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Chapter 1 (Part 2): LACMA’s BCAM – A Museum Within a Museum

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Even though Eli is not involved with the museum any longer, his name is still on that building. We should have never called it a museum. How can LACMA have a museum? LACMA is the museum.”
Lynda Resnick, LACMA Trustee[i]

In February 2008, the Broad Contemporary Art Museum (BCAM) opened at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). The Renzo Piano-designed BCAM is not an autonomous museum; it is one of several buildings on LACMA’s museum campus (the largest American art museum west of Chicago).

The original LACMA was not exactly popular. Ed Ruscha’s 1968 vision of the museum.

The original LACMA was not exactly popular. Ed Ruscha’s 1968 vision of the museum.

LACMA was founded in 1961, when it seceded from the Los Angeles Museum of History, Science and Art in Exposition Park.  The new art museum opened in 1965 with three buildings designed by William Pereira: the Bing, Ahmanson and Hammer buildings.  In 1986, the Art of the Americas Building (then the Anderson Building) opened, and was followed in 1988, with the Pavilion for Japanese Art.  The museum continued to grow when LACMA purchased the neighboring May Company department store building in 1994. (LACMA is currently collaborating with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to bring a museum to the vacant building.[ii])  In 2001, plans for a tabula rasa campus designed by Rem Koolhaas were scrapped due to its ambitious scale (all existing buildings would have been raised) and lack of public support (a proposed bill would have provided public funds for the project, but was not passed by voters[iii]).  Then in 2004, the board approved a multi-year capital campaign called Transformation.[iv]

Michael Govan, Wallis Annenberg Director and CEO of LACMA, inherited Transformation when he took LACMA’s helm in 2006 (little more than a year before BCAM’s inauguration). Exciting, high profile, high-cost building projects are Govan’s specialty. Before coming to LACMA, Govan had been the director of the Dia Art Foundation where he oversaw the renovation of an old Nabisco factory in the Hudson River Valley, into Dia Beacon—a gargantuan facility capable of housing many large-scale, contemporary art installations. Before Dia, Govan worked under Richard Armstrong at the Guggenheim Foundation and aided in the realization of the Guggenheim Bilbao.   Govan had the resume required to lead LACMA during Transformation.  Eli Broad was on the search committee that lured Govan to LACMA.[v]

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Elliott Hundley

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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.

“the high house low!,” 2011, acquired by the Broad Art Foundation.

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Second Nature: The Valentine-Adelson Collection

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Hammer Museum

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.

Pedestal Inquisition: Greely’s “Weaver,” Benson’s “Figure 8” & Ruby Neri’s “Untitled (Lioness)”

Pedestal Inquisition: Greely’s “Weaver,” Benson’s “Figure 8” & Ruby Neri’s “Untitled (Lioness)”

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.

Sculpture not-in-the round: Curry’s “Fragments from a Collective Unity (Standing)”

Sculpture not-in-the round: Curry’s “Fragments from a Collective Unity (Standing)”

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.

Concert Hall: Johnson, “The Pianist”

Concert Hall: Johnson, “The Pianist”

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.

Color-coded room

Color-coded room

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.

Plug it in: Holloway, “Dichotic Sculpture”

Plug it in: Holloway, “Dichotic Sculpture”

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.

Karaoke Machine: Kersels, “MacArthur Park”

Karaoke Machine: Kersels, “MacArthur Park”

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…

Literacy Test: Craft, “Untitled (Lazy Daze)”

Literacy Test: Craft, “Untitled (Lazy Daze)”

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.

Swept into a corner & Up in a corner: Lapinski, “Nothings of Such and Such a Sort” & Rocklen

Swept into a corner & Up in a corner: Lapinski, “Nothings of Such and Such a Sort” & Rocklen

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.

Small-Large-XXL: Greely, “Molly and Johnny,” Ruby “Monumental Stalagmite” and Meadows, “Untitled (Picnic Table and Beehive)”

Small-Large-XXL: Greely, “Molly and Johnny,” Ruby “Monumental Stalagmite” and Meadows, “Untitled (Picnic Table and Beehive)”

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.

Touch Me: Finley, “Damn Mosquitos” and Tannatt, “Turkish Kitchen”

Touch Me: Finley, “Damn Mosquitos” and Tannatt, “Turkish Kitchen”

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.

All the remodel budget went into the interior: Sietsema, “Rococo Room”

All the remodel budget went into the interior: Sietsema, “Rococo Room”

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.

Echoes across LA: Do Ho Sun, “Fallen Star”

Echoes across LA: Do Ho Suh, “Fallen Star”

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.

– H.I.