Exhibition Inquisition

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

Posts Tagged ‘loans

Four Facts: Significant Objects

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Norton Simon Museum

As I was finishing up in this exhibition, I overheard a tour being given to what I presumed was a UCLA summer painting course.  “We have the Getty in our own backyard, but the Getty’s collection kinda sucks.  The Norton Simon’s is the really great collection of LA,” the teacher harped. I am paraphrasing.  While I detest uninformed and unnecessary opinions (especially from arts educators) about which museum has the “best” collection, I can’t deny the Norton Simon has a pretty amazing one, and I don’t even like ImpressionismSignificant Objects: The Spell of the Still Life presents a thematic cross section of the museum’s diverse collections and is an examination of “the ways in which these ostensibly mundane and insignificant subjects [harsh!] portrayed in painting and sculpture and works on paper are indeed significant.” Significant Objects does not present groundbreaking, paradigm shift-type discoveries or research, but is a huge success as a rich, educational opportunity for general audiences utilizing the permanent collection.  Permanent collection show hurray! Here are the facts:

Scholar's books and objects (chaekkeori), Korean, Joseon dynasty, 19th c - LACMA

A Korean wunderkammer lent by LACMA.

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Resnick Pavilion Inaugural Exhibitions

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Los Angeles County Museum of Art

They paid for the building, they can show their art for three months in it.

Getting Yogurtland was my priority upon landing in LA.  This was followed by a close second priority of seeing the three exhibitions which inaugurated the brand spanking new Resnick Pavilion at LACMA.  The shows opened while I’ve been in Chicago, but I’ve been following the press about the opening of the Pavilion.  Olmec: Colossal Masterworks of Ancient Mexico was something of a blockbuster loan show, Fashioning Fashion: European Dress in Detail, 1700–1915 is a presentation of LACMA’s newly acquired costume collection, and Eye for the Sensual: Selections from the Resnick Collection was an exhibition of the Resnicks’ collection of European painting and sculpture.  The three shows have absolutely nothing to do with each other, and that’s just the way LACMA director Michael Govan likes it:
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Catherine Opie: Figure and Landscape

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Los Angeles County Museum of Art

As promised, part two of the “gay” shows at LACMA.  But first, let’s discuss the gift shop that bridges the Eakins exhibition with the Opie exhibition.  LACMA, it seems, has been getting more and more brash with their gift shops, Pompeii’s gift shop was a smorgasbord of Italianate tourist crap, at least the Baldessari giftshop had some integrity with those clever erasers.  Let’s let the pictures speak for themselves.

Porn set or museum gift shop?

Okay I’m not really going to let the pictures speak for themselves; just look at those lockers! This is no longer a museum giftshop but a cheap set from a gay porn that takes place in a lockerroom.  Yes you can buy some related books on the two artists, and yes you can purchase some limited-edition Opie prints, but you can also buy LACMA jerseys and LACMA gym bags (sorry you can’t buy them online).  Why would anyone want to buy these items, especially when they don’t even have Baldessari’s logo on them?  When I asked the giftshop attendant if anyone had purchased a LACMA jersey, she said that to her knowledge no one had.  Hope they didn’t order too many of those LACMA jerseys.

Figure(s) and a landscape.

Out of the gift shop one enters into the Opie exhibition.  I don’t know whether I came in through the end, or should have gone through the other way, but I don’t think it mattered.  The first landscapes I saw were a series of surfers from 2003.  Several large framed photos were hung together to create a long horizon; the images practically disappeared into the muted blue walls of the gallery. In another gallery, sunlight (through glass bricks, a building material I think is SO eighties, but is apparently LOVED here in Chicago) illuminated the space and several river and forest landscapes. Sort of boring, where’s the gay stuff?

Contemporary symbols of masculinity waging battle.

In the last room, a cavernous space in the Art of the Americas building, which is usually arranged with temporary walls, was the “gay” stuff: photographs of football players.  High school football players, so let’s be careful because some of these jocks are still jailbait.  This is the major content of the show.  Wide compositions of helmeted players attempting firstdown look like epic battle scenes in this scale, especially compared to TV coverage of games which is usually areal views.  These large landscapes (with figures in them) are punctuated in the room by close up portraits the young men.

My friend who accompanied me (and who also has a thing for highschool football players) was torn between his attraction to these young men with their virile athleticism, and the fact that most of them had disgusting braces, and bad cases of acne.  I wondered if the subjects of these portraits know who Catherine Opie is, that she’s a lesbian, and that she had turned them into objects of homosexual desire, or at least objects of my friend’s homosexual desire.  Like a good blogger, I also wondered where all these photos had come from.

Hot and on loan: Tyler and Sean J.

Tyler (2007) and his farmer’s tan had come from across town, from the Hammer, many of the photos were here courtesy of the artist and her gallery.  Two of these portraits are on loan from private collectors.  The Justin-Bieber-haired Dusty (2007) had been loaned from Gerry Rich, and the ab-displaying Sean J (2008) had come from Eugene Sadovoy. Here is a funny headline about Rich considering this discussion, as well as some shots of his abode.  And Sadovoy seems to like California artists despite being an Eastcoaster who works for the Guggenheim.

The exhibition was curator by the still-new-ish Wallis Annenberg Photography Department curator Britt Salvesen.  I must say I much prefer this show to some of her previous work at LACMA.  Compared to New Topographics the scale of the works compared to the scale of the space is much more appropriate.  No tiny black and white photos on huge white walls here.

– H.I.

Manly Pursuits: The Sporting Images of Thomas Eakins

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Los Angeles County Museum of Art

This is what the fuss is all about.

To my readers: No more posts on LA exhibitions for a while (other than this one and the one to follow); I am now curled up next to a space heater in Chicago, while the rest of you complain about the amazingly hot weather in LA, boohoo.

Admittedly I coerced my best friend to come with me to see these shows (Opie next time) by selling them to him as the “gay shows at LACMA.”  They’re not really “gay” shows, but both have material that might be characterized as homoerotic, and maybe that’s why LACMA curators felt they needed to include the following at the entrance of the Manly Pursuits:

Warning Adult Material. (No joke.)

This begs to question—where!? I don’t see any adult material, unless you mean those paintings and photographs that have naked nude male figures in them.  Is this warning necessary?  Is it there because they’re naked guys? I don’t see labels warning about the naked women elsewhere in the museum.  Where’s the warning sign in the renaissance galleries for that painting of that slut Danae and the golden shower?

Try explaining what a golden shower is to your kids.

Moving on from that unnecessary warning, the always clever exhibition designers at LACMA have come up with inventive signage.  In the entryway a large title banner is hung from a complex rigging of ropes and pulleys.  The didactics in the exhibition are printed on thick canvas (this sailboat not the canvas you paint on), and hung from punctured grommet holes. Very wood shop and very manly I supposed.

Heterosexual exhibition design.

The exhibition is organized into genres of sport: rowing, swimming, hunting and sailing, equestrian, boxing and cycling, and wrestling.  This method is both user-friendly and functionally allowed for smaller and larger spaces.  This is not a full-scale retrospective, but a focused exhibition on one genre of Eakins’s work; this does not mean this is a small show or that it is lacking in works.

The first room, on rowing, had a plentitude of works: completed paintings, preparatory works, and sketches.  Eakins fascination (even obsession) with accurate perspective is evident in these works and the combination of works showcased the artist’s anal-retentive process.

No dick in this pic.

The swimming room is the room that I guess warranted the warning label (maybe also the wrestling room).  There is only one completed oil painting in the room, The Swimming Hole (1884-85), the only Eakins work on the subject matter. The canvas wall text informs that Eakins relied on photographs for this composition; this is obvious since the painting is accompanied in this room by so many photographs.  The photos are of “real” (LACMA’s word choice not mine) naked men, instead of idealized nudes (is that why we need the label?).  All of the photos are preciously small and require close proximity to view them properly.  The photographs come from various places (oh hey a loan from the Getty!) and are labeled as modern inkjets from original glass negatives.  I call them soft-core-porn (kidding, kinda).

Porn so small, you can barely see it.

The main attraction, on loan from the Amon Carter Museum, has chairs placed in front of it (chairs I’m pretty sure came from a conference room inside LACMA).  The wall text also explains that Eakins himself is one of the men in the painting, making this a clusterfuck of viewer-viewed-exhibitionist-voyeur-spectator-participant relationships.  I would like to point out that the finished oil painting has no visible penis in it, so what is the big deal?

Eakins was apparently an avid swimmer, or avid skinny dipper.

I blew through the hunting and sailing room, and the equestrian room, in pursuit of more adult content slash gay porn (still kidding LACMA), which I found in the boxing and cycling room.  This room had more naked photographic studies to satiate my desires (haha) and several large finished works in it including Saltut from the Addison Gallery of American Art (which has been linked to Gerome’s Police Verso which was just in LA), Between Rounds from Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the largest work, Taking the Count from Yale.  Pat on the back for being responsible and looking at where all these loans came from. This room was set with a series of benches arranged as they might be for a spectator sport like boxing (oh yeah that’s the topic of this room).

Art-viewing arena.

On to the wrestling room: This room is organized around LACMA’s The Wrestlers, it is a new acquisition and the central reason why LACMA organized this show.  More chairs from a LACMA conference room were set in this gallery to allow for longer views (also so viewers could get their rocks off) of the works, which include preparatory paintings (one owned by LACMA prior to the acquisition), and more steamy photographs. Damn LACMA I’m all hot and bothered now, all this adult content.

Porn from the permanent collection.

And after I’d already jizzed my pants LACMA really delivered with Tad Beck’s installation Palimpsest.  In a separate room, several works from Beck’s Palimpsest series were displayed, acting in dialogue with Eakins’s work. The subject matter of the male nude (the adult content remember) is not the only similarity Beck explains in an Unframed post.

Palimpsest 1, un(?)arguably homoerotic.

The last room of the exhibition is a reading room.  A really sad little reading room, which had a book on Eakins’s Grafly Album (sexy stuff), some terribly cheap Xeroxed essays, but oh wait, two iPads to read the pseudo-exhibition catalogue on.  This is a big show (in scale and importance), with lots of loans—I can’t believe there isn’t an accompanying exhibition catalogue (is one is in the works?), maybe the organizers didn’t have any funds left for publications.  But they had funds for those iPads…

The unfortunate gift shop and Catherine Opie: Figure and Landscape will have to wait for next time.  But believe me the gift shop was UNFORTUNATE and less noteworthy the Opie show did have figures and landscapes (and more gay stuff).

– H.I.

The Spectacular Art of Jean-Leon Gérôme

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Getty Center

This spectacle is the first retrospective of Gérôme’s work in forty years, which means this is the first time a generation has been exposed to Gérôme like this.   The Getty’s reasons for the show are questionable since the Getty only has two works by Gérôme in its collection.  Whatever the reasons, this show is an amazing spectacle of oriental color and classical characters.  Gladiators, Vestal Virgins, residents of Pompeii, and even Caesar are all here.  This show might even have been appropriately displayed over at the Getty Villa in Malibu instead of the Center.

Look! Some naked women! It’s okay though cause they’re Greek, so we’re not objectifying them.

Other than a major retrospective of French academic painter, the show is an exploration of the gross commoditization of Orientalism in art, showcasing the hypocrisy of European society’s fascination with Eastern culture with its harems and bath houses.  Dialogues on race and culture whether intentional or not, are a major part of this show, from naked little boys to polychrome statues of naked (or is it nude) women.

I mean, come on…

The exhibition rooms are painted in an appropriate “oriental” palette, ruby maroons, and deep aquamarines are as decadent as some of the scenes in Gérôme’s paintings.  The only problem I had with the color scheme was in just one particular instance where The Snake Charmer (1870) was displayed on a aquamarine blue, the clash of the mosaic wall in the painting against the wall it hung on was visual agony.

Not painted from memory, painted from travel photos.

The exhibition runs the length of two large halls, at the end of the first hall in a small separated space of photographs from the Getty Research Institute’s library.  The selection of photographs are ones taken of the during Gérôme’s travels to the Middle East and the Orient.  Some of them directly relate to paintings in the exhibition, a photo of a tiled wall is the background in The Snake Charmer, another one shows the obvious inspiration for The Carpet Merchants (1887).  The Getty Research Institute has been doing a great job at displaying its special collection of photographs, both at the Getty and elsewhere.  There are some photos from the Getty’ collection in the current Eakins’s exhibition going on at LACMA (keep your eyes out for a post on that soon).

Just imagine this crazy thing in his livingroom!

Down the second hall, full of more classical and Eastern scenes, one comes to the last room of the exhibition, which Christopher Knight of the LA times has rightly pointed out as particularly interesting.  The room showcases Gérôme’s later transition to sculpture.  Gérôme’s fascination with the artistic power of sculpture can be seen in his painting of Pygmalion and Galatea (1890).  The myth serves as a theme for the room, which contains some of Gérôme’s sculptures. One of the sculptures is the awkwardly sticking polychrome Corinth (1903-04), from the collection of a certain J. Nicholson.

Distracting pun

The last work in the show is hung by itself: Gérôme’s non-high-art piece, the advertisement Opticien (1902).  The visual pun for “little dog,” in French “petit chien,” being devised here for commercial purposes.  This work, while highly enjoyable and a much needed relief from the much heavier preceding paintings, is problematic for me.  I don’t know how to resolve the fact that I think a retrospective should be a sincere display of the whole range of a single artist, but at the same time this work is soooo out there.  I might have approved of this work had it been snuck into the exhibition somewhere in the middle.  But as it stands at the very end of the exhibition, it draws too much attention to itself, and seems like an insincere inclusion when compared to the tone of the rest of the exhibition.

Museé de Orsay, you are EVERWHERE!

Other noteworthy remarks:  Where did all of these works come from? A major contributor of works was the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, the Metropolitan loaned several works, some from personal collections (i.e. J. Nicholson), and of course work from the Museé de Orsay!  As mentioned in the posts about the de Young’s exhibition of works from the Museé de Orsay, congrats once again Museé for effectively getting your pieces out there on display during your construction!

– H.I.

The Tulip Folly (1882), how gay!

And a completely gratuitous additional painting, only because I have an obsession with tulips.

Leonardo da Vinci and the Art of Sculpture: Inspiration and Invention

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Getty Center

I know that this exhibition is already over, but I still think it is worth posting about because it had so many elements involved with the exhibition design.

Somebody save that baby!

The exhibition was located on the terrace level of the west pavilion of the Getty Center. I entered the space by walking down the stairway from the level above, which allowed me a great view of the behemoth horse by Nina Akamu.  The work was a wall mural of a photo of Il Cavallo, which stands in the Parco dell’Ippodromo in Milan.  The contemporary sculpture was inspired by the sketches of Da Vinci, for an unrealized equestrian monument designed for Francesco Sforza, the Duke of Milan.  This unrealized sculpture was a big focus of the show, and this photo adhered to the entry wall helped to cultivate the theme of monumentality in Renaissance sculpture. Even though there were few sculptures (and none by Da Vinci) in the show.  The Da Vinci work in this show is made up of sketches, many from the Royal Collection of Queen Elizabeth II.

There were some very significant loan pieces, which is what the Getty does best; the reason to go see a show at the Getty is their ability to negotiate such loans.  (See for example French Bronzes, Bernini, or the display of Manet’s A Bar at the Folies-Bergère.) A major lender in to this exhibition was the Museo Del Opera Del Duomo in Florence.  The very Tuscan, sand-colored rooms of the exhibition are divided into several themes.

He’s been cleaned up since this picture was taken.

Donatello and Da Vinci: This room was a kind of prologue to the show.  One big room, with only one big work: Donatello’s Bearded Prophet.  The huge bronze statue was illuminated by a single window in an upper corner of room.  The starkness of the room highlighted the monumental borrowed work and allowed a visitor to circumvent the entire work, which you wouldn’t have been able to in its original setting—on the campanile of the Duomo.  The wall text explains how Donatello enlarged certain parts of the sculpture because of the perspective of it being seen on high: like the hands and the saint’s head.  This was a technique that was evidently adopted by Da Vinci.

Lots of sketches; thanks QE2!

Da Vinci and the Florentine Tradition: Because this show prominently featured works on loan I was not allowed to take any photographs, and the Getty has a very diligent and dedicated army of gallery guards who promptly tell you to put that camera away, this is why I have no images from this room.  Let me describe it instead:  the second room had an assemblage of pedestals with framed sketches set on top of them.  The Da Vinci sketches looked precariously set on top of the pedestals, as if they would topple over if you bumped into one, which seemed unavoidable in the crowded forest of pedestals.  Wall text contextualized Da Vinci into the Florentine tradition, with its emphasis on disegno—the “masculine style” which the Tuscans thought far superior to the feminine, Venetian style of colorito.

If only my handwriting were this nice, or this legible.

In between the room that focused on Da Vinci’s equestrian monuments and other projects, and the next was a corridor that could have been left empty and unremarkable.  But no, the Getty exhibition designers weren’t going to waste a perfectly good wall.  In this wall way, like beautiful antique wallpaper, was enlarged images of Da Vinci’s handwriting.  I asked a gallery guard permission and was given the okay to photograph.

and a painting…so where’s the sculpture

In the next room, which was almost tucked away, Da Vinci’s St. Jerome (on loan from the Vatican!) was displayed.  The unfinished panel painting was the first work by Da Vinci in the show that wasn’t a sketch, not a sculpture, but still not a sketch.  What this painting was doing in a show about sculpture was rationalized by the curators in that the figure of Jerome was painted in a very sculptural way…I might be oversimplifying, but that’s all the average visitor is going to understand anyway.

Gotcha!

The final rooms were devoted to Giovan Francesco Rustici, an artist I had never heard of before this exhibition.  Apparently he was friends and colleagues with Da Vinci.  Because there are very few confidently attributed Da Vinci sculptures, and those probably are never allowed to move, the Getty provides this analogue (aka replacement) for the lack of Da Vinci sculptures.  Once again there were a lot of loan works, the most glorious of which were the three Rustici sculptures that made up the sculptural group John the Baptist Preaching to a Pharisee and a Levite, also from the Museo Del Opera Del Duomo.

And a non-blurry version taken in the High Museum.

Again the large works (meant to be seen on the exterior of a public building) were given plenty of room to stretch their large bronze limbs, and basked in plenty of natural sunlight.  The natural light helped to contextualize the works in their original location.  The works were amazing, and would be on their own, even if you ignore the Da vinci-Rustici relationship so hyped in this exhibition.  It really undermined Rustici’s talent as an individual artist, but at the same time exposed me to Rustici for the first time.

The unavoidable gift shop, at the Getty they have their own chain.

After exiting the exhibition, myself and all the visitors were forced into the adjacent retail space.  Yes the Getty has a very large bookstore, but they also set up specialty boutique shops as it were for special exhibitions. It was like strategic planning in a mall, but I did almost buy a street banner from the exhibition.

– H.I.