Posts Tagged ‘Pacific Standard Time’
LA, or certain people who write about the art scene in LA, or people who get quoted about the art scene in LA, seems to have an inferiority complex. Everything that happens in the arts (a new exhibition, a new art fair, a new museum director…) is deemed the thing that will finally turn LA into an/the art capitol. William Poundstone did a survey of this decades-long mentality[ii] this week inspired by an article in The Economist titled, “2014 may prove a turning point for art museums in Los Angeles.”[iii] But come on – LA, people who write about the art scene in LA, people who get quoted about the art scene in LA, and the people of LA have nothing to prove. The Getty squashed that issue a few years ago, didn’t it?
Back in 2011, the Getty’s ten-years-in-the-making endeavor, Pacific Standard Time (or PST as it has come to be known) opened. Over 60 institutions across Southern California presented exhibitions focused on the region’s art scene between the years of 1945 and 1980. The Getty’s goal was to record, preserve, and present the many contributions Southern Californian artists and arts organizations made to contemporary art during the time period. Initial grants were given to arts organizations to catalogue archives from the period, followed by exhibition grants. Some of these exhibitions traveled to other venues in the country and some traveled internationally. Catalogues from these exhibitions were published and quickly integrated into university curriculums. Besides this trove of scholarship, another goal of PST was to present Los Angeles as an artistic capital.
When I began writing this update to my previous post, I thought a list of bullets with links to the LA Times would suffice, but then I realized a crazy amount of MOCA drama has occurred in just over a year. At least Vanity Fair journalists who love to write about the LA art scene have plenty of material.
It’s easy to make accusations about MOCA’s obsession with celebrity considering the museum’s galas. Following Francesco Vezzoli‘s Lady Gaga gala in 2009, the museum hosted a gala directed by Marina Abramovic in 2011. The Abramovic gala drew the ire of some for being exploitative of performers who served as live centerpieces… Debbie Harry also performed, and the whole shebang culminated in Harry and Abramovic hacking into cake-effigies of themselves… Last this year’s gala happened on 4-20, and was themed appropriately – Cheech Marin attended and guests wore Hawaiian leis for some reason.
In fall 2008, a long-term beneficiary of Eli Broad’s largesse was in alarming financial trouble; the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) could no longer hide its vertiginous financial mess. In an article titled “L.a.’s Moca In Deep Financial Trouble,” the Los Angeles Times reported MOCA had mismanaged its finances for more than a decade.[ii] The board of trustees had almost completely drained the $200 million endowment by regularly dipping into it to cover costs of expensive exhibitions and operating overhead; overspending an average $1 million a year since 2000.[iii] The public was shocked and enraged; consequently, there was a rapid exodus of board members.[iv] MOCA needed a hero with a rescue plan.
LACMA’s Michael Govan proposed one rescue plan: a partnership in which MOCA would maintain its independence and retain at least one of its venues (the Geffen Contemporary in Little Tokyo) and in exchange MOCA would share its collection with LACMA.[v] Details of the offer were never fully disclosed, but it seemed to be Govan’s attempt to secure a large and well-regarded contemporary art collection for LACMA, and a way to reduce (if not eliminate) LACMA’s need of the Broad collections.
Govan’s offer seemed to be the final straw in the already strained relationship between him and Broad. Broad openly chastised Govan in the Los Angeles Times for his proposed merger plan, and curiously quoted the film Jerry McGuire to demand, “Show me the money.”[vi] Broad had proposed his own rescue plan and was offering a $30 million lifeline to MOCA. Govan was meddling in his plans.
Museum of Contemporary Art
It’s been a long while since we (yes, the royal we) posted about a MOCA exhibition, which is sad since it was the museum that was closest to where I used to live in LA. A lot has happened since Collection: the First 30 Years opened not so long ago. MOCA is under new management, Jeffery Deitch from New York. Changes are afoot, and Deitch wasted no time organizing new exhibitions. The show is curated by (non-MOCA employee) Julian Schnabel, who like Hopper, is also a director slash artist. The show is, of course, Dennis Hopper: Double Standard. The show was being organized while the famous director/actor/artist? was still alive, but sadly Hopper passed before the show opened in the beginning of July. The show is presented at the Geffen Contemporary in Little Tokyo.
You enter the space down a flight of stairs and immediately see the ass of a large colorful sculpture of a man in a sombrero. This retrospective is not organized chronologically which I actually don’t mind in the slightest, the groupings are thematic or organized by medium. There is a combination of large-scale sculptures, photographs and other media in the first room—an introduction to all the kinds of media that Hopper dabbled in. As previously mentioned, the first thing you see is the ass of Salsa Man (2000) a massive pop sculpture of a mustachioed man holding a tray. You have to walk around the man to see him frontally which is the kind of curation that demands movement.
This movement gets visitors to the wall text, which is actually chalk full of information, but is still all the info provided for the whole show. Some things at MOCA will never change. Other than thanking the sponsors (duh the Broad Foundation, which doesn’t own any Hopper works), the intro walltext also gives a concise rundown on the works in the show. It explains Hopper’s interest in AbEx, how all but one of his AbEx paintings were destroyed in a fire, which begs to question: Where is this one painting MOCA? It also explains the gap in Hopper’s artistic production from the end of the 60s until ’81.
Salsa Man is paired with a sculpture on the same scale Mobile Man (2000), both face out away from the rest of the exhibition towards the large garage doors of the gallery space. This seemed odd to me, until I looked at photos from the opening reception where the garage door was open and people entered the exhibition that way. This enforces speculations about the purpose(s) of this show, is it really to promote this artist?—Or to be attendance booster? And what kinds of people (Hollywood types) is Deitch trying to get involved with MOCA? Regardless the garage space in interesting considering its similarity to Hopper’s mixed-use home/workshop space out in Venice.
The second room is dominated by Bomb Drop (1967/68/2000); I have no idea what the slash in the date is for (maybe it is a recreated piece) thanks for the explanation MOCA. The piece is very reminiscent of that Oldenberg Swiss Army Knife Boat (that wonderful prop). This is pretty much characteristic of Hopper’s work, it was obviously inspired by other artists, many of whom he was besties with. This room seems to be devoted to Hopper’s dabbling (yes I’m going to use this word multiple times) with Pop Art. A Coca Cola Sign (1962) hangs in this gallery. It is labeled as a “found object,” which begs to question the authorship of the piece, did Hopper even consider this one of his works, or was it something he had in his house that he hung on one of his walls?
The next two rooms, and my favorites, were all about photographs. The curators used the whole length of the walls and hung works on high and on low (much more stimulating than hanging them all in a row at the standard level). The photographs were clustered into themes: Pop Images, Civil Rights, Spain and Bullfighting (very Manet), Celebrity Friends, Artist Friends…Instead of having labels on the wall visitors were provided with laminated cards attached to a ring (kinda cheap) with all the info listed there. It was a fun game (for a while) to focus on one photo and attempting to find its label on the laminated sheets.
The most telling clumping of photos was the ones of Hopper’s celebrity artist friends. Present were: Larry Bell, Bill Al Bengston, Robert Irwin, Allan Kaprow, Craig Kauffman, Ed Kienholz, Claes Oldenberg, Ed Ruscha, and Andy Warhol. (Notice a lot of big LA names—who’s looking forward to PST?—I am!) This wall of famous artist friends is very telling about the kinds of people Hopper surrounded himself with, and makes a lot of sense when examining his artistic practices.
Following the two photography rooms, was a room with three humungous paintings. All of them were blown up versions of photographs from the previous room. The title work Double Standard (2009) was accompanied by Biker Couple (2000) from a ’61 photograph, and Rope (2003). I wonder if Double Standard was commissioned specifically for this show, it’s unclear how these works were executed, and whether Hopper actually painted them himself, or if they were just printed on huge canvases. No collection or other notation is mentioned on the labels for these works.
At the back of the gallery is a dark theater with seating where there is a selection of movie clips called “Excerpts on Freedom” edited by Julian Schnabel. It features clips from movies Hopper either acted in or directed: Easy Rider, The American Dreamer, Out of the Blue, Apocalypse Now, Giant, The American Friend, True Romance (damn that’s a lot of imdb links). This theater acts as a kind of footnote: oh yeah and Hopper was an actor and director. But wait, that’s what he is actually most known for, you’re trying to convince me he was an artist remember MOCA.
Another wing of the exhibition features additional large scale photorealistic paintings. Henry Geldzahler (2009) form the Met, and Lichtenstein (2000) no collection mentioned hang with Warhol with Flower (2004) from a ’63 photograph in the other room.
The exhibition as a whole was much better than expected, I thought that the curators might attempt to deemphasize Hopper’s influences (his artist friends) and promote Hopper as more original then he really was. The show is very honest; the writing is on the wall: in the form of Hopper’s portraits of his famous artist friends.
And now for your delight I present a complete waste of money spent shooting and editing a girl flipping through the Hopper exhibition catalogue. Really? Really! Is this necessary for any reason MOCA?
Oh and in case you missed it, MOCA has a blog. Who knew. The curiously titled The Curve looks like it is fairly old, but didn’t go public until fairly recently. And look they do posts just of installation shots (I’m sure a lot of work went into crafting this post). Now you don’t even need to go see the exhibition.
MAK Center for Art and Architecture
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.