Exhibition Inquisition

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

Posts Tagged ‘sponsors

The Art & Technology and Program

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LACMA

When I read the news this week that LACMA is bringing back its legendary Art and Technology Program, I basically freaked out.  But before I get into the new program I wanted to re-explore the original program.  (I knew this grad school paper would come in useful for something.) I gleefully just re-read the program’s catalogue: A Report on the Art and Technology program of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.  Long title, amaaaaazing read.

Plug it in!

Plug it in!

ART AND TECHNOLOGY PROGRAM, 1967 – 1971

In 1967, the five-year-old Los Angeles County Museum of Art began a multi-year project called The Art & Technology Program.  The Program placed artists into residencies within technology companies with the intention that these corporations facilitate and/or fabricate the creation of new works, which would be shown in a culminating exhibition at the museum.  The Art and Technology Program was the brainchild of LACMA’s curator of Modern Art, Maurice Tuchman. Read the rest of this entry »

Rashid Johnson: Message to Our Folks

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Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago

Rashid Johnson, “Self Portrait in Homage to Barkley Hendricks,” 2005.

Why is Self Portrait in Homage to Barkley Hendricks not included in the MCA’s current Rashid Johnson retrospective, Message to Our Folks?  The photographic work is included in the exhibition catalogue, and MCA curator Julie Rodriguez Widholm writes that it is perhaps Johnson’s “most understood work.”  The work is an illustrative example of both Johnson’s “dialogue with black American creative and intellectual figures whose impact has transcended race” and his “dialogue with modern and contemporary art history, specifically abstraction and appropriation.”  Both these quotes are from the curatorial statement on the MCA’s website.  True, other self portraits (some of which engage in appropriation and cultural and intellectual figures) are in the exhibition, but they don’t compare in my opinion to the stark and confrontational Self Portrait in Homage to Barkley Hendricks.

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First Fridays

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Museum of Contemporary Art

One of these things is not like the others.

Well what an unexpected night that was.  Let me just say this event took me by surprise, this event was way more LA than Chicago.  Let me spell it out for you: S-I-N-G-L-E-S N-I-G-H-T.  This was the main reason I insisted my one friend come; she’s been looking for some action lately.  No one goes to First Fridays for the art, and I completely see why.  The DJ playing Daft Punk, the multiple buffets of food, several bars (if you’re lucky you get into the member’s bar), and the slew of sponsor tables make it hard to remember that there is any art here at all.  This event seemed mildly inappropriate for a museum to host, and then I realized First Fridays is like a lot of museum events I’ve been to in LA.  I realized I was totally fine with First Fridays, especially because I had a handful of free drink tickets.

I wasn’t allowed inside Acconci’s clam, should I blame these people?

There are also two big exhibitions currently going on at the MCA: Without You I’m Nothing: Art and Its Audience, an exhibition of audience engaged artworks drawn from the MCA’s permanent collection, and the Luc Tuymans retrospectiveWithout You, was hardly engaging, mostly because the security guards (following someone’s orders) were not allowing people to get busy with the artwork.  The Tuymans show was muted (dare I say bland) in this chaotic nightclub atmosphere. It didn’t help that the art-types that came to this events had probably already seen the shows, and the non-art-types cared more about seeing (hotties) and being seen (by said hotties) than actually seeing art.

I am not going to pretend that I am not guilty of this; I was more concerned with cashing in my drink tickets (and coordinating the rest of the night’s activities; “come meet us at the W!”).  But I also tried to engage with the artworks behind the gallery guards’ backs, but had more trouble forcing myself to look at the halls upon halls of mauve Tuymans paintings.

Koons Selfie.

Some of the highlights of works I engaged with in Without You:  Jeff Koons’s silver Rabbit.  So because it reflects me, it needs me?—I’m going to disagree, and say this bunny doesn’t need me; it needs people like Eli Broad (the bunny is one of Broad’s favorites, although he doesn’t own this one; surprise they are multiples).

Tuymans’s Condi is not happy, but is she ever?

Upstairs is the Tuymans show, which I flew through, hardly noticing the muted colors on the wall.  This is just a personal thing: I did personally enjoy some of his works (especially the large scale paintings at the end of this exhibition), but seeing room after room of paintings that look like the color has been drained or sucked from the neck gets monotonous.

Unruly holiday creature.

Back downstairs, in the huge crowd single guys and gals, frolicked a reindeer-headed creature.  I don’t know if this was a performance piece or what, but it was creepy especially as the creature had no sense of personal space was because he/she/it was wielding a crutch.  The theme (yes every First Friday has a theme) was something to do with the holidays.  (Last month’s theme was Bollywood, and January’s theme is simply called “HEAT.” Oh god, I’m so sad to be missing that.)

Some heat, courtesy of Olafur Eliasson’s heatlamp.

How the sponsors fit into the “theme” is more questionable.  Links of London had a huge table of products and posters featuring spokesmodel Kat Deely (remember her from So You Think You Can Dance?”).  Also present were Crew hair products (not enough SWAG), Francesca’s Restaurants (which was serving something delicious and chocolatley), and it was unclear whether Tanqueray was also a sponsor (but I definitely enjoyed some thank you very much).

In general, this event was ludicrous (but not in a bad way).  I would never go to this event to seriously look at the work and wouldn’t suggest you attempt to do so either, so thumbs down for the event.  I will wager, however, that First Fridays draws in large crowds of people who otherwise don’t visit the museum, so thumbs up for the event.  Another questionable element is this sponsorship thing, but hey if it means the MCA gets to put on these events at less of the cost, then who are you or I to question it.  What’s your bottom line?—Mine is pretty low, but that’s because I come from the world of PR and corporate sponsorship.  So shut up and enjoy your SWAG.

The artwork begged me to dance up against it; without me, it’s nothing.

– H.I.

Donors: British Petroleum

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FRANK GEHRY BRIDGE

My new view: Millennium Park

I have now begun life in Chicago (including being ejected from my first Chicago club), but fear not, I still have a few more, leftover LA posts to write.  I wanted to do a quick post to celebrate my arrival in Chicago and plan on posting semi-regularly about my new city.  I literally know no one in this city, which is why a familiar “face” was appreciated.  I’m talking about the Frank-Gehry-designed Amphitheater and Bridge in Millennium Park.  I get to look out over these beauties daily, so be jealous.

Who paid for this puppy?

The other day I decided to walk around the park, and walked over the bridge.  I had no idea that the sponsor of the bridge was *drum roll* British Petroleum aka BP.  Now BP has been in the news a lot lately because of that little oil spill in the Gulf Coast, you may have heard about it.  Cultural institutions that receive sponsorships from BP have also been feeling the heat, especially in the UK. Back in home in Los Angeles, the LA Times tried to stir some shit over LACMA’s BP Grand Entrance—the big, red, structure behind Urban Light.  I was curious if anyone in Chicago had gotten any shit for the BP bridge in Millennium Park.  I couldn’t find any signs of oil splattered on the bridge so I assume it has remained unharmed and ignored by the mudracking press. (LACMA made a good move by saying to comment.)

LACMA’s BP Grand Entrance installed with Choi Jeong-Hwa’s HappyHappy.

I think it is tremendously important to be aware of the sources of funding for cultural projects and for cultural organizations to remain transparent about their sources of funding.  BP is an evil corporation, obviously, but does that mean our cultural organizations are evil too? Should they be ridiculed for accepting buckets of ducats from less-than-kosher sources of funding?  Let’s stop being so ignorant.  The only reason museums and other cultural organizations turn to these sources of funding is because they can’t function alone from local and federal funding. The public certainly isn’t supporting these organizations either, so I don’t think the public is in a position to be so uppity about organizations taking money from Big Business.

Blood Money?

So I am going to enjoy my BP Bridge, but I’m going to enjoy it without be ignorant.  I am conscious about the sources of money for cultural organizations, and can reconcile this: at least some of the billions of dollars made by the corrupt oil industry are going towards supporting the arts. It could be spent on other things.

– H.I.

P.S. In other news, ExhibitionInquisition has now had over 10,000 views! Not bad for a project that started out as a homework assignment.  Also check out this video (skip to 2:00) the music seems a bit extreme.

Brian Eno: 77 Million Paintings

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University Art Museum – CSULB

Seeing red

Seeing red

Fire-engine red is always a bold color, an entire entry wall and gallery painted red, is even bolder.  The designers of Brian Eno: 77 Million Paintings chose to be very bold.  When you open the doors to the University Art Museum at California State University Long Beach, all you see is red (and also two very large black velvet curtains).  The only wall text in the whole exhibition is in this entry way.  It describes Eno’s career in terms of being a music producer, but says very little about his artistic statement for this show.  The following was included on both the wall text and on the exhibition pamphlet:

“[77 Million Paintings] challenges the notion that the artist must be in control.  Eno’s work simply sets the trajectory for the work to evolve into patterns that have the potential for surprising him as well as the audience.”

The work has been seen internationally, including at the Venice Biennale and at the Luminous Festival in Sydney Australia.  This is the first time the work has been seen in Southern California.  The work also changes forms, and can be smaller in scale (as it is at the University Art Museum), or in enormous scale as it was when it was projected on the sails of the Sydney Opera house. The show at the University Art Museum, while small, fits the space and captures the dazzle and spectacle of its larger incarnations.

Sydney Opera House – Luminous Festival

Still seeing red

Still seeing red

After entering through the black curtains you come into a large (red) room. The ceiling rose to a high skylight from which some natural sunlight came through. The room was full of prints from 77 Million Paintings.  These images are the source for what gets programmed into the system of screens that make up the central work of 77 Million Paintings. Even those this is a small show the display is simple and smart.  First you get shown the still images, and then you are shown those images in motion and set to sound.

Wall labels, very discrete

Wall labels, very discrete

Only two labels (at opposite corners of the square room) were used.  They said simply that they were all signed Giclee prints in editions of 50.  The prints were hung all in nice polite rows, some were hung landscape and some were hung portrait, even though the works themselves could have been hung either way it wouldn’t have mattered.  The one thing I did not like about these prints was the glass that was used in the framing.  All of the prints had severe track lighting aimed at them.  But the bright lit bounced off of the highly reflective glass and cast distracting glares onto the floor.

Halos of reflected light

Halos of reflected light

Behind the first room was a frighteningly dark hallway (I started to feel like I was in a very artsy haunted house).  In the hallway was a large pile of stones, according to the wall text it was actually a “cone of vermiculite.” Vermiculite, I discovered with some google-hunting is commonly used as an insulator and as a fire-proofing agent.  The artistic use of the mineral was interesting.  This first cone was lit from above (but very faintly) by a red light.  The cone didn’t have any barrier around it, and it looked like it was looking less than perfect.  Then while I was standing there a museum employee came out with a broom and swept the cone back into a more perfectly-conical shape.

Vermiculite cone, wikipedia it

Vermiculite cone, wikipedia it

This dark hallway lead to the main event.  The sights and sound of 77 Million Paintings were installed in a long room.  The room is so dark when you first enter you really have to let your eyes change to the darkness.  At the end of the room is what looks like an ever-evolving stained glass window in a chapel.  The window is actually the paintings, and the paintings aren’t paintings at all, but actually 12 video monitors of varying sizes which play images that are constantly changing and on random.  The video screens aren’t the only thing in the room; several more vermiculite cones are lit from above in ever-changing colors.

Main event in this three-ring circus

Main event in this three-ring circus

Large low benches also populate the space.  I hated this seating not only because they were ugly but because I was being lied to.  In the wall text:  “Seating in the gallery allows viewer to comfortably enjoy the ‘paintings’ for any length of time.”  The seating was not comfortable, it was horrible, and sitting there uncomfortably made me get out of my seat after only two minutes.

"Comfortable" benches

"Comfortable" benches

I then went on my hunt for the sound.  As always I’m obsessed with sound in gallery spaces.  This is probably because I’m used to museums being very silent, but more and more I’ve noticed sound permeating through an exhibition space.  The wall text, again, said that the sound came out of “strategically places speakers.”  I think the speakers were more like obviously placed speakers.  Once my eyes had gotten accustomed to the darkness I had no problem targeting out the exposed (ugly) speakers. I guess I found this shocking because the T.V. monitors are embedded in the wall which makes them hard to distinguish, and then the sound speakers were so exposed and obvious.

Painting # 64,212,865 of 77,000,000

Painting # 64,212,865 of 77,000,000

Personally I didn’t like the installation because the seating was not comfortable, and therefore I didn’t stay and enjoy the morphing play of light and sound in front of me.  I honestly enjoyed looking at the color on my friends’ faces change with the monitors most.

Who’s watching? It’s the money you could be saving with Geico

Who’s watching? It’s the money you could be saving with Geico

When I got home from the exhibition I did some more research about the sponsors listed on the exhibition brochure.  One of them, Lumen London caught my eye. Courtesy of Lumen London’s fancy beta website:  “Lumen (London) Ltd was incorporated in 2006 to produce and create Brian Eno’s 77 Million Paintings shows around the world.”  Lumen also makes a nice little profit on selling the (signed) prints from the first room of the exhibition online.  Lumen does have a very nice website however where they document all of 77 Million Paintings previous incarnations with plenty of images.  The website is almost better the exhibition at the University Art Museum because you can see the whole range of possibilities for Eno’s work.

Stained-glass window

Stained-glass window

Below is a video of a public program with Brian Eno at the University Art Museum CSULB:

– H.I.

Glorious Excess (Dies)

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JAPANESE AMERICAN NATIONAL MUSEUM

The Glorious Excess (Dies) exhibition showcases the work of Mike Shinoda of Linkin Park. This is technically part two of the exhibition, part one was called Glorious Excess (Born), and ran from July 12 to August 3, 2008.  (Dies) has some of the same works as (Born) with additional new works.  The show roughly follows a story of a fictional character Glorious Excess, a skeletal rock and roll star.  The two shows follow the course of his life: birth, life of glamorous celebrity, death and beyond.

Discrete exterior banner

Discrete exterior banner

Even before going into the exhibition space it is obvious how large this show is for JANM.  On approaching the museum one is confronted with a large banner hung outside the museum announcing the exhibition.  Then, after entering the museum, a visitor has to walk past a large step-and-repeat of the show’s sponsors before entering the exhibition space.

Discrete exhibition sponsors

Discrete exhibition sponsors

All of this is reminiscent of a red carpet event, and the shining spheres of celebrity the show claims to be about.  A final nod to the entertainment industry are labels on the doors leading into the exhibition galleries, on both of the double doors are “Parental Advisory – Explicit Content” labels, which often appear on albums with explicit content.

Greeting / Warning Label on exhibition entry doors

Greeting / Warning Label on exhibition entry doors

The introductory wall text is probably my favorite thing in the exhibition.  The text used two fonts, one the black swirling baroque font used for the title, and the other was a standard font in chewable bright pink.  The choice of color for the font matched words in the text “bubble gum” which was one of the cliché statements used in the intro wall text about celebrities, paparazzi, tabloids, etc.

Across from the wall text is a large wall positively covered in clippings from tabloid magazines.  The large collage/mural features recognizable faces, and seemed like something an obsessive stalker might create.

Stalker Locker – Tabloid Installation

Stalker Locker – Tabloid Installation

The exhibition is relegated to two coffin-like halls—very dark, the walls painted a dark grey.  The artworks and wall text were all overly-dramatic spotlighted like portraits in a haunted mansion. Quotes from a variety of sources, written in the deliciously-bright pink font, were integrated into the exhibition. Quotes from Alice Roosevelt Longworth, Ice Cube and Neil Young were included…how they all related to one another, or to the exhibition is still confusing to me.

A series of four paintings, which all had the same image only in different colors, was hung two by two in way that established a repeating pattern. I liked how these works and their installation addressed serialism. The repeating pattern was reminiscent of both the step-and-repeat outside the exhibition, as well as the repetitive Louise Vuitton “LV” pattern which was used in the background of the four paintings.

In another wall text half-way through the exhibition, Shinoda discusses the image of the skull, and his reasoning for using it in his artworks.  He explains he was inspired by the skull in traditional Dutch painting as it functions as a vanitas, as well as the modern usage of the skull in Damien Hirst’s For the Love of God.

A celebrity for all seasons

A celebrity for all seasons

Another series of four paintings was hung in a traditional row. The cycle of the seasons: Spring – Warhol, Summer – Cobain, Autumn – Dean & Winter – Lennon, are all hung at the same level in seasonally-correct order.  The four dead celebrities’ portraits lead up to the “death” of Shinoda’s character Glorious Excess.

Open-Casket - Glorious Excess’s Funeral

Open-Casket - Glorious Excess’s Funeral

At the end of the two dark halls is an open coffin, with gaudy fake flowers, fake electric candles, and a terrifying and outlandishly comically-fake silver skeleton inside.   This is the wake of Glorious Excess. His life and times were too short.

Then after the funeral, the visitor enters into the two story open atrium. Blinding natural light floods this space, even brighter after the dark caves of the exhibition.  On one wall is a mural of a now be-winged Glorious Excess.  He is either on his way to up to Heaven or on his way down to somewhere else.  Because of his wings, and the brightness of the room, I think he is probably on his way up; this is a scene of Glorious Excess’s assumption.  It is also the end of the exhibition.

Glorious Excess rises to heaven?

Glorious Excess rises to heaven?

There is also closing wall text, which features more boring language and the following statement: “Relief serves as a reminder that life is temporal, transient and too short to obsess with the excess; moreover it is imperative that we realize that we each have a role in creating the world we hope to live in.” This random statement seems to be promoting Shinoda’s charity rather than making an artistic statement.

To exit the exhibition a visitor had to first go into the small theater adjacent to the exhibition.  But wait!—first the visitor has to wait for the next showing. A conveniently-obnoxious red digital clock counts down the seconds until a visitor is allowed in to view the movie.

Final countdown

Final countdown

The theater is small and lined in grey fabric; it is similar to a sound-proof recording studio, which is of course another reference to the music industry in which Shinoda works. The movie is not video art, but a documentary video (?). The content compromises shots of Shinoda at work, Shinoda on a Hollywood star tour, shots of red carpets and interviews with paparazzi.  Two celebrities that garner focus in the movie were Michael Jackson and Princess Diana.  The content about Michael Jackson is relevant, and was probably produced fairly quickly considering the events of Jackson’s death happened only two months before the Glorious Excess (Dies) exhibition opening.

Shinoda’s custom kicks

Shinoda’s custom kicks

After exiting the theater two more art works are displayed in the lobby: customized DC sneakers and Honda motorcycle.  Both products were customized by Shinoda, but more importantly DC and Honda are sponsors of the show. Clearly JANM is not considered with being discrete about its sponsorship.

And to finish, more product placement

And to finish, more product placement

– H.I.