Posts Tagged ‘Los Angeles County Museum of Art’
I don’t know how many times I’ve made the drive from L.A. to the Bay Area. The number is well over 100, and spans a time period of over 50 years. Even as a child, I was irrationally obsessed with images of San Francisco, and begged my parents to take me there. My family traveled together on the train in August of 1960. We were tourists that first time, and I recorded the vacation in a short essay for my fourth grade class, with what was my very best effort at penmanship.
I’ve just returned from a road trip; this time it was part business and part pleasure. Stops in Oakland, Fairfax and Sebastopol were for gallery duties—picking up and dropping off artworks, and viewing a painting. During the long drive, I had a chance to reflect on my multiple trips, and my relationship to the oft-cited divide between the two regions of California. The divisions of geography, climate, politics, and culture are often the subjects of debate. The controversies and arguments can grow passionate—especially the rivalry between Dodger and Giant fans.
But what I was recalling—the people I know in the world of art—was a different story. It demonstrates how very much interrelated the lives of the artists and the two regions are. Let’s take, for example, the story of our artist Richard Shaw, who was born in Hollywood and lived in Newport Beach before becoming a resident of the quintessential Northern California town of Fairfax. Or consider the history of my friend, the late Henry Hopkins, a UCLA graduate who went on to become the Curator of Exhibitions and Publications at LACMA, before his tenure as Director at SFMOMA, and then his eventual return to the Hammer. Don’t forget about Richard Diebenkorn, whose first shows were in the Bay Area, but produced perhaps his most well-known series of paintings in a studio in Ocean Park, a neighborhood in Santa Monica. Peter Selz, who had a stay in Claremont before going to MOMA as the Chief Curator of Painting, eventually wound up in Berkeley. Peter Voulkos, a Montana native who attended California College of Arts and Crafts for his master’s degree, came to L.A. during the period of 1954 to 1959, then returned to Berkeley.
This list could go on, but the thought persists: Is there really such a division between the two Californias? I think not. Yes, the politics and culture may differ overall, but the people travel freely through some sort of permeable membrane. I have lived and worked in both the North and South, and so have many of my friends. Though I must be clear about one thing: I’m still a Dodger fan.
For the past 35 years, I’ve been going to all kinds of art world events. That means a pretty wide range—everything from really raunchy performance art at the old downtown LAICA to scholarly lectures at the Harold Williams Auditorium at the Getty.
I’ve heard dozens of talks from the podium, endless (and often quite boring) panel discussions, and series after series of conversations, and I’ve seen hundreds of power-point presentations. You might ask, which ones were best? Clearly, the winners in the category of enlightenment were: Kirk Varnedoe (his final tour included a talk at LACMA); Paola Antonelli (recently at the Brown Auditorium at LACMA); and Adam Gopnik (Winter Scenes, at the Getty on February 23, 2012). All spoke without any notes. I loved those talks, and they reminded me of the stimulating power of the interconnected intellect, which I first witnessed in college: genius, in simple terms.
I’m a big fan of every instance of what I like to call a generous intellect—someone who can present fascinating ideas and connections in a conversational manner. But, lately, I’ve been bothered by something that troubles me from time to time, something I still struggle with in myself, and that I can be deeply offended by in others: for lack of a better word, let’s call it prejudice.
Here are three examples:
I once attended a panel discussion, moderated by Paul Karlstrom, about the paintings of Roger Kuntz. Like many such panels, the event was in conjunction with an exhibit of Kuntz’s work at the Laguna Art Museum. Of the four speakers, I knew three quite well—two of them for 40 years, and one for 30 years. At the end of the panel, I wandered up to say hello—a common courtesy. Before I got to my old friends, though, the museum’s Director came up and greeted me. Then he asked, “But what are you doing here?”, to which I replied, “Two of the panelists were my teachers, one is a friend, and Paul is both a friend and a colleague.” But what I meant to say was, “Isn’t this an educational event for the public to learn about art?”
Around the same time, I attended a talk at the Getty Research Institute, given by Lawrence Weschler (an elaboration on themes first developed in his 2007 book of convergences, Everything that Rises). Weschler is an author, and was in those days the Director of the New York Institute for the Humanities at NYU. At that time, though, he was on leave from NYU, serving simultaneously as scholar-in-residence at Occidental College and a visiting scholar at the GRI. I’ve often been in the audience for Ren’s talks, going all the way back to our time together in the early seventies as undergraduates at Cowell College of UCSC, when for example he gave a series of talks on his grandfather, the Weimar émigré composer Ernst Toch. For this one, held in the Getty’s smaller auditorium beneath the museum, I arrived early to find a seat. And, as I wandered down the aisle, a Senior Researcher from the GRI said hello, shook my hand and said, “But what are you doing here?” I replied, simply, “I’ve known Ren since college.” But what I meant to say was, “Isn’t this an educational event for the public to learn about art?”
Probably the most disturbing instance was a few years back, at the Broad Stage in Santa Monica. In conjunction with Otis College of Art and Design, the City of Santa Monica and the Broad presented a lecture by the annual Otis artist-in-residence. I arrived early, my usual strategy, to get a seat in a packed auditorium. As I walked down the left-hand aisle, I saw the speaker, whose work in art criticism we all know quite well, and who has been a frequent visitor to my own gallery. He said, “What are you doing here?” That time I didn’t even respond at all.
What are these people saying? Are they saying that, since I am identified as an art dealer, I shouldn’t have an interest in scholarship? Since I am identified as a specialist in ceramics, that I can’t possibly have an interest in other forms of literature, history or art? Are art dealers necessarily limited, in their minds, to just being shopkeepers? Why can’t art dealers also be thought of as people who are passionate about art?
If there is one thing I’ve made perfectly clear at my gallery, our educational mission is about communication between the artist and the public, our exhibition program presents the legacy of artists in the history of West Coast art, and as part of that mission and legacy, our scholarly publications have employed several significant writers. Someday, I hope that such heterodoxy and such commitment is more widely recognized, is in fact taken for granted—especially by those who should know better.
(Special thanks to Lawrence Weschler for his clarifications about his work.–F.L.)
I’m looking forward to attending the exhibition Helen Pashgian: Light Invisible, opening at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art on March 30. The show features a large-scale sculptural installation of molded acrylic columns. Visitors will be able to move around and between these forms, creating “an immersive viewing experience that invites meditations on the nature of material and, more importantly, of light.”
I exhibited works by Helen Pashgian in the group show Translucence, presented at the gallery in the fall of 2013. The work pictured here demonstrates how Pashgian’s work has explored the new possibilities offered by industrial mediums to manipulate and explore visual and perceptual phenomena. Dating from the early 1970s, this piece traps, reflects, and diffuses light, much like the columns that will soon be on display. As you move around the piece, colors and shapes seem to advance and recede, which contributes to its perceptual ambiguity. The traditional boundaries between form and color dissolve, leaving the viewer with a subtle, shifting sense of space.
The current exhibition, Roseline Delisle, is an unusual opportunity to see so many of the artist’s works displayed together. The show spans two decades of her career, and illustrates Deslisle’s development of progressively larger forms. The rarity of her work on the market has led to a lot of questions from visitors, some of whom are experiencing Delisle’s work for the first time.
Roseline Delisle’s work was avidly collected by private individuals and major museums during her lifetime. For example, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art owns seven Delisle artworks, including the 1997 piece 8=1 (to the third power), which was purchased in 1998 with funds provided by the Friends of Clay and Decorative Arts Council. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, owns two beautiful works as well.
Delisle’s work is also represented internationally. In her native Québec, the Musée des Beaux Arts, Montréal, owns a beautiful bowl in the artist’s signature cobalt blue. The Tokyo National Museum of Art also has in their collection two Delisle works from 1988. Altogether, Roseline Delisle has works in nearly twenty major museums around the world.
I’m happy to announce the opening of Larry Bell’s second solo exhibition with White Cube Gallery, in São Paulo, Brazil. Bell first exhibited with White Cube London in the fall of 2013, with great success. Now, he’s been invited to participate in another exhibition, titled The Carnival Series, in São Paulo. On view from February 18 – March 22, 2014, this show is scheduled to coincide with the Brazilian Carnival season.
This exhibition will feature a selection of works dating from the 1980s to the present. This includes ten Mirage Works, composed of layers of found papers, films and applied acrylic paint, which play on the artist’s persistent interest in spatial ambiguity and perception. The show will also feature a recent series of colorful collages that reference the female form. Three Light Knots will round out the presentation, their graceful forms suspended from the ceiling of the exhibition space. Made of Mylar, these sculptures are multi-dimensional, kinetic works that reflect, refract, and transmit light.
It’s great to see Larry Bell continue to get such international exposure. One of the most prominent artists to have come out of the 1960s Los Angeles art scene, Bell’s work is featured in major museums collections around the world, including: the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; the Museum Ludwig, Cologne; the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; the Tate Gallery, London; and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.
It’s always gratifying to learn that an artist is receiving deserved recognition. Especially when the work has been a key part of the history of American ceramic sculpture. This year, John Mason will be appearing in the Whitney Biennial, curated by Stuart Comer, Anthony Elms, and Michelle Grabner, on view March 7 – May 25, 2014. Of course, this isn’t Mason’s first time at the Whitney Museum of American Art, where Mason has a fifty year record of shows. His work has been included in exhibitions such as Fifty California Artists, 1962; the 1964 Annual Exhibition: Contemporary American Sculpture; the 1973 Biennial Exhibition: Contemporary American Art; 200 Years of American Sculpture, 1976; and Ceramic Sculpture, Six Artists, 1981.
The Frank Lloyd Gallery has a long history with Mason – we had the honor of representing him for sixteen years, and exhibited his work in nine solo shows. Mason was a key part of the gallery’s primary mission to re-contextualize the achievements of the major figures of West Coast Art. In addition to that recorded history, we also worked to place Mason’s work in major museum collections and private art foundations. Looking back, we facilitated the placement of fifteen artworks in seven institutions, including the Maxine and Stuart Frankel Foundation for Art, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Kaneko Foundation, the Anderson Collection, the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, the Buck Collection, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Some of these works, such as the Untitled Wall Relief, 1960, donated by W.D. Fletcher to LACMA in 2007, are on display now!
In recent years, a tremendous interest has developed in Los Angeles artists and the growth of L.A. art institutions. The success of programs at the Hammer Museum and at LACMA are examples of that surge. While some news may have focused on the ups and downs of museum funding and staff changes, there’s one fact that that bears repeating over and over: the shows coming out of Los Angeles have been superb! Today I was reminded of how the efforts of curators at both L.A. museums and local galleries have been nationally recognized.
In 2013, the International Association of Art Critics included an impressive number of L.A. curators and organizations in their annual awards. Headquartered in New York, AICA-USA’s membership comprises over 400 critics, curators, scholars, and art historians working throughout the United States. Take a look at some of the awards given out last year: to Stephanie Barron for “Ken Price Sculpture: A Retrospective,” Los Angeles County Museum of Art; to Wendy Kaplan and Bobbye Tigerman for “California Design, 1930–1965: “Living in a Modern Way,” also at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; and to Kellie Jones, curator of “Now Dig This! Art and Black Los Angeles 1960-1980,” which opened at the Hammer Museum and traveled to MoMA PS1, New York.
Paul Schimmel’s brilliant final show at MOCA, “Destroy the Picture: Painting the Void, 1949-1962,” was given an award as one of the two best thematic museum shows nationally, along with the Hammer’s “Now Dig This”.
This morning I went to Cherry and Martin gallery, which was honored last year for their exhibit “Photography Into Sculpture / The Evolving Photographic Object.” Based on an exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art from 1970, organized by Peter Bunnell, the Cherry and Martin show was favored by critics as part of the Pacific Standard Time series of events.
Tomorrow I will return for another view of “Face to Face: Flanders, Florence, and Renaissance Painting,” the world-class exhibit at the Huntington. It’s the work of Catherine Hess, a scholar and curator at the Huntington, who has managed to put together one of the most perfect exhibits I’ve ever seen. It’s an art history lesson for all viewers, and the selection of examples are borrowed from the Uffizzi, the National Gallery, the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, and numerous museums in Europe and America. It’s another example of why L.A. deserves recognition: the excellence of the curators.
We are showing a selection of small, early ceramics by Robert Graham in the group exhibition Small is Beautiful. Produced in 1975, these works were first exhibited at the legendary Nicholas Wilder Gallery that same year. Wilder occupies an important place in the art history of Los Angeles – he was the first to show Bruce Nauman and also exhibited David Hockney, Ron Davis, John McCracken and John McLaughlin.
Graham is well known for his monumental bronze sculptures and civic monuments, and these small works continue his investigation of the female form. Curator Maurice Tuchman writes evocatively about Graham’s work in the 1982 catalogue for the exhibition of the Michael and Dorothy Blankfort Collection at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art:
The fine anatomical detail makes the figures powerfully believable; yet, at the same time, the sensuous surface treatment makes them extremely satisfying as objects whether the medium is bronze, sometimes gilded or painted, or porcelain. In relief or in the round, Graham’s figures and fragments embody a quality of near-hallucinatory expectancy – a sense of emerging from mist or out of time – that gives them a beauty and significance beyond their intrinsic qualities as representation or craft.
It’s good news that the Kayne Griffin Corcoran Gallery will be opening a show of works by Robert Graham from 1969-1974 on January 14. Including figurative sculpture in wax and bronze, as well as drawings in graphite and pastel, their exhibition will focus on the period that directly precedes the ceramic works we have on display. Graham’s lifelong pursuit of the human form is elegantly reflected in these two bodies of work, with these investigations continuing for the duration of his career.
I’m often asked, “where can I see ceramics in Los Angeles?” One of the first places to look is the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. The museum has been acquiring ceramics for decades, and their collection ranges from Pre-Columbian figures to a mural by Henri Matisse, to a Peter Voulkos sculpture.
I was reminded of this by the current issue of “The Insider”, LACMA’s members’ magazine, which features the Henri Matisse ceramic mural La Gerbe, a gift of Francis L. Brody, in honor of the museum’s 25th anniversary. La Gerbe, a 1953 commissioned work, is a ceramic tile mural installed on the plaza level of the Ahmanson Building. The Matisse has its own spot, just to the left as one enters from the Plaza. It’s something that inspired Pablo Picasso to say, “Only Matisse could have made something this beautiful.” 1
In the Art of the Americas building, the large Pre-Columbian collection is on view, as well as a selection of modern and contemporary ceramics from the Decorative Arts Department on the third floor. Many works in the LACMA collection were donated by Howard and Gwen Laurie Smits, a large gift that includes work by several of the artists represented by the gallery.
My favorite piece is Peter Voulkos’ 5,000 Feet, a muscular, dark vertical work that was first exhibited at the Pasadena Art Museum in 1958. Made of stoneware clay and iron slip, it stands 45½ inches tall and is almost two feet in depth. The piece, now prominently displayed at the entrance to the Los Angeles County Museum’s permanent collection of “American Art Since 1950”, is a clear demonstration of the methods Voulkos used. He seemed to build these forms from the ground up, taking the wheel-thrown cylinders and shaping them into appendages on the central form. The body of the massive 5,000 Feet is built ruggedly, composed of wheel-thrown and paddled shapes, growing to its top with thinner, jagged forms. This powerful, expressive work won the Junior Art Council Sculpture Prize Award and the Purchase Award, 1959, Annual Exhibition of Los Angeles and Vicinity, Los Angeles County Museum of Art. 2
1 Picasso, Pablo, quoted in The Insider 3 (Summer 2013): 13.
2 Lloyd, Frank, “Vanguard Ceramics: John Mason, Ken Price, and Peter Voulkos.” In Clay’s Tectonic Shift: John Mason, Ken Price, Peter Voulkos, 1956-1968, edited by Mary Davis MacNaughton, 19-39. Claremont: Scripps College and Getty Publications, 2012.
In the New York Times this morning, I found some unprecedented news. The above-the-fold story by Holland Cotter, “The East Coast of California,” included his phrase “…an unheard-of convergence here of major California shows.” Below the fold, Mr. Cotter reviewed the Ken Price retrospective at the Metropolitan, while Roberta Smith addressed James Turrell at the Guggenheim, and Ken Johnson wrote about the Llyn Foulkes show at the New Museum.
Unprecedented, indeed—and also amazing that the curatorial work of LACMA’s Stephanie Barron and the Hammer’s Ali Subotnick are again recognized. Not just the artists from the West Coast, but the curatorial vision. Mr. Cotter’s leading line was, “The project [Pacific Standard Time] was a big success and continues to generate energy.”
How vindicated do the PST folks at the Getty Research Institute feel? Pretty strongly justified, if you look at Project Specialist Glenn Phillips’ Facebook post. The Yale-trained art historian noted “Many people claimed that Pacific Standard Time would never have more than local impact, particularly in relation to New York,” and goes on to cite the three exhibits of Price, Turrell, and Foulkes as well as the current “State of Mind” show at PS1, the Paul McCarthy installation at the Armory, and the upcoming full-floor installation by Robert Irwin at the Whitney. (Let’s not forget about Jay DeFeo, the San Francisco painter whose Whitney retrospective just closed earlier this month.)
I don’t want this post to seem like a laundry list, but it’s also a matter of record that “Now Dig This! Art and Black Los Angeles 1960–1980″ appeared at MoMA’s PS1 last year, and that “Asco: Elite of the Obscure, a Retrospective, 1972-1987″ had a run at Williams College (alma mater of many U.S. museum curators and directors). “California Design, 1930-1965: ‘Living in a Modern Way,” continues its worldwide tour, and Wendy Kaplan’s publication is now in its 4th printing. PST is having a lasting effect.
Back in October 13, 2011, the Wall Street Journal’s critic Peter Plagens (who is a former Angeleno) questioned, “isn’t PST preaching to the choir?” It’s obvious that’s just not true.