Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Getty Center to Celebrate Its Own Birthday

David Hockney is 80, and the Getty Center is turning 20. The Getty will celebrate the latter with "Robert Polidori: 20 Photographs of the Getty Museum." Polidori captured the museum as the art was being unpacked for its Dec. 1997 debut. The exhibition will run Dec. 12, 2017, to May 6, 2018.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

The Sphere Rises

The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures' sphere, more properly the David Geffen Theater, is now under construction.

The sphere was the cause of Zoltan Pali's departure from the Renzo Piano-helmed project. Piano loved the sphere. Pali objected that a "glass ball in Los Angeles" would be expensive to cool and an inefficient use of space. "Theaters are boxes for a reason."

Academy Museum director Kerry Brougher told Variety that building the sphere "is not going to be the easiest thing in the world."

Monday, July 17, 2017

"Face to Face" at CAAM

While new, billionaire-financed contemporary art museums burgeon, the state-funded California African American Museum is having a resurgence. This summer it has another strong rotation of shows, starting with a lobby installation by Gary Simmons. There is a historical exhibition marking the 25th anniversary of the 1992 L.A. uprising, an installation of Caribbean art from the collection, and a loan show, "Face to Face: Los Angeles Collects Portraiture." (At top, Amy Sherald, Pythatgore, 2016).

"Face to Face" does not have much of a point to make, but that's OK. Many pieces are first-rate works of trending artists.

British-born to Ghanian parents, Lynette Yiadom-Baokye was a Turner Prize finalist and has a show this summer at New York's New Museum. From the same body of work is The Grains, 2017 (below). Yiadom-Baokye's pictures are imaginary portraits of fictional bohemians. Yiadom-Baokye is also a writer and compares her art to an author's creation of characters.
Genevieve Gaignard had a CAAM show last winter. Here she's represented by two fancy-dress selfies, The Line Up (Green) and (White), 2017.
Before he was famous & repetitious Kehinde Wiley did some portraits owing more to op art than Old Masters. A cell phone photo of Apotheosis of Admiral Vettor Pisani #1 (2003), lent by Eileen Norton, can't suggest the dazzle of the out-of-gamut colors.
Also on view are works by Noah Davis, Lyle Ashton Harris, Titus Kaphar, Patrick Martinez, and Mickalene Thomas. 

Below: Simmons' lobby installation, "Fade to Black," repurposes the titles of 1930s Hollywood race pictures. 

Friday, July 14, 2017

Gustave Courbet, Surf Dude

This beach season two Gustave Courbet seascapes have been placed on loan to L.A. museums. LACMA is showing La Vague (The Wave), c. 1869, a promised gift from Emily and Teddy Greenspan. The Getty Museum recently put on view Marine, Trouville (1865), a loan from the Louis-Dreyfus family collection.

The LACMA painting (top) is one of about 60 pictures of crashing waves that Courbet created in the late 1860s. They anticipate the serialism of Monet. Courbet was drawn to the Normandy coast, a region known for its chalk cliffs and operatic thunderstorms. Though Courbet's motif has been echoed in generations of motel room kitsch, it was radical for its time. The Greenspan painting's leaden sky and sea is evenly bisected by the horizon—a "don't" of academic composition. Some critics saw Courbet's cresting waves as a message to rise up against Napoleon III, whose reign ended in 1870.

 LACMA has no Courbet, so this is a major addition to its 19th-century European collection.

The painting lent to the Getty is brighter, almost a cloud study with its low horizon. It was owned by the late William Louis-Dreyfus, a billionaire financier, gentleman farmer, poet, and social activist who is now inevitably identified as the father of Julia Louis-Dreyfus. William's eclectic art collection is to be sold off to benefit the Harlem Children's Zone.

Short story writer Guy de Maupassant visited Courbet at Etretat (likely site of the LACMA painting), supplying this classic description:

"In a huge, empty room, a fat, dirty, greasy man was slapping white paint on a blank canvas with a kitchen knife. From time to time he would press his face against the window and look out at the storm. The sea came so close that it seemed to batter the house and completely envelope it in its foam and roar. The salty water beat against the windowpanes like hail, and ran down the walls. On his mantelpiece was a bottle of cider next to a half-filled glass. Now and then, Courbet would take a few swigs, and then return to his work."

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Misplaced Empathy in Malibu

What's is the right way to show a Mike Kelley Empathy Displacement? Two are currently on view, one at Pepperdine's Weisman Museum and another at UCLA's Hammer.

Empathy Displacement consists of a vernacular rag doll in a black "coffin" and Kelley's black-and-white painting of the doll. At MOCA's 2014 retrospective, a group of Empathy's were installed the way the Hammer has its version (right). The painting is propped flush against the wall, its lower edge on the floor. There's a little space between the coffin and the painting.

The Weisman has hung its painting on the wall, like a regular painting. Maybe they followed the rule that the eyes of portrait should meet the viewer's. As a bonus, the Weisman scheme leaves easy access to an electric outlet.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Martha Stewart & Ted Kaczynski: Stranger Than Fiction

A marquee work of LACMA's "Home—So Different, So Appealing" is Daniel Joseph Martinez's The House America Built (2004-2017). It is a replica of Ted Kaczynski's Unabomber cabin, painted at each showing in the latest Martha Stewart palette. Martinez drew on "stranger than fiction" coincidences between math genius/madman Kaczynski and corrupt lifestyle maven Stewart.

• Both were second-generation Polish-Americans.

• Both leveraged talent, hard work, and white privilege to achieve success.

• Both did something illegal (sending mail bombs; insider trading) and were in Federal prison at the same time.

Kaczynski was caught in part because of an "obsession with wood." His bombs contained tree branches or bark; two of his victims had "wood" in their names, and another was a lobbyist for forestry interests. Stewart: "Bringing the rustic, earthy quality of wood grain into your home can add interest and texture to a variety of furniture pieces and accents."

The Martinez sculpture, of plywood, also references Gordon Matta-Clark's 1974 Splitting. With its up-to-date palette, it is a metaphor for a nation split in two. The house America built is the House of Usher (and it was the crack in Roderick Usher's ancestral home that inspired the livid scar of Captain Ahab…)

Thursday, July 6, 2017

LACMA Makes Kickstarter Goal for NuMu

About 14 hours short of the deadline, LACMA has met its Kickstarter goal of raising $75,000 to bring a replica of Guatemala City's mini-contemporary art museum, NuMu, to Los Angeles this fall.

Coincidentally, today's Washington Post has an informative piece on the economics of museum crowdsourcing. It focuses on two Smithsonian Kickstarter campaigns to raise funds for conservation of Neil Armstrong's space suit and a pair of the Wizard of Oz ruby slippers.

It costs money to raise money, even online. Kickstarter takes a cut of everything raised. The museum needs someone to craft a worthy webpage and is expected to offer pledge-drive swag like T-shirts and tote bags. The Smithsonian campaigns had about 38 percent "overhead," leaving 62 percent for the cause.

The Post quotes Stanford's Lucy Bernholz on crowdfunding: "A lot of organizations get excited because they think it's cheap and easy. Cross that out. It's neither cheap nor easy."

UPDATE: The final amount raised was $78,348 from 493 backers. That's an average of $159 each. In comparisons a LACMA admission is $15, and an individual membership is $60.