Friday, September 22, 2017

Quote of the Day: Stefan Simchowitz

"…if another person asks me to get them a Jen Guidi I think I might just vomit in my bed. This is a message to all you mediocre overly enriched white folks whose lives are an expensive and overpriced crate and barrel commercial, whose love for buying something they can attempt to sell next week for double whilst living the pretense of being a collector on the board of some museum or another whilst further enriching yourselves on the most bland form of art commerce currently known to man, EFF OFF. Just EFF the hell OFF."

"Jennifer Guidi is perfectly positioned to be the Kusama brand, but without the 50 years of creation, and a mental hospital. It’s presented in a box with a bow on it."

(At top, Guidi's Seen in Stillness [Universe Mandala SF #5G Rose, Black Sand], 2017)

Thursday, September 21, 2017

"Rembrandt at 34" Coming to Norton Simon

This winter the National Gallery, London, will lend a famous Rembrandt self-portrait, never before shown in the U.S., to the Norton Simon Museum. Self Portrait at the Age of 34 (1640) shows the artist in Renaissance costume and swagger pose, in homage to Raphael.

The NSM will display it among its own paintings by Rembrandt and his school, including the Simon's own Rembrandt self-portrait of a few years earlier. The London painting will be on view in Pasadena Dec. 8, 2017—Mar. 5, 2018.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

MoMA Plans 2 Charles White Shows, One With Leonardo da Vinci

David Hammons is curating an upcoming MoMA show titled "Charles White—Leonardo da Vinci." It's White's Black Pope (Sandwich Board Man), 1973, paired with a single Leonardo drawing from the British Royal Collection. Hammons studied with White in Los Angeles. The installation runs Oct. 7, 2017—Jan. 1, 2018.

Meanwhile MoMA is organizing a full Charles White retrospective for fall 2018. There was a time when MoMA was not known for its interest in black L.A. artists working in a social realist mode—but maybe that time is past?

Not even Frank Stella got two MoMA shows a year apart.

Monday, September 18, 2017

"Golden Kingdoms" at the Getty

Burial Mask in jade, copper, gilded copper, shell, and violet stone, 525-550. Moche. Museo de Sitio Chan Chan, Huanchaco, Peru. Photo: Christopher B. Donnan
No American city is subverting more art-history hierarchies than Los Angeles this fall season. That starts with the chronologically first PST LA/LA exhibition, the one that might seem the most staidly conventional. "Golden Kingdoms: Luxury and Legacy in the Ancient Americas," at the Getty Center, is a crowd-pleasing "treasures" show of spotlighted objects in darkened galleries. But it's built around paradigm shifts as much as golden plunder.

Indigenous Americans were mystified at the Spaniards' obsession with gold. Meso- and South America was well supplied with the stuff, described as divine excrement. They had silver out the wazoo and, in some regions, platinum (regarded as off-brand silver, difficult to melt). Americans were expert gold workers but they prized green jade over any so-called precious metal; likewise turquoise, textiles, feathers, and sea shells. "Golden Kingdoms" is thus a meditation on the relativity of value. With Bitcoin, Silicon Valley, and a global art market minting money from nothing, its theme is as contemporary as any other PST LA/LA offering's.
Octopus Frontlet in gold, chrysocolla and shells, 300-600 AD. Museo de la Nación, Lima, Peru
Above is a detail of one of the rarest objects in the show, the only surviving example of a royal Inca tunic. Each square motif is concrete art to us, but a heraldic emblem to its original wearer and viewers. Only a king of kings was permitted to wrap himself in a flag of all flags. According to the gallery label, it's a llama-cotton blend "so fine that it feels like silk taffeta."
A word you'll come across a lot is Spondylus. That's the "thorny oyster" described by Linnaeus in 1758 and prized by sea shell fanciers worldwide. Spondylus is found from Tijuana to Peru and Florida to Rio. Our age's fussy collectors and natural history museums insist on complete specimens. The Andean ancients made beads and buttons from Spondylus shell; they valued replicas in downscale media such as terra-cotta and silver. Right of center in the above photo is an orange Spondylus shorn of its trademark thorns and inlaid with turquoise.
A mural-size set of Wari (Peru) Feathered Panels, 600-900 AD invites comparison to the heroic sort of 20th-century abstraction. You need to take Rothko's advice and stand close to appreciate it fully. The overall pattern, a checkerboard of horizontal rectangles, resolves into iridescent feathers of the macaw parrot.
Although "Golden Kingdoms" isn't a sculpture show, there are some major examples showing how crowns and earflares and such were worn. Above is "The Prince," Olmec, 1200-900 BC. The Olmecs transported their basalt sculptures from remote quarries, probably by river raft.
Mesmerizing (but hard to photograph) are two Mayan Flint Scepters with Profile Figures. They refer to the lightning god K'awiil. We might recognize them as fractals, for they incorporate multiple profiles of K'awiil, who takes such jagged forms as his attribute.

"Golden Kingdoms" is one of the Getty's biggest shows ever, with about 300 objects filling every square foot of the Exhibitions Pavilion. For L.A. audiences with even the slightest interest in global antiquity, it easily rivals the Fowler Museum's "Royal Tombs of Sipan" (1993) and LACMA's "Olmec: Colossal Masterworks of Ancient Mexico" (2010).

Richard Meier hates signs the way Tesla drivers hate front license plates. Ever since the Brentwood campus opened, some visitors have had trouble finding the Exhibitions Pavilion, at the top of Meier's pristinely unmarked staircase. That shouldn't be a problem with this show.


Thursday, September 14, 2017

Getty to Show Three Caravaggio Paintings

The Borghese Gallery has announced that it will be lending three of its Caravaggio paintings to the Getty Museum for an exhibition that opens Nov. 21, 2017. All three paintings are famous: Boy with Basket of Fruit (1593-4), Saint Jerome (1606), and David with the Head of Goliath (1606).

The Caravaggio display will overlap the Getty's "Giovanni Bellini: Landscapes of Faith in Renaissance Venice" (Oct. 10, 2017–Jan. 14, 2018). Has any American museum ever managed to have a Caravaggio show and a Bellini show running simultaneously? These aren't even the main event. The Getty's big fall shows, part of PST LA/LA, survey ancient American gold, Brazilian and Argentinian geometric abstraction, and Argentinian photography.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Museum of Ice Cream Baffles Yelp Reviewers

I have noted that some Yelp reviewers don't "get" the Museum of Jurassic Technology. The same can be said of the easier-to-understand Museum of Ice Cream. The pop-up attraction (in L.A. through Oct. 16; opening Sep. 17 in San Francisco) is earning one-star reviews from people who expected something different than what they found. They are not your average curmudgeons, for they somehow succeeded in scoring tickets to a sold-out social-media phenomenon—while remaining unclear on the concept.

"If you are attending for the purpose of education, this isn't the place for you."
—Song L, Westminster

"This place was not a museum at all, but an expensive photo op. They are ripping people off. It was completely ridiculous. The displays were silly and cheap. There was no history"
Lauri C, Scarsdale, NY
"I thought it was gonna be all about ice cream! But it's not!"
—Rebecca H, Industry

"You'll learn just as much about ice cream and it's history (this is a museum, correct?) by walking into Baskin Robbins - that's to say 'nothing'."
—Matt W., New York

"NOT a museum at all.  Not educational..."
—Princess R, Sun Valley
"You will [be] 100% be disappointed. Save hundreds and just pick up an ice cream cone at your favorite ice cream spot."
—Robert  S, Boston

"the capitalist assholes who run this place don't deserve any positive recognition, nor do they deserve a single person's $18 dollars. i have decided to boycott ice cream, my longtime favorite dessert, because of my negative experience here at the museum of ice cream."
—Jaana S. Glen Head, NY

"I think the sprinkle pool gave me a rash."
—Dan O, Brooklyn
(Photos via Yelp, not from the reviewers quoted)

Monday, September 11, 2017

Institute of Contemporary Art Opens

The Institute of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles opened its newly refurbished DTLA space this weekend. About half the 13,000 sq.ft. building, reimagined by Kulapat Yantrasast/wHY, is the main exhibition space, currently showing a Martín Ramírez survey. There is a project room (with installation by Abigail DeVille), an event space, and a cafe fronting the street (not yet open).
Sarah Cain's Now I'm going to tell you everything in the ICA LA courtyard
View of Abigail DeVille's No Space Hidden (Shelter), in ICA LA Project Room
Main exhibition space, showing works by Martín Ramírez
Martín Ramírez. "Martín Ramírez: His Life in Pictures, Another Interpretation" would be a coup in any season. It's a particularly apt PST LA/LA entry, as Ramírez's unusual life exemplifies the border and napantla ("in the middle of it"). Born in Tepatitlán, Jalisco, Ramírez (1895-1963) fled his family and revolutionary violence to work on U.S. railroads. The Depression threw him out of work. Estranged from his family and homeless, he was diagnosed as schizophrenic and spent the rest of his life in California mental hospitals. His art, cobbled from humble materials, has long been compared to Art Nouveau, Bridget Riley, and Henry Darger. Ramirez's hypnotic curves long preceded Riley's Op.
Like Darger Ramírez was first appreciated by the ever-perceptive Chicago Imagists. Many of the works in this exhibition are lent from the collection of Jim Nutt and Gladys Nilsson. 
Martín Ramírez, Horse and Rider with Frieze, collection of Jim Nutt and Gladys Nilsson
In recent years scholars have questioned whether Ramirez was schizophrenic. At the time mental hospitals often functioned as homeless shelters. The ICA exhibition, curated by Elsa Longhauser, attempts to understand Ramírez's art through his biography and Mexican pop culture. The horse and rider was a traditional motif, and it's known that Ramírez rode horses and had a pistol in Jalisco. The trains and tunnels reflect his years working on the railroads. The "Op art" lines must be topographic maps of a kind, reflecting a memoryscape of Southwestern canyons.
Martín Ramírez, Vertical Tunnel with Cars and AUANA CUUA
Freudian interpretations of Ramírez's tunnels and trains are obvious enough. One example is inscribed by the artist "AUANA CUUA." Apparently nonsense, it may be a phonetic spelling of "Havana, Cuba," referring to news reportage of the Cuban missile crisis. That would make it one of the artist's last works. The spiky structures at upper center are similar to those identified in other drawings as galleons. That might link Spanish galleons to the U.S. naval blocade of Cuba. 
The ICA LA show debuts a newly conserved scroll drawing-painting-collage. It's not the most satisfying work here, but it's interesting for its ambition and apparent biographic theme. Reading from left to right, it moves from idyllic animals in a Mexican Eden to a canyon railroad that ultimately disappears, like a Chuck Jones Roadrunner cartoon, into a tunnel that is only painted and which may portend catastrophe.
The benches. Clever gallery seating is becoming a thing. ICA LA's benches plays off Donald Judd's furniture for Marfa, with a nod to De Stijl and Sherrie Levine (the white plywood knots).
The parking. At 1717 Seventh St., ICA LA is towards the southern end of the Arts District. The nearest Metro station (Little Tokyo/Arts District, Gold line) is a 1.2 mile hike. ICA LA exists in a desert of parking lots, but most are private, and ICA does not have any parking of its own. The closest public parking lot is a 7 minute walk away, at 660 Mateo Street. It's reasonably priced ($5). There is some street parking within a few blocks. 

The artists' museum. The roster of artist-patrons exceeds that of MOCA or any other L.A. museum I know of. "Artists for an ICA LA" includes all the "MOCA Four" board members who quit in protest over Jeffrey Deitch's disco show, or something like that, in 2013. 
Street Art. Speaking of Deitch, ICA LA's new address is street art country.