How's That Narrative Art Thing Coming?
Paris has a museum of narrative art called the Louvre. Los Angeles is about to get one called the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art.
|Doug Chiang, Podrace Crash, a production painting for Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace. (c) and TM Lucasfilms Ltd.|
The collection is still a confusing grab bag. Acquisitions include a Greek black-figure amphora, c. 530 BC, and photographs by canonical modernists like Walker Evans (below, Billboard Painters, Florida [#9], c. 1934).
I can see having a painted Greek vase near a gallery entrance, to remind visitors that there's nothing new under the sun. It's hard to imagine the point of building a collection of arguably "narrative" photography, when there are so many other museum collections of photography.
The Lucas website slots the collection into three categories: narrative art, the art of cinema, and digital art. Apparently they're collecting digital art as a bridge between hand-drawn illustration and movie digital effects. But some of the digital works are really, really awful.
Lately the Lucas has been adding 3D-printed sculpture, such as Joshua Harker's Anatomica di Revolutis and Barry X. Ball's Perfect Forms (2010-13). I find these more interesting—well, less mortifying—than Purplelicious. The Harker is a tattoo/Day of the Dead aesthetic rendered in 3D.
The Ball copies Umberto Boccioni's 1913 Unique Forms of Continuity in Space. Which is to say it copies Sherrie Levine.
The Lucas also has digital works by much better-known artists. David Hockney's iPad drawing The Arrival of Spring in Woldgate, East Yorkshire in 2011–14 April and Roxy Paine's digital sculpture S2 P2 MAR 1 are the the sort of works any art museum might collect. For that very reason their significance at the Lucas is debatable.
Hardly anyone now in art school will create works that won't entail digital technology at some stage of their conception, creation, or dissemination. This would undercut the apparent Lucas premise that digital art is different and uniquely connected to the digital F/X of movies.
The Lucas is trying to legitimize the art its founder feels most deeply about, by connecting it to the art that conventional museums show. Better to celebrate the disruptive difference of the Lucas mission.It was recently reported that the Lucas has acquired original work by graphic novelist Alison Bechdel, of Fun Home (2006) fame. Hand-drawn pages from Fun Home and Dykes to Watch Out For (1983) might supply a cranberry counterpoint to the Rockwell herb stuffing. (It's interesting to think what Bechdel might have made of the Rockwell family. Norman's wife Mary was on tranquilizers, had a nervous breakdown, and committed suicide with booze and pills. We've all got a fun home.)
"at a minimum" is being mentioned. That would double Eli Broad's 2015 promise for his museum. The Lucas will have the resources to become almost any kind of museum it wants. It just has to decide what it wants. There is an alt-art history awaiting its Louvre.
(Below, from the Lucas collection: Winsor McCay's uncannily topical cartoon of GOP Indecision & Weak Will; a c. 1940 precursor of Norman Rockwell's civil rights-era race pictures, Proud Possessor; part of an Al Capp Li'l Abner drawing; a Syd Mead sketch for Blade Runner.)