"Drawing Down the Moon" at the Hammer

Francesca Gabbiani, Phosflorescence IV, 2021
Movies have cat scares, and museums have cat shows. In that now-familiar exhibition genre, a simple, one-word idea (e.g., cats) is used as a pretext to mine the storerooms for images of or relating to same, juxtaposing media, cultures, and epochs. As organized by Allegra Pesenti, former chief curator of UCLA's Grunwald Center, "Drawing Down the Moon" both fits that template and transcends it. Yes, it's effigies of the moon, including paintings, sculptures, photographs, engravings, woodblock prints, drawings, illuminated manuscripts, an astrolabe, a Korean moon jar, and a video (with unfortunately invasive soundtrack). But it's not limited to the Grunwald and Hammer Contemporary collections. There are numerous loans, some major, from local institutions ranging from the Broad to Los Feliz's mysterious Philosophical Research Society. The show resonates mainly because of the sense that the moon is not such an arbitrary theme after all. As a celestial hard-edge abstraction visible around the globe, the moon has become a trans-cultural paradigm for the cosmic, mystic, and numinous.
Edvard Munch, Meerslandschaft (Seascape), 1899. LACMA
Vassily Kandinsky, Heavy Circles, 1927. Norton Simon Museum
The Norton Simon Museum has lent Heavy Circles, the greatest Kandinsky west of the Guggenheim. It's an abstraction but also recognizably lunar/planetary, and well demonstrates the role of the moon in the history of modernism. Loans from LACMA, the Getty, and MOCA connect dots to the Islamic roots of European science, Romanticism, and the cosmic in contemporary art.
Muhammad ibn 'Abd al-'Aziz al Khama'iri, Astrolabe, 1226-27. LACMA
Caspar David Friedrich, A Walk at Dusk, about 1830-35. Getty Museum
Laura Owens, untitled, 2000. MOCA
Hans Arp, Evocation of a form: Human, lunar, spectral, 1950. Franklin D. Murphy Sculpture Garden, UCLA
This impressive Hans Arp was donated to the Franklin Murphy Sculpture Garden by the artist's second wife. It's plaster, so it can't be shown outdoors. 
Norman Lewis, Blue Moon, 1960. UCLA Grunwald Center for the Graphic Arts, Hammer Museum
New to the Grunwald Center collection is Norman Lewis' Blue Moon, an oil on paper auctioned in 2019
Rolph Scarlett, Allegro, about 1944. LACMA
Canadian-born Rolph Scarlett designed Hollywood sets before moving to New York and forging a career as a devoted follower of Kandinsky. Baroness Hill Rebay deemed Scarlett a genius, and Solomon Guggenheim collected over 60 Scarlett works for his New York museum. Few of Scarlett's paintings stand up so well as Allegro, at LACMA.
Helen Lundeberg, Planet, No. 1, 1965. LACMA
Jay DeFeo, Hawk Moon No. 2, 1983-85. Courtesy of the Jay DeFeo Foundation
Jay DeFeo posted a magazine's orbital photo of the moon in her studio. It apparently inspired at least two paintings, one in the show.
Carleton Watkins, Solar Eclipse, January 1, 1880. Getty Museum
Alison Saar, Eclipse, 2017. UCLA Grunwald Center, Hammer Museum
Two of the most artistically famous images of an eclipse are by California artists. Saar said the woman's hair was based on former UC professor Angela Davis.
Hieronymus Wierix, Virgin and Child on a Crescent Moon,  n.d. UCLA Grunwald Center, Hammer Museum
Russell Crotty's Diablo Grande (2007, Hammer Museum) with a Joseon Dynasty Moon Jar (LACMA) at right


You had me at Kandinsky's Circles.

But I'm really loving Russell Crotty's work. I checked for the media of his hanging circles: ink and watercolor or guache on paper on fiberglass sphere. Fascinating.

Pity MoMA doesn't show his "Cassiopeia over Dry Chaparral" of 2004.
Anonymous said…
> Caspar David Friedrich, A Walk at Dusk,
> about 1830-35. Getty Museum

I'd never have guessed that artwork, based on its style, dates back to the early 19th century.

A case of the old being new again. Or is that the new being old again?