Recent Acquisitions at MOCA

MOCA Grand Avenue is doing three simultaneous shows of recent acquisitions. One is the first full display of Dorothy and Herbert Vogel’s 2005 gift of minimalist and conceptualist works on paper. Another samples from Laurence A. Rickels’ 2011 donation of 122 pieces by L.A. artists of the 1990s. Together they demonstrate that you don’t have to be a billionaire to collect museum-worthy art.

Though it helps. The marquee exhibition, “MOCA’s Permanent Collection: A Selection of Recent Acquisitions” debuts star objects added in the past two years. Most are due to very wealthy supporters of the museum. Yayoi Kusama‘s Pumpkin Chess (2003), the trippy highlight of last fall’s show of artists’ chess sets in London, is a gift of the Getty Trust. The Getty generally doesn’t donate art to other museums, and their foray into chess ended with Barry Munitz. Right?

At MOCA the same room has mural-scaled tableaux by Cai Guo-Qiang (Desire for Zero Gravity) and Elliott Hundley (The Lightning’s Bride) and an Aaron Curry sculpture, Pierced Line (Brown Goblinoid). Don’t go by the above photo, or by the supposition that Curry is a retro cocktail of Calder/Noguchi/Smith with a twist of street-art relevance. You need to walk around Pierced Line to appreciate how freaky-strange it is. Curry won LACMA’s Art Here and Now purchase award in 2009, and it appears that LACMA came close to buying Pierced Line.

The display of trophies must be intended to reassure any who fear the recent bad press has doomed MOCA’s collecting mission. It’s less clear how many objects were added post-Schimmelgate, or whether it would have practical to schedule them for this show.

The most important work historically is a sort of tribute to Paul Schimmel, Mike Kelley’s The Little Girl’s Room, a gift of the artist. (It wasn’t on view at the Sunday opening.) The Little Girl’s Room was Kelley’s first installation conceived as a stage set for a performance, and thus a nexus in the commingling of sculpture and performance.

A few acquisitions might be said to exemplify the glam-rock stereotype of Deitch taste. Others play against type. There’s a painting by the profoundly trend-averse Tom Wudl, an artist that, you might think, MOCA never knew existed. (At right, Wudl’s The Sublime Interpenetration of Ignorance & Perfection.)

For a glitzier take on ignorance and perfection, high art and Hollywood, see Francesco Vezzoli’s Crying Portrait of Tatjana Patitz as a Renaissance Madonna with Holy Child (After Raffaello). It’s one of a group of portraits of actors-models-whatevers in Cinquecento drag. German-born and Malibu-resident Patitz, the pre-Heidi Klum consort of Seal, weeps streams of embroidered tears.

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