William Poundstone
William Poundstone on Art and Chaos

William Poundstone’s Los Angeles County Museum on Fire

L.A. Fall Preview

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Los Angeles’ fall museum season will survey the Silk Road and the Sepik River; feminism and fame; medieval England and Renaissance faces.

The Huntington plans to unveil its refurbished Library gallery, the institution’s museum of books and letters and ideas, on Nov. 9. In this rethinking, the Gutenberg Bible and Canterbury Tales will share space with a selection of letters by pioneering feminist Susan B. Anthony.

The Huntington is also presenting two ambitious loan shows, “Juniper Serra and the Legacies of the California Missions” (through Jan. 6, 2014) and “Face to Face: Flanders, Florence, and Renaissance Painting” (Sept. 28-Jan. 13, 2014). The latter will reunite the greatest Northern Renaissance Painting in the West—Rogier van der Weyden’s Virgin and Child—with its original companion, a Portrait of Philippe de Croy now in Antwerp (top of post). With 29 paintings and six manuscript illuminations, “Face to Face” will boast works by Jan van Eyck, Hans Memling, Domenico Ghirlandaio, and Pietro Perugino. Not many of the world’s great museums will be topping that line-up this fall.

Also at the Huntington, a focus show will explore the conservation of Sargent Claude Johnson’s 22-foot-long carved redwood relief, created in 1937 and acquired in 2011 (Oct. 12-Jan. 20, 2013). Next summer it will anchor an expanded Virginia Steele Scott Galleries of American Art.

Following up Ken Price, Frank Gehry has designed the installation of LACMA’s marquee fall show, “Calder and Abstraction: From Avant-Garde to Iconic”  (Nov. 24-July 27, 2014). At left is a Calder mobile to be shown.

LACMA is also offering “John Divola: As Far as I Could Get” (Oct. 6-Feb. 2, 2014), part of a three-museum Divola celebration (along with the Santa Barbara and Pomona College’s art museums); “See the Light—Photography, Perception, Cognition” (Oct. 27-March 23, 2014), a selection from the Vernon collection that sounds like a perfect amuse-bouche to the long-running James Turrell show; and “Four Abstract Classicists,” an encapsulation of the 1959 show that put West Coast hard-edge abstraction on the map (Dec. 22-June 22, 2014).

The original “Four Abstract Classicists” was held in Exhibition Park at what we now call the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County. That institution’s renovation culminates Dec. 22 with the opening of a new temporary exhibition space, showing “Traveling the Silk Road: Ancient Pathway to the Modern World.” The exhibition has itself travelled between the West and Asia since its 2009 opening at New York’s American Museum of Natural History.

The UCLA Hammer Museum will feature its second Robert Gober-curated show of a mid-American visionary (after 2009’s Charles Burchfield)—“Forrest Bess: Seeing Things Invisible” (Sept. 29-Jan. 5, 2014). Above is an untitled 1957 Bess painting that mixes up minimalism and juicy anatomy as no contemporary would have dreamed.

The UCLA Fowler Museum will celebrate its 50th anniversary with eight small exhibitions highlighting strong suits of the permanent collection (Oct. 13-Feb. 23, 2014). Pictured is a painted panel to be shown in “From the Sepik River to Los Angeles: Art in Migration.”

MOCA has “Recent Acquisitions and Works from the Collection” (Grand Avenue, Oct. 5-Jan. 12, 2014) and “Bob Mizer & Tom of Finland” (Pacific Design Center, Nov. 2-Jan. 26, 2014).

The Getty Center will show the apex of Romanesque England in “Canterbury and St. Albans: Treasures from Church and Cloister” (Sept. 20-Feb. 2, 2014). Restoration work has coincidentally made available six stained glass panels from Canterbury Cathedral (of Canterbury Tales fame) and the illuminated pages of the St. Albans Psalter (temporarily disbound, with one leaf at left). The 12th-century Psalter is now owned by the church of St. Godehard in Hildesheim, Germany.

The Getty Research Institute is to debut its expanded (more than tripled) exhibition space with “Connecting Seas” (Nov. 26-Apr. 13, 2014), tracing the way that old Europe depicted the good old/bad old days of global exploration. Maps, books, prints, and photos from the 16th to 21st century represent Africa, Asia, and South America.

The Getty Villa will extend its string of hard-to-believe loans with “The Cyrus Cylinder and Ancient Persia: A New Beginning” (Oct. 2- Dec. 2) and “Tiberius: Portrait of an Emperor” (Oct. 16-March 3, 2014).

At the Santa Monica Museum of Art is “Snow: Yukata Sone and Benjamin Weissman” (Nov. 16-Apr. 5, 2014). Paul McCarthy introduced the artist and artist-writer, who first met at Mammoth Mountain. This sparked “a shared mythology based on their mutual passion for snow.” The exhibition will include an “animatronic ski mountain, complete with roving chair lifts and whimsical skiing characters.”

“Fame,” the first collaboration of the El Segundo Museum of Art and the Wende Museum, must also be the first group show to present Jean-Michel Basquiat alongside Neil Armstrong. Opening at ESMoA Sept. 8, it will have “a roller-coaster floor” simulating the ups and downs of celebrity. The Wende is lending the hunting outfit of East German leader Erich Honecker. From the Wikipedia entry: “It is claimed that Honecker was addicted to hunting and was directly involved in the over-hunting of a number of native game species. Such was his passion that animals bred and reared in neighbouring communist countries had to be supplied for his regular hunting parties.”

Below, and out of the late Führer’s cross-hairs, are taxidermy specimens from NHMLA’s “Traveling the Silk Road.”

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