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Posts Tagged ‘Hammer Museum’

Marble? Marlboro?

Gabriel Kuri’s untitled cig butts/carrara white HM01, in “Made in L.A. 2014,” appears to goof on the Carrara marble façade that Armand Hammer (via architect Edward Larrabee Barnes) used to lend legitimacy to Hammer’s vanity museum. Hammer is credited with opening the Soviet market to American corporations such as Philip Morris, and brands such as Marlboro were “very well received by the Soviet people.”

Kickstarter Potato Salad Museum… Anybody?

You’ve probably heard about that guy who’s using Kickstarter to fund potato salad. I was reminded of him while reading Los Angeles Downtown News article on the Old Bank District Museum that real estate developers Tom Gilmore and Jerri Perrone are planning for Fourth and Main. Gilmore puts the “early price tag” at $25-$35 million and foresees a nonprofit to raise that and “additional funds.”

The article doesn’t do much to explain why we need another contemporary art museum downtown, or to counter a perception of flakiness. It says the museum would focus on downtown L.A. artists. Gilmore “anticipates showing” Robert Reynolds and Tod Lychkoff. “This is going to be one wacky museum,” he says. He also describes it as a “non-museum museum.”

Don’t get me wrong: I like wacky non-museums. Alice Könitz’s Los Angeles Museum of Art is a star of the Hammer’s “Made in L.A. 2014.” Everybody loves the Museum of Jurassic Technology, the El Segundo Museum of Art, etc. But the Fourth and Main project is sounding more like a Kickstarter vanity museum, an idea its promoters are tossing out in the hope that viral mobs, or one kindly gazillionaire, will fund.

“Basically I’m just making potato salad,” runs Potato Salad Guy’s Kickstarter plea. ”I haven’t decided what kind yet.” He asked for $10. So far he’s raised $50,053.

America’s Most Pervy

Days after the Hammer Museum’s “Made in L.A. 2014″ opened, American Apparel ousted its CEO Dov Charney for “alleged misconduct” including sexual harassment. All of a sudden, American Apparel was a troubled brand and the outspoken Charney was the new Donald Sterling. That was awkward for the Hammer because it had partnered with American Apparel to create a generally well-received line of “Made in L.A.” clothing and gear, some designed by the biennial’s artists.

Who is Dov Charney? Jezebel has an instructive run-down on the “sketchy, scandalous history” of American Apparel’s “pervy madman CEO.” A few bullet points:

• Charney took business meetings wearing nothing but “a garment described as a ‘cock sock.’”

• Charney had a policy of not hiring those who weren’t good looking (“off-brand”). His directive for hiring black women: “none of the trashy kind… try to find some of these classy black girls, with nice hair, you know?”

• “Masturbation in front of women is underrated,” Charney told a Jane magazine journalist (he had masturbated during the interview).

• Here’s a distinction: Charney was sued by a barely legal sex partner and by Woody Allen. Charney had used an Annie Hall still on American Apparel billboards, without bothering to get permission.

The largest harassment lawsuit, for $260 million, was filed by former American Apparel employee Irene Morales, who said that Charney ”dragged her to the bedroom, threw her on the bed, got on top of her and forced her to perform another act of fellatio, nearly suffocating her in the process.”

Hey, did you know that “Made in L.A.” is the first biennial with more women artists than men?

If a screenwriter conceived Dov Charney and his cock sock for Horrible Bosses 3D, nobody would believe it. Is it possible, then, that Dov Charney is a performance-art sock puppet, a walking embodiment of white male privilege, created by… Joe Scanlan?

On second thought, I’m betting he’s an invention of the Yams Collective.

Why Summer Tourists Should Head West

This summer millions of American and overseas visitors will flock to the big museums of the Eastern seaboard. There they will see unparalleled permanent collections and fewer intelligent loan exhibitions than are currently on view in Los Angeles. (Shown, Mike Kelley’s “The Territorial Hound,” part of the MOCA retrospective.)

L.A. has two sprawling shows that could serve as primers of contemporary art—MOCA’s “Mike Kelley” and the Hammer’s “Made in L.A.” Then there are three big exhibitions of classic modernism: “Calder and Abstraction” and “Expressionism in Germany and France” at LACMA and “The Scandalous Art of James Ensor” at the Getty Center. Two shows present hard-to-arrange loans of iconic treasures from centuries past: “Heaven and Earth: Art of Byzantium” at the Getty Villa and “Chinese Paintings from Japanese Collections” at LACMA. A third such show, “Treasures from Korea: Arts and Culture of the Joseon Dynasty, 1392-1910″ opens this Sunday. For a week–until “Chinese Paintings” closes on July 6—L.A. museums will have eight shows of international distinction running simultaneously.

In New York, the marquee attraction is “Jeff Koons,” opening tomorrow at the Whitney. (Left, Split Rocker.) It will join three big retrospectives of contemporary artists (Sigmar Polk and Lygia Clark at MoMA, Ai Weiwei at Brooklyn). There’s Italian Futurism at the Guggenheim and “Lost Kingdoms: Hindu Buddhist Sculpture” at the Met. Count the Met’s fashion show, on Charles James, and that’s seven major exhibitions in New York. IMHO, not only does L.A. have more first-rate exhibitions but they’re less predictable and more relevant.

In D.C., the National Gallery of Art has the predictable crowd-pleaser “Degas/Cassatt.” The Freer/Sackler has a mid-sized show on James McNeill Whistler and the Thames. The Hirshhorn is partly closed for construction.

There are fine small shows in Boston and Philadelphia, though not at this level of ambition. The summer’s biggest tourist magnet in Philadelphia is Vermeer’s worst(?) painting—the Young Woman Seated at a Virginal, below. (The singleton loan to see is in New York, Parmigianino’s Schiava Turca at the Frick Collection.)

Patrons of East Coast museums leave town when the tourists arrive. That’s probably why Eastern museums focus more on a fall-winter season. Maybe some of those summer tourists should try L.A. instead?

Quantum Pataphysics at the Hammer

One slice of gallery 4 in the UCLA Hammer Museum’s “Made in L.A. 2014″ is about absurdist science with metaphysical dimensions. The artists are Channing Hansen and Devin Kenny, and they differ from each other by at least one standard deviation of the “Made in L.A.” artists.

Hansen teaches the history of science and chaos theory(!)  at Chinatown’s super-cool Mountain School of Arts. He creates “quantum paintings” that, in plain language, are Koogi sweaters woven by spiders on LSD and presented on painting stretchers. Though they look hippie-intuitive, every missed stitch has been dictated by an algorithm that Hansen hand-coded. At top is a small detail of Square Root of Distraction; at right, 42.

Hansen’s paintings fall into a class of philosophical textile art along with the Wertheim sisters’ Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef. Knitters use one-dimensional yarn to create two- and three-dimensional reality. There is at least a superficial parallel to the string theory of physicists, a quixotic attempt to weave the tangible universe out of 11-dimensional strings.

Adjacent to the Hansens is a selection of hardware and software hacks by Devin Kenny. Turn Down for What is a digital clock powered by an energy drink. Aahs, sad feels is a chocolate fondue fountain dripping with magnets and homemade ferrofluid. Several works involve magnets, which our digital age has invested with the godlike power of creating and destroying 1s and 0s. Kenny’s Upper Echelon comes with a label warning pacemaker wearers to stand at least 5 cm. (2 inches) away.

The Hammer’s New Website

Go figure—many a gastropub has a better-looking website than major art museums do. The UCLA Hammer Museum has debuted a new and improved website. Besides a look-and-feel upgrade, the site has  thoughtful touches throughout. One is that the top banner gives the admission price (free) and the current day’s hours. These two basic facts are probably what most museum website visitors want to know, and they’re often buried under menus and submenus. Another banner gives the day’s public programs. Rocket science this ain’t, yet it seems to be beyond the coding skills of some museum web masters.

Of course the site is above all about art—about the “Made in L.A. 2014″ artists, the collection, and upcoming exhibitions. Whatever your take on Whitney v. Hammer biennial 2014, the Hammer website makes the Whitney’s look like 2004.

The Hammer site has menus for its restaurant, links to L.A., Santa Monica, and Culver City bus lines, parking information, and a map of where to go if the museum garage is full. A “Support” link has an info-graphic on where the Hammer gets its money (no longer from admission fees) and how it spends it.

Upcoming Hammer exhibitions include the MoMA-organized Robert Heinecken and three-city Jim Hodges shows. Both open at the Hammer Oct. 5, 2014.

Among the Hammer’s recent acquisitions is this c. 1962 drawing of a “numbers creature” by Chicago’s Monster Roster artist Dominick Di Meo.

Why Isn’t Every Museum an Artist’s Museum?

John Baldessari, Barbara Kruger, and Catherine Opie have rejoined the MOCA board, along with Mark Grotjahn. That brings the number of artist-trustees back to four.

I’ve never understood why the artist-trustee concept hasn’t been more widely adopted—what’s not to like? The Hammer Museum has an Artist Council of 15 artists, plus Kruger and Lari Pittman on the Board of Overseers, and Frank Gehry on the Board of Directors. SFMOMA has Ed Ruscha (he’s MOCA-board diaspora, of course). But artists of this stature are rarely found on museum boards outside of California.

(Shown, Grotjahn’s 1997 Untitled [three-tiered perspective] from MOCA’s collection.)

The Biggest Little Museum in L.A.

Here’s one sign of the times: The artist line-up for the Hammer Museum’s “Made in L.A. 2014″ includes two museums and one radio station. KCHUNG is the real deal, 1630 on your AM dial. The museums need qualification: They’re the Los Angeles Museum of Art (not your mother’s LACMA, in Eagle Rock) and the Public Fiction collective (in Highland Park, one avatar being the Museum of Public Fiction). The Hammer biennial’s embrace of what curator Michael Ned Holte is calling “micro-institutions” acknowledges a subterranean current of L.A. art. Call it institutional critiques masquerading as actual institutions. (Above is the Los Angeles Museum of Art, in its entirety, showing Stephanie Taylor’s 2013 installation Three Samoan Proverbs.)

The Museum of Jurassic Technology must be the nexus of this meme. David and Diana Wilson don’t break the fourth wall and out MJT as fiction or art. LAMOA and Public Fiction are in a sense more earnest. In plain artspeak, they’re alternative spaces.

The Los Angeles Museum of Art is run by German-born, Cal Arts-trained Alice Könitz out of her industrial-park studio in Eagle Rock. It’s the Twitter of museums. Artists are constrained to work in a rectilinear framework measuring 13 feet wide at largest dimension. The given architecture evokes bungalow, gazebo, tea room, car port, containerized storage unit, and A-Z living unit. The corrugated roof is early Frank Gehry, while the exhibition program subverts the Bilbao dictum that mega-spaces inspire mega-art.

Maybe that dictum is a guy thing. Since its 2012 opening, LAMOA has shown five artists, four of them female. The three one-woman-show-a-year average compares favorably to some of the larger institutions.

When a show is up, LAMOA is open Sundays, 1 to 5, at 4328 Eagle Rock Blvd. A Violet Hopkins installation opens Feb. 23, with opening day hours of 3 to 6. The Hammer’s “Made in L.A.” opens June 15.

Eugène Grasset’s Female Trouble

The Hammer Museum is showing a promised gift to UCLA’s Grunwald Center that ranks with its most important ever: the Elizabeth Dean collection of 900 fin de siècle Parisian prints. “Tea and Morphine: Women in Paris, 1880 to 1914″ surveys the period’s big names—Cassatt, Bonnard, Redon, Toulouse Lautrec—along with the second and third tiers.

The most engaging second-stringer must be Eugène Grasset. A Hammer brochure nominates Grasset’s Morphinomane (1897, at top) as “the most shocking image of the late nineteenth century…at least as disturbing as Edvard Munch’s Scream series…” Grasset’s morphine addict/prostitute is edgy thematically and stylistically. The mottled yellow wall at lower left verges on the cellular Sam Francis of a much later Paris.

Grasset was a Swiss-born Parisian who tried just about everything, from painting to designing jewelry. He found his metier in lithographic posters and prints and had some success in the American market. Grassat did a cover for Harper’s magazine, and Tiffany translated one of his illustrations into stained glass. As that suggests he was a exponent of feel-good Art Nouveau, with a few notable exceptions.

Grasset’s other shocker is four years earlier than Morphinomane, in a more posterized style. The Acid Thrower references a spate of crimes in which wronged Parisian women threw acid in the faces of rivals or lovers. Grasset’s virago is Margaret Hamilton green, an Addams Family goof on the period’s posters of bright young things clutching glasses of the finest champagne. But there’s nothing funny about those eyes.

Though Grasset lacked Munch’s genius, his interest in the private agonies of women is notable. Munch’s lone women are heavy-lidded, orgasmic Madonnas. His pictures of women and men together—dancing at a ball, or a feeding on a male vein—are about how women make men feel.

There is an odd connection between The Scream and The Acid Thrower. The August 27, 1883, volcanic eruption of Krakatoa threw clouds of dust into the air, creating blood-streaked twilights around the globe for as much as year afterward. The earliest version of The Scream is from 1893, a decade later, and The Acid Thrower is from 1894. Some historians have argued that Munch drew on memories of the Krakatoa sunsets. Allowing for the difference in media and technique, The Acid Thrower’s fantastic cloudscape seems comparable.

Scream inspired the most meta of pop film franchises. More relevant to Grasset is John Waters’ 1974 Female Trouble, in which an aesthete-villainess throws acid in the face of poor Dawn Davenport (Divine). Embodying the worst of all possible genders, Divine turns assassin, asking her victims, “Who wants to die for art?”

Free Admission (and Candy) Draw Hammer Crowds

The UCLA Hammer Museum drew crowds on Sunday, the first day of its free-admission policy. It was also the opening day of the appropriation/instititutional critique show “Take It or Leave It: Institution, Image, Ideology.” (Which, for the record, also offered free candy, via Felix Gonzalez-Torres. Just keep your hands off the Nayland Blake gingerbread house.)

It’s my unscientific impression that there were several times as many visitors as usual for a Hammer opening day. This was true throughout the museum, even in the permanent gallery of Armand Hammer’s paintings. There was an almost packed house for Kelly Nipper’s Black Forest performance. Videos such Nathaniel Mellors’ The Sophisticated Neanderthal Interview had multiple simultaneous viewers—never a given in the past. There were more families with children (even though accompanied kids had been free under the old policy).

I can’t say whether Sunday’s crowds were a one-time bump or whether attendance might continue to grow as more of the audience learns of the free admission. In any case, the Hammer’s results will be watched closely, as large museums in L.A. and several other cities are studying free admission. (Large museums in New York, not so much.)

Tyler Green wrote in Modern Painters,

“With the exception of tourism-fueled art museums in New York and San Francisco, American museums typically earn only 2 to 4 percent of their operating revenue from general admissions charges. In the year before going free, general admissions brought the [Dallas Museum of Art] $600,000, just 2.6 percent of its $23 million operating budget.

“‘At what point are you going to allow something like 2.5 percent of your revenue to get in the way of mission fulfillment, of serving the fullest potential audience?’ [DMA director Maxwell] Anderson asks.”