William Poundstone
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Posts Tagged ‘MOCA’

Sturtevant’s Blurred Lines

Sturtevant was the first and most relentless appropriationist, making a career out of making close copies of other artists’ work. What are we to make of her art? You won’t find any easy answers in MOCA’s “Sturtevant: Double Trouble,” and Sturtevant herself wasn’t one to supply them. (Above, Elastic Tango, 2010.)

Some Sturtevant facts that may or may not be helpful:

• Sturtevant hated the word “copies.” She insisted her works were “replications.” (Left, her version of Jasper JohnsTarget With Four Faces.)

• Sturtevant did a full-size painting of a Roy Lichtenstein print, Crying Girl. It’s like the painting Lichtenstein would have made of the image, except that he never did.

• The level of verisimilitude ranges from that of the Basquiat pastiches to the licensed Kehinde Wileys seen in Empire. There are those who marvel at the exactitude of Sturtevant’s simulacra, and the lengths she went to to make them accurate. Others insist that every copy is subtly “off” and that the experience of Sturtevant’s art requires knowing the models well enough to appreciate the off-ness.

• Sturtevant had an good eye. For the most part, she replicated brand-new works by peers who were only beginning to achieve recognition. This is one difference between her art and that of Sherrie Levine, who mostly mined the textbook art of previous generations. (Both Sturtevant and Levine had a thing for Duchamp and Man Ray, though.)

• There is some analogy between Sturtevant and Jorge Luis Borges’ “Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote” (1939). The fictional Menard is a 20th-century French writer who “re-creates” Don Quixote, not as an act of plagiarism but of conceptualism. One interpretation of Sturtevant is that she is a Borgesian character defined by the act of replicating other artists’ art.

• Sturtevant asked Andy Warhol for his silk screen used to print Flowers. Warhol said, sure. This is held as evidence that Warhol “got” Sturtevant. Sturtevant downplayed that reading in an W magazine interview shortly before her death: ““Everyone says, ‘So, Andy really understood!’ Well I don’t think so. I think he didn’t give a fuck. Which is a very big difference, isn’t it?”

Artists Support MOCA With $10 Million Auction

The New York Times is reporting that 35 artists will be donating a single artwork each for an auction to support MOCA’s endowment. The sale, to be held at Sotheby’s New York May 12-13, is to include pieces by board members John Baldessari, Mark Bradford, Mark Grotjahn, Barbara Kruger (above, Untitled [Provenance]), and Catherine Opie; former board member Ed Ruscha; and Sam Durant, Elliott Hundley, Jeff Koons, and Liz Larner. The auction house expects to raise about $10 million minus fees. That would add about 10 percent to the current endowment of $100 million — and take it 1/10 of the way to Philippe Vergne’s goal of $200 million.

Groundhog Day

“Los Angeles is knocking hard on the door of the elite club of art-world cities.”

The Wall Street Journal, Jan. 2, 2015

“The Broad, sharing the Grand Avenue block with the city’s Museum of Contemporary Art and Frank Gehry’s shimmering Walt Disney Concert Hall, is not just a $140 million building. It’s at the core of a cultural boom… Long the center of the movie industry, the region is now becoming a magnet for artists, dancers, musicians and a murderer’s row of museum leaders.”

The Washington Post, Oct. 10, 2014

“We used to always be the wild stepchild out in the desert. Now, we’re being adopted.”

Mark Bradford in the 2014 Post article

“It takes time for these things to evolve. And now we’re there.”

Eli Broad in the Post

“Of course, its abundant light and space have always drawn a certain kind of artist—members of the Light and Space movement, for instance… But now… it seems that everyone, major figures and young guns alike, wants to call L.A. home.”

The New York Times, Aug 19, 2014

“[Mat] Gleason sees L.A. finally coming into its own as a place for world-class collectors to buy art.”

San Gabriel Valley Tribune, Aug. 8, 2014

“Cultural leaders in downtown expressed optimism about the role [the Broad] will play in revitalizing the area. Jeffrey Deitch, director of the Museum of Contemporary Art… said the Broad will be ‘transformative’…”

Los Angeles Times, Jan. 8. 2013

“No one is suggesting that Los Angeles is about to supplant New York as an art capital…”

The New York Times, Oct. 12, 2011

“There is no question that Los Angeles has become the contemporary-art capital of the world.”

—Eli Broad, Dec. 6, 2010, in The New Yorker

“…pomegranate-juice magnates, billionaire museum builders and celebrity-packed boards are turning the city into a world-class art center”

The Wall Street Journal, Oct. 29, 2010

“Los Angeles, a city of suburbs in search of a center… came one step closer to finding one.… Whether a single building, however grandiose [Disney Hall], can transform downtown Los Angeles is an open question.”

The New York Times, Oct. 20, 2003

“The Getty Center should make Angelenos in general feel a little better, in part by making Los Angeles seem more like a real city.… obviously, the Getty Center will enable culturally ambitious citizens to weather the Woody Allen jokes.”

The New Yorker, Sept. 29, 1997

“Q. What’s the difference between Los Angeles and a bowl of yogurt? A. Yogurt has a live culture. Time to pension off that oldie…”

Robert Hughes, Jan. 12, 1987, in Time magazine

“The City of Angels used to be a place where culture feared to tread. But today the traffic slowing down to neck-crane along Wilshire Boulevard is not looking for stars but admiring the shimmering complex of pavilions [LACMA] surrounded by a moatlike reflecting pool of vastly more substance and value than was ever to be seen in a DeMille superset.”

Time magazine, April 2, 1965

(Above: A school group at the early LACMA, viewing Norbert Kricke’s Space Sculpture. Top of post: Jordan Wolfson’s Female Figure.)

The Broad Goes Big

The scaffolding is now off the Broad’s Diller Scofidio + Renfro building. The latest press release says the Grand Avenue museum will have “more than 50,000-square-feet of public gallery space.” That figure has been creeping upward even during construction. It includes the original, column-free space on the third floor (35,000 sf.) plus another 15,000 sf. now planned for the first floor. The building’s total area is 120,000 sf.

Speaking just of public exhibition space: How big is 50,000 square feet? Well, it’s twice the size of the Broad’s neighbor, MOCA Grand Avenue (which claims 24,509 sf. of “actual exhibition space.”) It’s almost as big as the Geffen Contemporary (about 55,000 sf.)

It’s about the size of Renzo Piano’s new Whitney Museum, also opening in 2015 and said to be 50,000 sf. The Whitney will have another 13,000 sf. of outdoor exhibition space. The Broad has a 24,000 sf. public plaza, but it doesn’t sound like art will be displayed there.

The Broad’s exhibition space is between that of LACMA’s Resnick Pavilion (45,000 sf.) and Broad Contemporary Art Museum (about 60,000 sf.) It is half the total size of the immense Hauser Wirth & Schimmel commercial gallery space planned for downtown (100,000 sf.—presumably, most of that for exhibitions.)

(Shown: a rendering of Robert Therrien’s Under the Table on the Broad’s third floor; Gary Leonard’s photo of the Broad as it now looks.)

MOCA’s New Schedule Is Smart and Sensible

MOCA’s 2015/2016 exhibition schedule is a return to real art for real art audiences. A Matthew Barney exhibition, focused on his new RIVER OF FUNDAMENT project, might be considered the flashiest attraction. Shows of William Pope.L, Elaine Sturtevant, and R.H. Quaytman ought to establish MOCA as the artist’s artist museum. (At top, Quaytman’s Point de Gaze, Chapter 23, 2011.)

Not in the mix: the Magdalena Fernandez exhibition that MOCA had scheduled and rescheduled. There’s no budget-busting Jeff Koons, no disco, no Devo.

There is Kendrick Lamar, sort of. MOCA will present Kahlil Joseph’s m.A.A.d, a two-screen hip-hop Fantasia scored to Lamar’s beats (a still at left). True believers in the Deitchian fusion of art and fashion can look forward to Bernhard Willhelm and Jutta Kraus’ “sculptural installation with a fashion sensibility” at MOCA Pacific Design Center.

Has there ever been an major museum’s exhibition schedule not worthy of Guerrilla Girls shaming? MOCA 2015/6 might merit a pass. Of the four single-artist and multiple-object shows, two involve women, and one an African-American. There are no Latinas, but Magdalena Fernandez must have been on the bubble? The L.A. Times reports that exhibitions of Kerry James Marshall and Zoe Leonard are planned for 2017.

The elephant in the calendar is a one-year permanent collection install that will occupy the entire Grand Avenue building from fall 2015 to fall 2016. That must have been motivated by the Deitch-Vergne hairpin turn and a renewed commitment to fiscal discipline. The year-long event will lay out Chief Curator Helen Molesworth’s take on MOCA’s historic collection and its newest art. Above is an untitled Lari Pittman, gift of Peter Morton.

MOCA’s permanent collection display will coincide with the opening of the Broad. Roughly this time next year Grand Avenue will highlight the contemporary wing of the “Greater Museum of Los Angeles”—that museum with too many walls.

Sturtevant, Barney Coming to MOCA

Though it’s still unofficial, two upcoming MOCA exhibitions have been disclosed. Curator Bennett Simpson’s Facebook page and today’s New York Times are saying that MoMA’s “Sturtevant: Double Trouble” will travel to MOCA March 21 to July 27, 2015. And in a New York Observer piece last month collector and former MOCA board member Maria Arena Bell mentioned an upcoming Matthew Barney show. Finally, it may or may not be meaningful that the Magdalena Fernandez exhibition, planned for 2014, then bumped for Warhol’s Shadows and moved up to 2015, is no longer listed on the MOCA site.

(Tyler Green tweeted the Sturtevant news. Above, Sturtevant’s Haring Tag July 15 1981.)

Season of the Witch

One of the remaining distinctions between art museums and theme parks is that museums don’t program around Halloween (much). Still, a couple of witchy acquisitions have been announced this October: Henry’s Fuseli’s The Three Witches at the Huntington and Jordan Wolfson’s slutty android in witch mask for the Broad Art Foundation (below). Another museum-to-be, that of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, is presenting “Hollywood Costume” with the gingham pinafore of film’s most famous witch hunter, Dorothy. But this year’s ultimate Halloween show is  “Cameron: Songs of the Witch Woman” at MOCA Pacific Design Center.

Cameron was not just an artist, mystic, and underground film diva. Her friend Scott Hobbs recalls that Cameron wore black, drove a hearse, and gave interviews as a “witch” to L.A. TV stations on Halloween. I have tried to find Cameron’s video (or newspaper) Halloween interviews online, with no luck. If any reader can find them, let me know and I’ll share them.

Cameron took a feminist-realist attitude to the passing of youth and beauty. She told a friend who’d had plastic surgery: “You can erase the lines, but not the pain!”

(Top of post: Cameron’s Black Egg, a self-portrait. Below, one half of Cameron’s Witch Diptych).

Museum Without Walls

The mythic “Los Angeles County Museum of Contemporary Art,” known only from mentions in East Coast media, makes another appearance in the New York Observer.

“Cameron: Songs for the Witch Woman”

Few figures in the Los Angeles avant garde have such an intriguing life story as that of Marjorie Cameron Parsons Kimmel (1922-1995). Known by one name, Cameron was artist, actor, mentor, muse, and sorceress to L.A.’s beat generation. Interest in Cameron has escalated in recent years, the more so after her inclusion in a couple of Pacific Standard Time exhibitions. It’s been tough to disambiguate her too-colorful biography from her too-little-seen achievement as a visual artist. Is Cameron one of the great L.A. artists, or merely material for a future indie biopic? “Cameron: Songs for the Witch Woman,” at MOCA Pacific Design Center, is the first real attempt to answer that question.

Organized by guest curator Yael Lipschutz, “Cameron” downplays the sex, drugs, and social networks for the art itself. Cameron was above all a draughtsman. Fossil (1958, above), in white ink on black ground, is original, haunting, and unlike anything else in the show.

Cameron’s style was ever-mutating, and her retrospective might easily be mistaken for a group show. At left is Harpocrates, shown as part of a grid of 20 ink drawings of occult, freaky psychedelia. Harpocrates was the child-god of silence. The cropped face must be Cameron’s husband, Jack Parsons, a co-founder of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and follower of Aleister Crowley.

“Cameron”’s most compelling pieces are assemblage-paintings of the late 1950s. Below is an untitled portrait of Crystal (the artist’s daughter, 1959) and Buried Doll (1955). These explore entropy, the universal tendency of everything to fall apart. That inconvenient truth is the nexus of mysticism, religion, and philosophy. In such works Cameron’s art connects most directly to that of her more-famous mentorees George Herms and Wallace Berman. If Berman was the father of California assemblage, Cameron was its godmother.

MOCA gives pride of place to a painting, Aleister Crowley’s Guardian Angel. The clean, illustrational style strikes me as rather dull. It is a reminder that, like Hilma af Klint, Cameron was often transcribing mystic visions more or less literally.

Perhaps in that category is a tiny portrait of an E.T.-unicorn. The title, Alien Assemblage, seems to tweak the California Assemblage movement that Cameron helped foster. In its vintage frame it is poised between a very weird Cornell box and decor for a hipster hotel. Another artist might have made a series of such things; with Cameron it was one-off.

Actually, it’s hard to make sweeping statements about Cameron’s oeuvre. Much of her work is lost or at least misplaced. The MOCA exhibition begins with Curtis Harrington’s 1955 film portrait of Cameron and her art, The Wormwood Star. All the artworks in the film are lost except for Buried Doll. It’s said that acquaintances and fans took much of her art and memorabilia after the artist’s death.

Had Cameron attended art school in this century, she would have been told to promote, promote, promote her career. She had but one single-artist exhibition in her lifetime, at the Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery in 1989 (the year she turned 67).

It’s all the more notable then that MOCA director Philippe Vergne is a Cameron fanboy. He’s written a foreword to the show’s forthcoming slim (88-page) catalog. A Vergne quote in the MOCA press release puts the pro-Cameron case well:

“Cameron has opened many doors that continue to intrigue and inspire generations of artists. Her hallucinated vision, at the edge of surrealism and psychedelia embodies an aspect of modernity that deeply doubts and defies cartesian logic at a moment in history when these values have shown their own limitations. Her work demonstrates that the space in the mind is without limit.”

James Franco Is “Only 5% of What I Did”

Jeffrey Deitch has two new books out. One can double as a place setting, and the other is about MOCA. The MOCA Index is not a tell-all—it’s a self-published collection of photographs of Deitch’s MOCA exhibitions. For words, you’ll have to settle for some recent interviews.

On MOCA: “I walked into a hornet’s nest.” That quote appears in ArtNews (Sept. 23) and in The New York Times (Oct. 2),  which repeats “Hornet’s Nest” in the article’s title.

On celebrity shows: “… from reading press reports, people would think the only thing I did there was a show with James Franco. And the show we did with James Franco was in fact very interesting! But it’s only five percent of what I did.” (ArtNews)

On disco: “The disco show is still a show I’d like to do. I wish I could have done it then, but I think it’s OK for me to wait a while.” (ArtNews)

On Deitch Projects L.A.(?!): “If I had continued the gallery into the next decade… I would have had to have a London gallery, and a Los Angeles gallery. Rather than making this massive investment, I decided to go in a different direction. I can do business with a big collector in London without having a building that cost me millions in overhead.” (NYT)

(Above left: Martin Kippenberger’s Disco Bomb [1989] in the MOCA collection, gift of Christopher Wool.)