OUTSIDERS, 3-D AND MORE AT LACMA
After losing most of the fall season of plays and art openings due to a lengthy hospitalization, I was privileged to visit Los Angeles County Museum of Art, which has a multitude of unique exhibitions on view right now. Though I couldn’t see all of them in one day (now THAT says a lot about our cultural wealth!), the modern and the ancient commingle in the Resnick Pavilion; Rauschenberg reigns on the third floor (a quarter of a mile’s worth of art panels) of the Broad Contemporary Art Museum (BCAM on the LACMA campus); while Outliers and American Vanguard Art takes over the second floor. And there’s 3-D: Double Vision exhibition.
I couldn’t make it through the Resnick Pavilion show, The Jeweled Isle: Art from Sri Lanka, though I did pop my head in to see a monumental wall-sized painting by LA-based artist, Mark Bradford, called 150 Portrait Tone.
This potent piece looks, upon first viewing, to be a bunch of random, sometimes hard to read letters, but read the wall label. This is a representation of the live-streamed Facebook video killing of African-American Philando Castile, an elementary school nutrition supervisor, in July 2016 by a St. Paul, Minnesota policeman, with Castile’s girlfriend Diamond Reynolds, sat in the passenger seat (she did the live-streaming) begging police not to do what they did, and with his child in the backseat,.
The text repeats excerpts of Reynolds’s dialogue from the video. Bradford notes that he was moved by the multiple subjects Reynolds simultaneously addressed and the different spaces they occupied: her boyfriend, Castile, next to her (“stay with me”); the officer outside the car (“please, officer, don’t tell me that you just did this”); God (“Lord, please, Jesus, don’t tell me that he’s gone”); as well as the unknown receiver on the other side of her livestream (“please don’t tell me he just went like that”).
Remember “flesh” colored crayons? Well the color was renamed “peach” in 1962. The color code of the pink acrylic used in the painting is called 150 Portrait Tone and carries assumptions about who is being depicted, about power and representation.
The dark form in the background evokes Castile’s twisted arm and the dark-red bloodstain spread across his white shirt, both visible in the livestream feed.
It is worth sitting on the bench across from the painting to contemplate the many provocative and sad implications of this horrific event.
IT’S A 3-D WORLD
If, like me, when you were a kid you had the Viewmaster 3-D slide viewer, you’ll be fascinated by how 3-dimensional photos, films and paintings came into being. There’s a great historical overview, and some early holograms, a whole bunch of those lovely Viewmaster/Stereoscope viewing stations and devices, and you get to walk around with three different kinds of 3-D glasses!
I sat in the film viewing room for some incredible examples of older and new 3-D technology in movies from the the industry’s earliest times to today. It’s a trippy and fun exhibition and you might even learn a thing or two. This is worth the 20 or so minutes of film clips, especially when hands, butterflies or baseballs appear to pop right out of the screen at you. People actually ducked the baseball!
OUTLIERS AND AMERICAN VANGUARD ART
This is a really insightful show, organized by the National Gallery of Art, that looks at folk art, works by untrained artists as well as now-recognized artists, who when they first created it, stood outside the standard of acceptable, capital A “Art.”
And as we approach the present, there are contemporary examples by such renowned locals as Betye Saar, whose sculptural collages pull together many cultural threads as in her “Sambo’s Banjo.” And there’s the remarkable Cara Walker, whose silhouetted works offer new depth and perspective on African-American history.
During the Great Depression, “outsiders” were brought “inside” as modernism, surrealism and primitivism began breaking down barriers between categories of classic and folk art. Horace Pippin, Janet Sobol, Marsden Hartley and Jacob Lawrence, a towering figure in African American art, came to be considered in some ways more avant-garde than outlier.
Some of the better known “folk” artists are featured including Howard Finster, a preacher who turned to really dense paintings with text to share his religious fervor. And, a little bit on the creepy side, Henry Darger specialized in large scale paintings of lots of little girls, many of whom remind me of the classic “Morton Salt” image of a little girl holding an umbrella. And do not miss Rosie Lee Tompkins amazing quilts.
I was really taken by this exhibition. I hope you’ll find some time to see it before it closes March 17. You can take days to see everything at LACMA, we’re very lucky to have such an eclectic range of art and artifacts all in one place.
Visit www.lacma.org for more info.
Sarah A. Spitz is an award-winning public radio producer, now retired from KCRW, where she also produced arts stories for NPR. She writes features and reviews for various print and online publications.