Friday, June 13, 2014

LACMA's World of Color – Expressionism, Mobiles, California, Futbol, and the Metropolis by M.R. Hunter

Bringing together some of the greatest painters of the early 20th century from Bonnard, Cézanne, Gauguin, Marc, Matisse to lesser notable names as Cuno Amiet, Heinrich Campendonk, and Edouard Vuillard along with a smattering of rare pieces by van Gogh into its recent exhibit running through September 14, one can see the fluidity of the expressionist movement and how it related from the work itself to the artists themselves in an open dialogue.

The impressive exhibit follows a semi-chronological/semi-national timeline with the Parisian influence upfront peppered with the German persuasion. It's a glittering array of treasures with an imposing introduction by Vuillard's "A Walk in the Vineyard" cast in pastels with a verdant textile-like foreground. Moving through the period, a maturity and inventive play with color and form underlies the presentation. Flourishes of Impressionism are seen in the earlier French artists from the outset, making way to Fauvisim and Bauhaus evidenced by German artists Kandinsky and Klee.

The culmination of these masters set against or across from one another signifies their intrinsic relationship with each other rooted in their mentorship of van Gogh. The rarer pieces by an artist infamous for selling only one painting in his lifetime are not as striking as his signature work, but they convey an adherence to his startling depictions, balanced with a structural attention to details like his "Arles: View from the Wheat Fields" done with quill pens and brown ink. Portraits, geometric abstractions, still life with varying perspectives, cityscapes and pastoral settings culminate and yet, distinguish each artist apart from van Gogh as the fountainhead who issued it.

Not to be outdone is another exhibit of note, Calder and Abstraction: From Avant-Garde to Iconic in the Resnick Pavilion. The inventor of the mobile, Alexander Calder's thinly wired metal shapes are as delicate as they are dramatically strong, particularly his "Fake Snake" resting on a curvature as the tail swivels in midair. His monochromatic colors of black, white with spots of red (his favorite color was red and he wore a red shirt everyday), suspend in an awe-inspiring configuration, altering its suggestive meaning or its nuance from various directions. His typical mobiles gracefully perch from sculpted bases or aloft like fragmentary candelabras. A couple of wall mounts spark the imagination with their Kinetic antlers, but the real standouts are his framed mobiles creating a 3-D effect. Calder is a spectacular show and a conversation starter.

Photographer and documentary filmmaker Agnes Varda's Californialand is one of the best exhibitions featuring a local artist and the celluloid personality of Los Angeles and its natives. The film strip shack installation is the centerpiece to an otherwise remarkable woman who seized on the free love and civil rights of the 60s era with a keen eye and ability to use the urban landscape to permeate her subjects as they became part of the mural topography. A long timeline fuels her sexually charged vision, political activism, sardonic wit and Hollywood satire with brash statements, eclectic photographs of scintillating suggestion and iconic buttons. 

It's Varda's "My Shack of Cinema, Lions Love" which mesmerizes with its wall-to-wall lurid images from JFK to femme fatales, commercial products and celebrities. The steeped ceiling streams with the translucent ribbons as film canisters create a sort of bench. Photography is permitted in this exhibit which lends to a Russian Nesting Doll vanity. It's easy to get lost peering into the film strips, finding a gem of pop culture or an odd inclusion in the mix.

Futbol: The Beautiful Game is perfectly timed with the World Cup and is a showy, if somewhat superficial display of the international game depicted in art. The larger installations impress more than the individual paintings. There is a fantastic sculpture of a soccer field inside a stadium with bric-a-brac figurines lined up as spectators and a bizarre hodgepodge of chachkies as players. A dramatic collection of various trophies called "Second to None" is hypnotizing in its garish array of competitive pride.

 A must-see on a visit to LACMA is Chris Burden's madcap running model aptly called "Metropolis II." Free standing buildings made from various materials include building blocks, toy logs, nuts and bolts, and other imaginative creations along with the Eiffel Tower rise in and around a gravity-propulsion track with bright colored match cars shooting around the city. Designed like a treadmill, when "Metropolis II" is turned on, the cars ride up a steep incline and shoot down the six-lane track while electric model trains, subway cars and trolleys scoot about. Operating times are four times a day: 10:30-11:30am; 12:30-1:30pm; 2:30-3:30pm and 4:30-5:30pm. Seen from above offers a mesmerizing, bird's eye view of the complete modular set. Known for his Lamppost display at the entrance of LACMA, Burden outdoes himself again with this ingenious model tickling the kid in all of us while turning art into a communal experience.  

Los Angeles County Museum of Art
5905 Wilshire Blvd.
Open Mon, Tues & Thurs @ 11 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Fridays @ 11 a.m. - 8 p.m.

Sat & Sun @ 10 a.m. - 7 p.m.
Closed on Wednesdays
Tickets: $25
PH: 323-857-6000

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