LA’s MOCA Faces Upcoming Exhibition Gaps

[Cameron, Aleister Crowley's Guardian Angel,  Photo by Alan Shaffer. via]
Cameron, Aleister Crowley’s Guardian Angel, Photo by Alan Shaffer. Opens at MOCA PDC October 11. [via]

LA’s MOCA has had a rocky road over the past few years, but with the appointment of new director Philippe Vergne and new chief curator Helen Molesworth earlier this year, not to mention an endowment topping $100 million and counting, the museum seems to be back on track. One hurdle it will need to overcome, however, is the spotty upcoming exhibition schedule.

As Christopher Knight reported in the LA Times on Monday, it’s unclear what will be on view at MOCA’s three locations after current exhibitions close. The Mike Kelley retrospective has just wrapped at the Geffen Contemporary, which will remain closed for roof repairs. No word on when it will re-open or what will be on view when it does.

At MOCA Grand, Cinema Vezzoli closes August 11th, followed in September by a mid-career exhibition on the work of Venezuelan artist Magdalena Fernandez, as well as Andy Warhol’s massive Shadows series, on loan from the Dia Art Foundation (Vergne’s previous employer). After these shows close in early 2015, nothing is on the books.

And at MOCA’s outpost at the Pacific Design Center, the current video installation by “12 Years a Slave” director Steven McQueen will be followed in October by an exhibition focusing on eccentric L.A. occultist Marjorie Cameron Parsons Kimmel, a devotee of Aleister Crowley, whose work influenced Ferus Gallery artists like Wallace Berman and George Herms. When that show closes in January, nothing is scheduled for the space until next September.

Knight notes that these scheduling holes are largely the result of the shortsightedness of Vergne’s predecessor, Jeffrey Deitch, under whose tenure longtime chief curator Paul Schimmel left the museum. Deitch chose not to replace Schimmel, relying instead on freelance curators “who have little investment in the institution’s future,” according to Knight. This situation leaves Vergne and Molesworth scrambling to book exhibitions that normally take years to arrange. MOCA has said they will make an announcement about future plans by the end of the summer.

Instead of viewing this as a setback however, Knight suggests it could be an opportunity for MOCA to showcase some of the 6,000 works in its permanent collection that rarely get seen. To this end, Carolina Miranda recommends three creative ways to explore the collection: artist choice shows, guest curators, and unconventional approaches like showing works grouped by color. These most likely wouldn’t be hard-hitting, scholarly exhibitions, but they could be fun and experimental ways to show off one of Southern California’s great collections of contemporary art. And they could buy the museum time until its new leaders are able to mount the more ambitious shows that MOCA has been known for in the past.


also by Matt Stromberg

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