Newswire

UCSB Starts 1st Undergrad Museum Studies Program in CA

MoMA's Klaus Biesenbach as the UCSB Gaucho.
MoMA’s Klaus Biesenbach as UCSB’s Gaucho.

Anyone who has studied art history has at one time or another been asked, “What are you going to do with that?” by skeptical family members or friends. The presumption that an art history degree is impractical, that it will give the recipient little professional preparation, goes all the way to the top, as we learned earlier this year when Barack Obama argued that learning a skilled trade would be much more financially lucrative than studying art history. (He later apologized to the UT Austin Art History professor who criticized his remarks.)

Perhaps partially in response to this attitude, the academic discipline of museum studies has been steadily growing over the past thirty years. Most of these programs are at the graduate level, however UC Santa Barbara has just established an undergraduate major emphasis in museum studies as part of the Department of the History of Art and Architecture. Carol Paul, director of the emphasis, recently told the UCSB Current that she believes it is the first such undergraduate program in California.

The emphasis aims to be multi-disciplinary, drawing “on the academic expertise in art and architectural history within the department and from several other departments and entities across campus, including art, Chicana and Chicano studies, East Asian languages and cultural studies, geography, history, religious studies, sociology, spatial studies and the Cheadle Center for Biodiversity and Ecological Restoration,” according to the Current.

Although the growing emphasis in education stressing professional development often comes at the expense of intellectual exploration, Paul notes that the UCSB program will attempt to strike a balance between the two. “Our emphasis, even at the undergraduate level, seeks to integrate professional practice with a serious engagement with historical and theoretical questions to prepare our students in a particularly thoughtful way,” she says.

On the 25th Anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, Wende Museum Breaks Ground

[via wendemuseum.org]

Rendering of the new space [via wendemuseum.org]

LACMA isn’t the only LA Museum with big plans for expansion. As the LA Times reported, the Wende Museum broke ground on its new home this past weekend, a 15,000 square foot space in the former National Guard Armory on Culver Boulevard. This weekend also marked the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, serendipitous timing since the Museum’s mission is to “preserve the cultural artifacts and personal histories of Cold War-era Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union to inform and inspire a broad understanding of the period and its enduring legacy.”

Justin Jampol founded the museum 12 years ago with “artifacts, art work, personal photos, menus and other memorabilia from East Germany, the Soviet Union and other Eastern Bloc countries,” according to the Times. Some of these artifacts include the papers of former East German leader Erich Honecker, as well as 11 sections of the Berlin Wall, which will be displayed in a new sculpture garden.

The groundbreaking was also a launch party for “Beyond the Wall: Arts and Artifacts from the GDR,” a massive tome featuring 2,500 pieces from the museum’s collection, published by art book and soft porn publisher Taschen.

Adn Guardhouse (via wendemuseum.org)
Adn Guardhouse [via wendemuseum.org]

Beginning Friday night, Angelenos can see another piece of Cold War history, when the last standing East German guardhouse comes to the El Segundo Museum of Art. The guardhouse was acquired by Artist Christof Zwiener in 2013, who has transformed it into a temporary exhibition space. At ESMoA, the guardhouse will be the site for an installation by artists Evelyn Temmel and Bernhard Luthrigshausen, before moving to its permanent home in the Wende Museum’s sculpture garden.

Machine Project teams up with UTEP in El Paso’s new Cuadro

CUADRO>>><<<PIZZA

CUADRO>>><<<PIZZA

The University of Texas at El Paso has partnered with Machine Project to create Cuadro, a temporary art laboratory at 210 N Stanton St., in a storefront space of the O.T. Bassett Tower in El Paso’s newly designated Downtown Arts District.

Cuadro will feature a series of weekly, weekend events by a mix of local artists and artists from Machine Project, aimed at doing good things like “building a dynamic and experimental platform for different models of artistic practices” and “serving as a catalyst for developing artist-led projects and engaging new and diverse publics.”

On November 6-8, Cuadro will host We Are Local, a showcase of local artist initiatives. On November 13-15 it will host CAMLAB, a collaboration between Jemima Wyman and Anna Mayer begun at CalArts in 2005.

 

 

LACMA Announces Largest Gift of Art in Museum’s History

Edward Ruscha's  The Los Angeles County Museum on Fire

Edward Ruscha’s The Los Angeles County Museum on Fire, 1965-66

Wednesday was a good day for the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

First, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted to contribute $125 million toward LACMA’s plans for a new building designed by Swiss architect Peter Zumthor. The agreement calls for the museum to raise an additional $475 million on its own. Holler if you know anyone with a few mill burning a hole in her pocket.

In related news, the museum announced a major gift of artworks by Pierre Bonnard, Edgar Degas, Edouard Manet, Claude Monet, Camille Pissarro and Pablo Picasso, among others. It’s being touted as the largest gift of art to LACMA in its history. The donor was revealed on Thursday morning to be Jerry Perenchio, the former chairman and CEO of Univision who owns a good chunk of Malibu and lives in the Bel-Air mansion that was the TV home of The Beverly Hillbillies.

Inglewood Artists Open Their Studios

Photo by Becky Snyder.

Photo by Becky Snyder.

If your only knowledge of Inglewood is that it’s always up to no good, you haven’t spent much time in the cluster of studio spaces around La Brea and Florence. Relatively cheap rent and easy access to other parts of the city have made that area a hotspot for working artists.

On November 8 and 9, those artists will open their doors for Inglewood Open Studios, a self-guided tour of 12 spaces where more than 60 artists work.

Among those artists are Miri Chais, whose show at USC Fisher we recently reviewed, and Jane Hugentober, whose Four Kids in a Hot Car series should win some kind of award for Most Evocative Title.

Visit the Inglewood Open Studios website for a map and complete list of artists. The City of Inglewood is providing free shuttles, none of which stop at Randy’s Donuts, regretfully.

Moby’s Photos of Los Angeles Now on View in New York

Moby spent most of his life in New York, but he now lives in Los Angeles, as everyone knows who ever took acid and broke into his house to sit on his couch.

Famous for his electronic music, Moby also has been a photographer for many years, and for his latest project he’s imagined a cult inhabiting post-apocalyptic Los Angeles. The characters in Innocents all seem to be wearing white robes and masked, as if the vandals from the movie The Purge joined the band The Polyphonic Spree.

You can see 40 photos from the series on Moby’s photography website, and there’s also a show that opened this month at Emmanuel Fremin Gallery in New York. Because if there’s anywhere in the nation that appreciates the hippy-dippy, psycho-killer image of Los Angeles, it’s New York.

Mark Bradford Joins MOCA Board of Trustees

Mark Bradford

Mark Bradford

The Museum of Contemporary Arts announced today that its Board of Trustee had elected four new members, including Los Angeles artist Mark Bradford; art collector and lobbyist Heather Podesta; art collector and entrepreneur Cathy Vedovi; and banker Christopher Walker. These are the first new appointments since Philippe Vergne assumed the directorship of MOCA in March 2014.

No story about the museum’s Board of Trustees is complete without reference to Ed Ruscha, John Baldessari, Barbara Kruger and Catherine Opie leaving in 2012. The only artists on the board, they left en masse to protest then-director Jeffrey Deitch’s firing of longtime chief curator Paul Schimmel. Deitch was out in July 2013, and Baldessari, Kruger and Opie soon returned.

Mixed media artist and MacArthur fellow Mark Bradford joins those other three artists — along with painter Mark Grotjahn, who was elected to the board in March — in what appears to be a signal of renewed trust in the museum’s direction.

“Yes, of course when the museum is having a difficult time, artists get anxious and trust might be challenged, but look where we are now,” Vergne told the Los Angeles Times. “We have five extremely important artists on the board.”

Tibetan Monks Create, Promptly Destroy Sand Painting

screenshot of the Mandala livecast [via hammer.ucla.edu]

screenshot of the Mandala livecast [via hammer.ucla.edu]

It’s been over 100 years since Kandinsky first published On the Spiritual in Art, however in the ensuing century, the contemporary art world has taken on an increasingly materialistic bent. In opposition to this trend, for two weeks recently a group of artists at the Hammer Museum has been working on a project that is all about compassion, enlightenment and impermanence. So much so in fact that when they completed the artwork this past weekend, it was promptly destroyed.

The artists are four Tibetan Buddhist monks and the artwork is a painstakingly intricate sand painting representing a Mandala of Compassion. This is their third visit to the Hammer, following a previous mandala creation in 2010 and a healing ceremony in 2012. They worked on the piece in the museum’s lobby gallery which was loosely designed to resemble a Buddhist temple, with a shrine, traditional Shambu fabric, and walls painted in a color scheme chosen by the lamas. Visitors were able to watch the piece slowly take shape as the monks added colored grains of sand with the aid of a copper funnel called a zangpur. A live simulcast provided a glimpse for online viewers.

Hammer Museum’s Mandala of Compassion Dissolution Ceremony, October 12, 2014, photo by Barbara Katz
Hammer Museum’s Mandala of Compassion Dissolution Ceremony, October 12, 2014, photo by Barbara Katz

When the artwork was finished on Sunday, it was on view for timed 10-minute entries between 11am-3pm. Following a dissolution ceremony, the sand was swept up and taken to the beach, where visitors joined the monks as they distributed the sand into the ocean.

Hammer Museum’s Mandala of Compassion Dissolution Ceremony, October 12, 2014, photo by Barbara Katz

Hammer Museum’s Mandala of Compassion Dissolution Ceremony, October 12, 2014, photo by Barbara Katz

The Western avant-garde has long been influenced by Eastern philosophy, whether it’s Rauschenberg’s and Cage’s experiments with the i-Ching or Yves Klein’s fascination with the zen-like void. We asked Allison Agsten, the Hammer’s curator of public engagement, how this ancient artform functions in a setting normally reserved for contemporary art. “Something that our visitors are always interested in is when they have a chance to better understand process, and certainly a lot of contemporary art is process based. Here’s a chance to actually get to see that process at work,” she said.

Hammer Museum’s Mandala of Compassion Dissolution Ceremony, October 12, 2014, photo by Barbara Katz

Hammer Museum’s Mandala of Compassion Dissolution Ceremony, October 12, 2014, photo by Barbara Katz

There is also a serendipitous relationship between the Mandala and an exhibition of work by Jim Hodges, also on view. “The title of the Jim Hodges show is Give More than you Take and the lamas are making a mandala that represents compassion. It’s supposed to inspire and imbue all of us with a little bit more compassion, so it’s easy to see how those sentiments are connected,” Agsten notes. “Also Jim’s work is known for talking simple materials and making something extraordinary. I can’t think of a greater parallel than this group of lamas working with sand to make something very intricate and complicated and something that is truly high art.”

Hammer Museum’s Mandala of Compassion Dissolution Ceremony, October 12, 2014, photo by Barbara Katz

Hammer Museum’s Mandala of Compassion Dissolution Ceremony, October 12, 2014, photo by Barbara Katz

Various Small Fires Re-opens in Hollywood

Various Small Fires' new Hollywood location [photo by Esther Kim Varet]

Various Small Fires’ new Hollywood location [photo by Esther Kim Varet]

Various Small Fires re-opens tonight in its new location on North Highland, making it the latest addition to Hollywood’s growing gallery cluster. The newly remodeled 5000 square foot complex will feature a main gallery space, outdoor sculpture court, and a sound corridor designed specifically for presentations of sound art. We spoke with gallery founder Esther Kim Varet about the new space, why she chose to relocate from Venice to Hollywood, and the origin of the gallery name.

“I moved from NY to LA four years ago. We landed on Abbot Kinney in Venice. The name of the gallery came out of Ed Ruscha’s 1964 conceptual art book. The art community then was very much centered around Venice, and in homage to that legacy, I named it Very Small Fires,” explains Kim Varet. “We realized over the past four years that the traffic in LA had gotten so bad. We were always able to get artists, curators, collectors out there, but I felt that going forward it was going to be very difficult to get people to come back over and over again to Venice, especially with these traffic issues. I figured out that it was not a sustainable place to be for a commercial gallery.”

Kim Varet opened her last Venice show in late 2013, and began looking for a new location. “I considered Culver City, but a lot of people are decompressing from Culver and moving away. Downtown was very attractive because it’s so cheap there, but I felt like that wasn’t right for me either coming from a smaller space and working with emerging artists, and I didn’t want to all of a sudden go into a warehouse situation where the cavernous space would just eat up the art. Hollywood was always on top of my list for where I wanted to be. A lot of galleries who I respected were already moving in this direction: David Kordansky, Kayne Griffin Corcoran, Michael Kohn, Overduin & Co. There was a lot of positive energy here.”

Kim Varet found a building in Hollywood, and after winning a frenzied bidding war, she began a ten-month remodel with local architects Johnston Marklee. “I really wanted to have the ultimate solo presentation space a gallery could offer. I didn’t want it too big for one artist or too small. Sizewise it was perfect,” she says.

Visitors will enter the new space through a long alley which has been outfitted with a hidden speaker system. Kim Varet plans to host year-round audio programming, focusing on both historical sound art from the DADA, Surrealist and Fluxus movements, as well as commissioning younger artists to create work specifically for the space. “Building a sound corridor is reflective of the spirit of what I hope VSF stands for,” Kim Varet says, “which is a spirit dedicated to pushing the boundaries of visual art production, representation and conception, thinking of art in expanded fields, not just things that hang on a wall.”

The gallery will open with solo exhibitions from Amir Nikravan and Scott Benzel. Nikravan’s abstract paintings are created from a labored process of construction, erasure, and representation. The end result is an illusionistic “painting of a painting about painting” that definitely needs to be seen in person to be fully appreciated. Nikravan uses paints that were originally designed for use on animation cells, providing a link to the history of the film industry in Hollywood.

Scott Benzel will inaugurate the sound corridor with a piece that mixes abstracted segments from a Beach Boys song with LA street recordings. He will also present a series of architectural models based on the spire atop the Capital Records Building, which is itself a replica of a record needle. As with the actual spire, Benzel’s models will featuring a blinking light that spells out “Hollywood” in morse code – a fitting tribute to the gallery’s new home.

Border Blaster Brings Back the Music Video Show

MTVUnless you’re a millennial, you remember a time when music videos were played on TV. There used to be two entire channels (on basic cable!) devoted to showing nothing but videos, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. And there were actual themed video shows: Yo! MTV Raps for Hip-Hop, Headbangers Ball for Metal, and 120 Minutes for what we used to call Alternative Music. These shows introduced many kids like myself to all sorts of music they would never have seen or heard otherwise. This was before low-brow reality TV took over and videos found a new home online. There’s infinitely more videos on the web than were ever on MTV, but now the question is how do you find the good stuff if you don’t even know what you’re looking for? Me, I’ll take recommendations from Fab 5 Freddy over Youtube’s algorithm any day.

the video for Fitness Forever's song "Cosmos" is a retro vision of real Italian Italo Disco. [via KCET.org]
the video for Fitness Forever’s song “Cosmos” is a retro vision of real Italian Italo Disco. [via KCET.org]

A new show on KCET aims to bring back the music video show with an international twist. Border Blaster, which premiered Tuesday night, presents “music videos from around the world, transcending national borders, and exposing viewers to the cross-fertilization of musical styles and genres defining contemporary music.” Since this is 2014, there is also an online component where viewers can vote for their favorite videos and create their own mixes, which will be broadcast the last week of each month. The first globe-trotting mix put together by the Border Blaster team features Rajasthani folk group Barmer Boys, rediscovered Nigerian electro-funk legend William Onyeabor, South Korean indie rockers Thornapple, Chilean hip-hop from Ana Tijoux, and French Sudanese duo Débruit & Alsarah, who sound a bit like an East African Stereolab.

Although the show doesn’t have a host as charismatic as Downtown Julie Brown, it does provide a window onto a vast array of music that would otherwise be floating around the digital ether, waiting to be discovered.

Border Blaster airs every Tuesday and Friday at 10:30pm PST on KCET, and on LinkTV every Monday at 8pm.