New Book on Robert Irwin Finally Gets It Right

Robert Irwin: Projects & Exhibitions 2012 – 2013, all photographs by Philipp Scholz Rittermann

Robert Irwin: Projects & Exhibitions 2012 – 2013, all photographs by Philipp Scholz Rittermann

85 year-old artist Robert Irwin has been something of a chameleon over his long career. Beginning as a painter, Irwin came to prominence as a light and space pioneer in the 1960s, and since the 70s he’s focused on landscape projects and site-specific installations. What unites all his work, however, is the importance of the physical experience, not just the visual. For this reason, it has been difficult to capture the true sensation of standing before, or in, one of his works through photography alone. “For the longest time he wouldn’t allow his work to be photographed, because as he said, a photograph captures nothing that the work is about and everything that it’s not about, it captures the image and not the presence,” said Lawrence Weschler, whose classic 1982 book Seeing is Forgetting the Name of the Thing One Sees, traces Irwin’s artistic journey.


Robert Irwin: Projects & Exhibitions 2012 – 2013, a new book published by Quint Gallery in San Diego, sets out to change that by chronicling two dense years of projects from the tireless artist. After years of being unsatisfied with different photographers, Irwin has finally found one who is able to capture his work successfully. “Philipp Scholz Rittermann is really one of the first photographers to get Bob right,” said gallery director Ben Strauss-Malcolm. In addition to Scholz Rittermann’s insightful eye, the photographs in the book are coated with a spot-varnish, which makes them seem to jump off the page, according to Weschler. Strauss-Malcolm notes that it gives them the impression of being illuminated from behind, fitting given that light is such an important part Irwin’s work.


The twelve projects featured in the book jump around the globe from Italy to Austria, New York to Texas to San Diego. They also include a range of media, from fluorescent light pieces to scrim installations and landscape design. What unites the work is a sensitive consideration of each work’s relation to its site. “The book is a statement about what he’s been about his whole life, that the work is conditioned by the site,” Weschler said. “You respond completely differently at different sites, and no medium is out of bounds.”


Art You Can Afford + Love at the 5 Car Garage Sale

5 car garage sale. Pictured work by Bari Ziperstein, Kayla Hansen, and Max Maslansky [via 5 car garage's instagram]

5 Car Garage Sale. Pictured: work by Bari Ziperstein, Kyla Hansen, and Max Maslansky [via 5 car garage’s instagram]

With the art market on a seemingly out-of-control upward spiral, the idea of collecting art may seem unrealistic for all but a select few. Santa Monica-based gallerist Emma Gray is aiming to change that with her second annual 5 Car Garage Sale.

Gray founded her gallery, 5 Car Garage – literally a converted garage – as an appointment-only exhibition space in February 2013. Her first garage sale last year included affordable works by about twenty-five artists, allowing both collectors and Gray herself the opportunity for exploration with little risk. “The garage sale is a nice way to feel out an artist’s work and it’s a way for me to feel out a new relationship with an artist,” she says.

For this year’s sale, she’s offering work by a smaller, tighter group of thirteen artists. This is also the first time that the sale will be both in the garage and online. “I feel like the online wrinkle needs to be investigated and I thought launching the garage sale is a really good way to do it. It’s an experiment. I don’t want to grow up and be a real gallery,” Gray jokes, “so the best way for me to expand is virtually.”

Some of the works for sale include Mark A. Rodriguez’s ceramic plates of spaghetti, Kyla Hansen’s found object assemblages, and Max Maslansky’s over-painted magazine pages. Prices range from $10 to a few thousand dollars, with many works available for under $1000, making it possible for visitors to acquire a “smaller version of a future very important, big artist’s work,” says Gray.

The sale will take place this Tuesday from 11am–12:30pm, and Saturday from 4-6pm, or by appointment. Although the online shop includes most of the work at the gallery, some pieces that will only be available on-site. Email the gallery for directions.

Kendrick Lamar’s m.A.A.d. Film to Screen at MOCA in 2015

m.A.A.d. still [via]

m.A.A.d. still [via]

Hip-hop and high art have a rich history together – from Fab 5 Freddy’s Soup Can graffiti, to Jay-Z’s Picasso Baby, to the Wu-Tang Clan’s single copy album museum tour. The latest rapper to make the jump from the street to the white cube is Compton’s native son Kendrick Lamar.

Lamar’s debut album good kid, m.A.A.d. city was one of the breakout hits of 2012, signaling the arrival of a major new force in hip-hop. Last year, the rapper enlisted filmmaker Kahlil Joseph to make a short film based around the album. This makes perfect sense, since Lamar conceived of the album in cinematic terms, scrawling “good kid, m.A.A.d. city, a short film by Kendrick Lamar” on the album’s cover. The 14-minute film, simply titled m.A.A.d, premiered last August at the Ace Hotel Theatre in Downtown LA as part of the Sundance NEXT Fest. According to the Source, the film will get a longer run when it will screen at MOCA from March 21 to July 27 of 2015.

m.A.A.d. still [via]
m.A.A.d. still [via]

“From barbershops to marching bands, from homeboys drinking in the streets to the iconic carpet of shimmering lights, the camera in m.A.A.d sinuously glides through predominantly African American neighborhoods in Los Angeles catching a dizzying array of quotidian moments suffused with creativity, joy, and sadness,” reads the film’s official description. As with the album, the film will borrow heavily from Lamar’s life, including home movie clips from his childhood, and featuring amateur actors from the neighborhood he grew up in. Still, the Fader notes, “the film will truly be a Kahlil/Kendrick joint: autobiographical without sacrificing the enigmatic symbolism that has defined Joseph’s work to this point.”


Correction: This post originally listed LACMA, not MOCA, as the venue where m.A.A.d. will be screening.


Hungarian Researcher Watches Cheesy Kids’ Movie, Finds Long-Lost Painting

Scene from Stuart Little [via  the]

Scene from Stuart Little [via]

When Hollywood takes on stories of looted or missing art, they are inevitably spiced up with action and sex. Consider this year’s The Monuments Men, set in Europe during the last days of WWII, or Entrapment (1999), which prominently featured a catsuit-clad Catherine Zeta-Jones shimmying acrobatically under a laser beam. The reality of recovering lost artworks can be much more mundane, but much stranger as well.

Gergely Barki, a researcher at Hungarian National Gallery, was watching Stuart Little with his daughter in 2009, when a painting on the Little’s mantelpiece caught his eye. (It was not immediately clear what had possessed Barki to actually watch the film.) In the background, behind Hugh Laurie, Geena Davis, Jonathan Lipnicki (the kid from Jerry Maguire), and a CGI-mouse voiced by Michael J. Fox, he recognized a long-lost painting by Robert Bereny, a member of the early 20th-century Hungarian avant-garde. The painting,“Sleeping Lady with Black Vase,” had not been seen in public since a 1928 exhibition.

Robert Bereny, Sleeping Woman with a Black Vase, 1927-28 [via]
Robert Bereny, Sleeping Woman with a Black Vase, 1927-28 [via]

Bereny was a prominent figure in The Eight, a group of artists who brought then radical movements like Cubism and Expressionism to Hungary. He left for Berlin in 1920, where he was romantically involved with Marlene Dietrich and perhaps Anastasia, the daughter of Russia’s last czar.

Barki quickly sent a number of emails to the studios responsible for the film, Sony and Columbia, but didn’t hear back for two years (presumably because he lacked an agent.) Finally, a set designer on the film told him that she had purchased the painting in a Pasadena antiques shop for $500, thinking it would make a good prop for the film. After it adorned the fictional Little’s living room, she took it home and hung it on her wall.

“Within a year, I had a chance to visit her and see the painting and tell her everything about the painter. She was very surprised,” Barki said. The set designer then sold the painting to a collector, who brought it back to Hungary. Interested parties better save their forints, as “Sleeping Lady with Black Vase” will be auctioned off on December 13th by the Virág Judit auction house in Budapest, with a starting bid of 34,000,000 Ft (around 110,000 Euros).

So how did the painting end in Pasadena 80 years after it disappeared? That remains a mystery, but Barki surmises that whomever purchased the work in 1928 may have been Jewish, and possibly fled Hungary during WWII. “After the wars, revolutions and tumult of the 20th century, many Hungarian masterpieces are lost, scattered around the world,” said Barki. Unlike those works rescued by the real Monuments Men at the tail end of the war, this painting took a little longer to surface.

Lewis Baltz, New Topographics Photographer, dies at 69

Lewis Baltz, “South Wall, Mazda Motors, 2121 East Main Street, Irvine,” 1974 from “The New Industrial Parks near Irvine, California.” Gelatin silver print (via The Washington Post)

Lewis Baltz, “South Wall, Mazda Motors, 2121 East Main Street, Irvine,” 1974 from “The New Industrial Parks near Irvine, California.” Gelatin silver print (via The Washington Post)


The photographer Lewis Baltz, one the seminal figures of the New Topographics movement of the 1960s and 70s, died on Sunday. He was 69 years old.

Baltz’s straightforward, deadpan images of the American built environment were prime examples of the new wave of American landscape photography. Along with Robert Adams, Stephen Shore, Henry Wessel Jr. and others, Baltz was included in the influential 1975 exhibition, “New Topographics: Photographs of a Man-altered Landscape,” in Rochester, NY. “Their imagery presented American landscapes in minimal, stripped-down realities, void of notions found in previous landscape imagery that showed buildings or landscapes as symbols of prosperity or beauty,” notes Nicole Crowder in the Washington Post.

Lewis Baltz, “Tract House no. 17,” 1971 from “The Tract Houses.” Gelatin silver print (via The Washington Post)

Lewis Baltz, “Tract House no. 17,” 1971 from “The Tract Houses.” Gelatin silver print (via The Washington Post)

He was born and raised in Newport Beach, California, and the soulless, suburban terrain around him featured prominently in his work. “Coming from Orange County, I watched the ghastly transformation of this place–the first wave of bulimic capitalism sweeping across the land, next door to me. I sensed that there was something horribly amiss and awry about my own personal environment,” he told the LA Times in 1992. He captured this “ghastly transformation” first in Southern California with series like “The Tract Houses” (1969-1971) and “The New Industrial Parks Near Irvine, California” (1974-75), branching out later to document Northern California with “San Quentin Point” (1981-83) and “Candlestick Point” (1989), and points further afield, such as “Park City” (1978-80) and “Nevada” (1978).

Baltz’s dispassionate black and white photos shared affinities with then-dominant trends of Minimalism and Conceptual art, and he was included in the 1977 Whitney Biennial alongside Conceptual art pioneers like John Balddessari and Mel Bochner. As his career progressed, he enjoyed greater success in Europe, where he moved in the late 1980s. He was living and working in Paris when he died. Last year, his wife the artist Slavica Perkovic, donated his archives to the the Getty Research Institute, ensuring them a permanent home in Southern California, the bleak environs of which provided him with a lifetime of inspiration.

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


Rendering of the new space [via]

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
Adn Guardhouse [via]

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



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.