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]

screenshot of the Mandala livecast [via]

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

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.

Baldessari Puts Dots on James Franco’s, Miley Cyrus’ Face

[via Visionaire's facebook page]

[via Visionaire’s facebook page]

Baldessari collectors on a budget, rejoice! The latest Baldessari-themed issue of upscale art magazine / downscale art object Visionaire has just hit the stands. Visionaire 64 is divided into three color-coded limited editions – Red, Green, and Blue – each featuring a different set of ten loose 12 x 18 B&W celebrity portraits, overlaid with the conceptual artist’s signature colorful forms. Fans of the overhyped will want to pick up the red edition which includes James Franco, Miley Cyrus, and Marina Abramovic, along with Ed Ruscha and Pedro Almodovar. The green issue features actors Julianne Moore, Scar Jo, and Neil Patrick Harris, as well as Yoko Ono, Drake, and John Waters, while the blue has Lupita Nyong’O, Ai Weiwei, Catherine Opie, Michael Stipe, and Psy (we assume this was conceived of during the height of “Gangnam Style”).

It's Miley! [via]
It’s Miley! [via]

For those unfamiliar with Visionaire, it was founded in 1991 as a platform for artists, fashion designers and other culture makers to push the boundaries of what a magazine could be. Previous offerings include a set of pop-up artist books, vinyl LP’sscent vials and flavor strips, as well as the world’s largest magazine, weighing 18 lbs. and measuring 4 ¾ x 6 ½ feet. Although each issues carries a heavy price tag (most are a few hundred dollars, although a Hermes-themed issue in a leather case retails for $3000), they often rely on corporate sponsorship to cover production costs.

Dustin Hoffman a la Baldesssari [via]
Dustin Hoffman a la Baldessari [via]

This latest issue is no different, having been created in partnership with Samsung, who presumably see this as an opportunity to convince people to take more selfies with their products (if that is even possible). Although Visionaire didn’t return emails or calls regarding the project, their website states that they view this collaboration as combining the “current ease of digital and emailable self-portraits with the time-honored craftsmanship of printmaking.” Although he erroneously conflates selfies with self-portraits (or just pictures of people, really), Baldessari notes, “I’ll probably be most remembered for putting dots over people’s faces, so it’s funny to do an issue devoted to selfies of famous people.” It’s worth mentioning that in almost all of the images we’ve seen, the celebrities are clearly recognizable, saving you the trouble of explaining to dinner guests that there really is a picture of Cameron Diaz under that squiggle, honest!


If this all sounds familiar, it’s because collectible art object publisher The Thing Quaterly recently released their Baldessari edition. Issue 22 consists of two pillowcases with a silkscreened meta-image of a woman clutching a pillow. Although these meant-to-be-used objects lack the celebrity caché of the Visionaire issue, we can’t think of a better way to wake up than with your head on a Baldessari.


356 Mission Needs Help with 590 Dots

Little DotLarge-scale works, such as those of Christo and Jeanne-Claude (R.I.P.), often require hundreds of helpers, laboring away for love and minimum wage. Such is the price of collaborative art.

Kudos to 356 Mission for increasing the pay scale this month for anyone who wants to participate in Jonathan Horowitz’s 590 Dots, a monumental painting project that needs 590 helpers. Stop by the space during regular hours and you can make $20 for 30 to 60 minutes of collaboration. Factor that out over 40 hours a week, and you’d be making $80K a year, player.

We reached out to 356 Mission for more information.

“Once participants arrive, they are given a specific set of parameters,” says gallery director Ethan Swan. “We really stress that everyone has to do their best job, but that we also understand it as an impossible task. Ultimately, participation should be a relaxing, almost zen-like experience. For some people it produces a lot of anxiety but that’s interesting too, I think.”

Zen or anxiety? Which will it be for you? Regardless, be sure to wear clothes for painting.

The call for participation is open until October 25, but you might want to head there sooner than later, lest you become that 591st dot.

356 Mission is located at 356 South Mission Road, just across the L.A. River from downtown. The space is open 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Wednesday through Sunday.



Machine Project Re-Animates Historic Gamble House

Gamble House with work by Jessica Cowley (l) and Patrick Ballard (r) (Photo by Ian Byers-Gamber)

Gamble House with work by Jessica Cowley (l) and Patrick Ballard (r) (Photo by Ian Byers-Gamber)


For a city that is often characterized as lacking a historical memory, Los Angeles has a lot of love for its iconic architecture. Whether it’s modernist residences by Schindler, Neutra, or Lautner, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Hollyhock and Ennis Houses, or scandal-tinged Greystone Mansion, Angelenos have a strong appreciation for these landmarks nestled among our strip malls and freeways. Pasadena’s Gamble House, an Arts and Crafts masterpiece designed by Greene & Greene, is one of the most beloved, and for two weeks non-profit arts space Machine Project is offering new ways to experience this century-old gem.

Completed in 1909, the house was built for the Gamble family (of pharmaceutical giant Proctor & Gamble). The Greenes meticulously oversaw every aspect of construction, from the sourcing of multiple kinds of wood, to the hand-rounded edges on every beam, to the use of the family’s crest, a rose and crane, in detailing throughout the three-storey home. These labor-intensive, old world methods were paired with then-modern technologies, including electricity, central heating, and hygienic, tile-lined bathrooms and kitchen.

Work by Emily Joyce in the Gamble House (Photo by Ian Byers-Gamber)
Work by Emily Joyce in the Gamble House (Photo by Ian Byers-Gamber)

Anyone who has been on a tour of the building knows that it is an impeccably preserved period museum, which makes Machine Project’s house-wide contemporary intervention all the more striking. As part of the Pasadena Arts Council’s AxS Festival, Machine Project’s Field Guide to the Gamble House aims to “reveal the history and visual ideas behind the Gamble House in subtle and not-so-subtle ways.” In addition to visual art, there will be performances, workshops and even a secret restaurant. We spoke with Machine Project’s Mark Allen to get the low-down on the project.

Work by Anna Sew Hoy in the Gamble House (Photo by Ian Byers-Gamber)
Work by Anna Sew Hoy in the Gamble House (Photo by Ian Byers-Gamber)

“I really think we do our best shows when we have the most context, that’s what I really liked about the Gamble House.” Allen says. “You’ve got all this history, it’s a weird space, it’s like this futuristic house of 1909. I’m always interested in technology that’s like old tech or weird tech or things like that. It’s also something you couldn’t make now so it’s almost like a time machine in terms of what kind of wood is available and the economy of it and the craftsmanship. All that stuff becomes really rich to kind of dig into and make the show about.”

Work by Laura Owens at the Gamble House (Photo by Ian Byers-Gamber)
Work by Laura Owens at the Gamble House (Photo by Ian Byers-Gamber)

What started as an idea to commission ten artists to create work quickly expanded to include 57 artists. “My process was to go over there for tours. I went on 14 tours, and every time I would go I would think of another artist I wanted to invite and to be honest I’m still thinking of people I wish I had put in the show. With more time it would have been 70 artists instead of 57.” Some of those visual artists whose work will be on display in and around the house include Cayetano Ferrer, Katie Herzog, Emily Joyce, Laura Owens, Jessica Cowley (full disclosure, she’s my girlfriend), Anna Sew Hoy, and Ricky Swallow.

Work by Patrick Ballard at the Gamble House (Photo by Ian Byers-Gamber)
Work by Patrick Ballard at the Gamble House (Photo by Ian Byers-Gamber)

As an historic landmark, the Gamble House presented challenges for how to install work. The most challenging was Patrick Ballard’s The Swirling Mess Below the Sleeping Porch Soon Solidified into A Crest of Phantasmagoric Weight that Creaks Between the Doors, the Floors, and a Form that Could Never Be a House Again, a 300lb, 2-storey rose cone from which a crane emerges. “How do you hang a 300lb sculpture on a house where you can’t touch anything?” Allen asks. “We built an entire platform that covers the whole surface of the front porch to keep it safe, and then attached to that are these aluminum trusses, and it’s basically a deck, and the weight of the deck provides a counterweight to cantilever these aluminum trusses with the cone attached to it. So we did have to come up with some creative solutions to a lot of these issues.”

Matthew Au's Gamble House roof sculptures double as lawn furniture (Photo by Ian Byers-Gamber)
Matthew Au’s Gamble House roof sculptures double as lawn furniture (Photo by Ian Byers-Gamber)

The Field Guide runs through October 5, but this Saturday from 12pm-10pm is the first of two days when the house will be free and open to the public, with performances and activities throughout the day. Some of these include a puppet show in Ballard’s piece, Annie Danis’ archaeological dig, Bob Dornberger’s secret restaurant, a lightshow by Animal Charm, dance performances by Nick Duran and Milka Djordjevich, closet poem readings, bed conversations and more. For a complete list of activities, click here.

What about the projects that didn’t make it? “Ballard’s original ideas was a 2 story blond puppet head that we were gonna order 400 wigs from china for and weave them together,” says Allen. “His idea was ‘oh this house is such a brunette it should have a blonde on it,’ but when we really got down to getting 400 wigs from China, it was prohibitively expensive. A lot of the projects evolve, that’s kind of a normal process for us.”