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Critic's Notebook: MOCA begins to roll out future exhibition plans

January 14, 2010 | 10:53 am

Cruz-Diez Cromosaturacion 2008In November the Museum of Contemporary Art opened an impressive survey exhibition of the collection it has assembled over the last 30 years. (If you haven't seen the sprawling show of some 500 works — it continues through the spring— you're missing something remarkable.) For a long while the only major offering on the schedule after “Collection: MOCA's First Thirty Years” was “Arshile Gorky: A Retrospective,” which just closed at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. That show, which reconsiders the work of the American painter who fled the 1915 Armenian genocide as a child, is on its way to London's Tate Modern before arriving in Los Angeles in June.

Lately MOCA has also started to roll out an exhibition schedule for the next two years. With some caveats, it's impressive.

Together with the permanent collection, the roster shows why MOCA has the extraordinary reputation it does. No contemporary museum in the United States has anything more compelling on its current list of coming attractions. Remarkably, almost all of it is organized by MOCA, alone or in collaboration with other museums.

Historical shows include “Latin American Light and Space” -- pictured is a work by Venezuela's Carlos Cruz-Diez -- the first museum survey to relate South American contributions to a form of Minimalist object and installation art usually identified with L.A. in the 1960s and 1970s; “California Art in the Age of Pluralism, 1974-1980,” which proposes that the often-overlooked late-1970s was in fact a period of remarkable innovation for what has come to pass since; and “Land Art to 1977,” the first large-scale historical look at the emergence of Earthworks — MOCA owns Michael Heizer's important “Double Negative” (1969), a massive man-made trench spanning a deep natural gully in the remote Nevada wilderness—coupled with a new project by Swiss artist Christoph Büchel in the Mojave Desert.

Three solo retrospectives of current or former L.A.-based artists are also on tap: William Leavitt, whose quirky Conceptual art exploits narrative forms of painting and installation art; the late Jack Goldstein, who studied at Cal Arts with John Baldessari and merged Pop, Minimal and Conceptual forms in paintings, drawings and films; and Mike Kelley, one of the most important international artists of the last 30 years.

The fecundity of the program is partly the fruit of a $15-million exhibition grant from the Broad Foundation, part of the rescue package for the museum's 2008 financial meltdown. The good news — and one of the reasons MOCA's exhibitions are distinctive — is that all six of these large-scale undertakings evolve directly from the museum's collection, as well as from a desire to tell histories of recent art from the specific perspective of Los Angeles.

The caveat? It's a shame the solo retrospectives include no women or people of color. That's a loss for a city whose feminist art history and astoundingly diverse populations ought to be well-represented. On that front, MOCA needs to do better.

On Monday the museum announced that New York art dealer Jeffrey Deitch would become MOCA's fourth director, beginning June 1, so his stamp on the exhibition program won't begin to be felt until 2013. The  roster of all currently scheduled shows, including a few not mentioned above (and not quite fully fleshed out) can be found here. It is no doubt subject to some changes and possible additions.

-- Christopher Knight

Photo: Carlos Cruz-Diez, "Chromosaturacion," 2008, fluorescent light installation. Credit: Christopher Knight/Los Angeles Times

Comments () | Archives (7)

That has got to be the most boring, academic roster of shows I've ever heard of at one museum and is exactly why they are/were in such dire financial straits. Only Christopher Knight and his Art Center-loving brain could enjoy such viscerally non-compelling work. If I were Deitch, the first thing I would do on June 1 is to abandon these shows entirely and do something fresh, colorful, edgy, and exciting. If he has to live with this muddle for three years he'll be deemed a failure; there's nothing there that reflects his youthful enthusiasm.

What does Donald Frazell think?

Ellsworth M. Toohey: "If I were Deitch, the first thing I would do on June 1 is to abandon these shows entirely and do something fresh, colorful, edgy, and exciting."

I saw the "Arshile Gorky" retrospective at the Philadelphia Museum of Art last week. It was a very wonderful and "colorful" show with a major superb quality publication. I doubt that art dealers can, or willing to, put together a show with such great depth of scholarly works.

Who cares? Contemporary art is over. Its cult of the individual shown to be false, which led to our current economic downfall, catering to the desires of its architects, the Broads and other robber barons of our gilded Age of Excess. The land stuff is anti-nature, tearing up the land to show man's incredible intelligence, when it truly revealing his arrogance before the fall. With the collapse of Communism, the hubris of the West knew no bounds. And Contempt art reflected its conceptualized glory, for it is truly only in the mind, not in reality.

Gorky is a minor Modernist, not a Contemporary artist at all. They are completely different in purpose, as they actually have one beyond marketing and consumer goods for profit. And technique and style, as purpose always guides the hand in how content must be communicated. Modernism went straight to the brain and emotions, no mediocre academic wordsmiths needed. That had to end, so the rebuilding of Academies in the post war era could begin, once Modernism was shown to be victorious over its earlier incarnation.

It is a constant battle between the self glorifying prosaic arts and those of poetry and musical quality. All great art has this poetical essence, as Gorky sought, in first Cezanne, through primarily Picasso and Gris, then onto surrealist leanings through Miro, and then Kandinsky, who lacked true melody to his disjointed harmonies, and no rhythms, And was only at his best when under the influence of Klee during the mid 20s. Gorkys best work being close to Miro, both the good and the bad of his oeuvre.

Gorky may have been better than what I have seen, as so much of his work has been lost. Not a major figure, fairly derivative from what i have seen, but was pure of purpose, if not successful of language. Matta much the same, both huge influences on AbEx, when we had so many mediocre Europeans come over, and the Americans dying to have our own style to prove our greatness, an American weakness. When most of the best artists continued to be in Europe, if not as great a stature as Matisse, Braque, and Bonnard. The best Americans not of the United States at all, de Kooning and Tamayo.

But Contempt "art" is simply prosaic arrogance, can't deal with more than one idea at a time, as thats not "smart" or "clever". They want illustrations of theories, when true creative art starts with a theory and style as foundation, then each work growing and evolving towards an organic life of its own. A layering of multiple, often seemingly contraditory ideas, that feel right, that feel alive, that reflect the wrold around us. And life is far mroe powerful than mand made ideas, which attempt to capture life, and control it, not feel it, and follow truth, no matter where.

No, it doesnt matter. Outside of the few Bay area guys like Diebenkorn, Francis, Park and Still, art has been pretty dull in Cali. Almaraz one of the few from southern Cali. Considering our incredible light, we are terrible at color. Color is harmony, chords of color that create a richness of life. An internal light. We dont do that, takes too much effort, time, dedication, and passion. So we got Contempt art. It can be taught, talked about, explained, and so open an entirely new industry of Pharisees, who wouldnt know the truth if it hit them in the head, and wouldnt if they recongnized it. They could lose a career.

Who cares? Its over. Time to move on and deal with the real world, where we must adapt TO nature, live as a common humanity, and search for meaning and purpose, which is god. We are NOT in control. The Japanese Shinto and Buddhist artists knew this, we must live with nature. And mankind, and god, as One. THIS is arts purpose, to reveal more, to create a common mythology, that is relevant to us all. That inspires, validates, and bonds us as one.

Contempt art split us, into those so much more intelligent and clever than the rest, when truly idiotic and self absorbed. Time for a New art, not an Ism, but a new approcah, a real Purpose, a focus on survival, and true creativity. Recognizing that alone man is but a fool. That we must become greater than the sum of our parts, as a common humanity. That has always been arts role in illustrating religion, we must no longer deny god, and to let the definition be taken over by the self righteous and perverted, like Pat Robertson today, and evolve the concept as it always truly has. Instead of the regression that has happened today.

The decadent of the art scene have ridden the world of sins and virutes, so they can paly in their arrogant ways of avarice. And so lost humility, charity, forgiveness and understanding, Where greed now rules, self pride losing its meaning of expecting the most of oneself, instead being perverted into the pride of arrogance. And so, todays Mausoleums and finding cleverness in dung. Imperial Clothing, to seperate the rich, who are no different than the poor. The perversion of truth, and decadence of life must be shown once more by art, and not the servant of the hedonistic and vain.

It is time to put aside childish things. It is time to get to work.

art collegia delenda et

Arshile Gorky was a lukewarm amalgamation of Picasso and Miro. Yawn. Some big collector/ donor must what to inflate the value of their collection.

What the heck is so impressive about that schedule?!

Christopher Knight comes off like a rube, easily impressed by a bunch of (other than perhaps the Gorky show) same-old, same-old, oh-so-hip, oh-so-esoteric yawners. Worry about that instead of just whether enough women or "people of color" (which, incidentally, is such a silly, patronizing phrase) are represented. No wonder MOCA has suffered from surprisingly low attendance figures for so many years.

...MOCA won't be showing women and people of color...

...and Christopher "White" Knight has made a career totally ignoring them when they do show around town.

"It's a shame the solo retrospectives include no women or people of color. "

So what else is new?


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