The Hammer Museum announced on Wednesday a new $100,000 award to a Los Angeles artist participating in its first biennial, “Made in L.A.” And, in a popular voting process familiar from reality TV, the winner will be chosen by people who see the exhibition, after a jury of art experts narrows the choice to five finalists.
Known as the Mohn Prize, the award surpasses the Turner Prize from the Tate Museum in London and matches the Bucksbaum Award from the Whitney in New York for sheer dollar value. The hope is that it also rivals them as a mechanism for bringing attention to artists.
"I strongly believe that the most creative and innovative art in the world is being made here in L.A., and it has been that way for a number of years," said Jarl Mohn, who funded the prize with his wife, Pamela, through the Mohn Family Foundation. "This prize along with the biennial is a way to let the rest of the world know it."
Alina Szapocznikow, who died at 46 in 1973, is a Polish sculptor little known outside her home country. Her work ranges from traditional Expressionist figures in plaster, bronze and cement to inventively grainy images that she called photo-sculptures. It has been garnering some attention in small gallery exhibitions in Europe and New York in just the last five years or so.
Now, a traveling retrospective has arrived at the UCLA Hammer Museum. Near as I can tell it is Szapocznikow's West Coast solo debut.
The show and its comprehensive catalog do an admirable job of introducing the development of her sculpture, which went a long way in a relatively brief period, while also sorting out her often harrowing life. "Alina Szapocznikow: Sculpture Undone, 1955-1972" does not reveal a major artist; however, for American audiences it does significantly broaden the horizon of Eastern European art during an era still shrouded in Cold War mists and myths.
If you haven’t made plans for Valentine’s Day and you consider yourself the classy type who won’t resort to buying a six-pack of Bud and some 7-Eleven roses for your loved one, fear not -– choices still abound in the arts, performance, film and music world. Here are some suggestions for love with a degree of culture:
'Dirty Looks: Long Distance Love Affairs'
This New York-based roaming screening series plays matchmaker with East Coast and California-based queer experimental filmmakers currently working and the recent past. Featuring works by Cecilia Dogherty, Deanna Erdmann, Rhys Ernst, Glen Fogel, Mariah Garnett, Jonesy, Dani Leventhal, Charles Ludham, Narcissister, Luther Price and Michael Robinson. Hammer Museum, 10899 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. hammer.ucla.edu. 8 p.m. Tuesday. Free.
'Cyrano de Bergerac'
On the Knightsbridge Theatre’s production poster for this classic play, there’s a cheeky tagline: “He’s famous for his long… sword.” Oh, my! Actually, in Edmond Rostand’s play, Cyrano suffers for his grotesque nose but we recommend you make as many puns and double-entendres as your significant other can stand. Knightsbridge Theater, 1944 Riverside Drive, Los Angeles. (323) 667-0955. 8 p.m. Tuesday through March 18. $18-$20.
'Two Pianos, Four Hands'
Racy title, we know, but that's how Pasadena Symphony is selling its Live at Noor, a night of piano music in the sleek digs of Noor Restaurant. Hosts Yana Reznik and Esther Keel will tickle the ivorys and chat elegantly, all the while treating the audience to selections from Brahms, Bearber, Chopin and a closing sensual tango by Piazzola. Noor Restaurant, 260 E. Colorado Blvd. Pasadena. 7:30 p.m. Tuesday. pasadenasymphony-pops.org.
British artist Rachel Whiteread has been tapped to create an original work inspired by the Tree of Life to adorn the London's Whitechapel Gallery’s historic façade.
The frieze, decked gilded leaves and branches, will be on display come June at the gallery’s main entrance in time for the London 2012 Olympic Games. The work will cost an undisclosed sum with the Art Fund as the top contributor donating more than $300,000.
Whiteread, the first women to win the Turner Prize, is best known for her monumental sculptures including "Ghost," a large plaster cast of the inside of a condemned home in London's East End. The artist also recently showed off her more private side, exhibiting 155 of her drawings at the Hammer Museum for a show titled "Rachel Whiteread Drawings.”
Photo: British artist Rachel Whiteread at the Hammer Museum, which hosted a show of her work in 2010. Credit: Kirk McKoy/Los Angeles Times
Biennials can be large, messy, expensive and controversial undertakings for museums that attempt them, but it's too late for the Hammer to turn back now. Ramping up for the debut of its new biennial, the museum confirmed key details about the project, including the name, "Made in L.A.", and a run date of June 3 through Sept. 2, 2012.
"Whether people love or hate them, biennials are very much anticipated, desired and needed by the artistic community," Hammer Museum director Ann Philbin told Culture Monster last year when word of its biennial, done in partnership with LAX Art, first circulated. "They are our versions of the Oscars or Emmys."
Unlike the well-known Whitney Biennial, this one has a regional focus: about 60 artists, mainly emerging or lesser-known, working in the L.A. area. Names will be released by March. The exhibition-event will take place at a few venues across the city: the Hammer in Westwood, LAX Art in Culver City and the L.A. Municipal Art Gallery at Barnsdall Art Park, home to Frank Lloyd Wright's Hollyhock House. It will be sponsored by Wells Fargo.
An internationally known curator with roots in New York who is not afraid to try new cities, Cameron was the founding director of Prospect New Orleans, a citywide art exhibition launched in 2008 that drew critical praise but did not succeed in staying under budget or on a biennial schedule. Previously he had curated the 10th Taipei Biennial, "Dirty Yoga" in 2006 and the 8th Istanbul Biennial, "Poetic Justice," in 2003. From 1995 to 2006, he was senior curator at the New Museum in New York.
Cameron's appointment signals a renewed seriousness of purpose for the Orange County Museum, which has struggled to find its niche in the crowd of contemporary art museums in Southern California since the departure of chief curator and deputy director Elizabeth Armstrong in 2008.
As part of his new post Cameron will be in charge of the museum's "California Biennial," which a museum spokesperson confirmed will be held in summer 2013 despite what could be serious competition from a new 2012 biennial organized by the Hammer Museum.
— Jori Finkel
Image: Dan Cameron in front of Peter Saul's "Typical Saigon," 1968, at the Orange County Museum of Art, where he guest curated a Saul exhibition in 2008. Artwork loaned from the Krannert Art Museum and Kinkead Pavilion, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, Festival of Arts Purchase Fund. Image from Orange County Museum of Art.
Pacific Standard Time will explore the origins of the Los Angeles art world through museum exhibitions throughout Southern California over the next six months. Times art reviewer Sharon Mizota has set the goal of seeing all of them. This is her latest report.
I was hesitant to compare “Now Dig This! Art and Black Los Angeles 1960-1980” at the Hammer Museum and “Places of Validation, Art & Progression” at the California African American Museum. Both shows feature many of the same artists and cover overlapping periods (“Places” stretches back to 1940), but in lumping them together, I’m reinforcing the separation of both from the mainstream. Still, there’s something to be said for acknowledging the histories of our varied relationships to this thing called art and the institutions that support and police it. “Now Dig This!” and “Places of Validation” are actually complementary shows that together provide a fuller picture of art by African Americans in Los Angeles.
“Now Dig This!” is the more easily digestible of the two. As Christopher Knight noted in his review, its story is “not so much unknown as underknown.” Divided into four clear sections, the show provides a broad historical and political context for the work of artists like David Hammons, Betye Saar, Mel Edwards, Noah Purifoy, and John Outterbridge. And, perhaps in an attempt to unmoor the show from a strictly defined “black” identity, it also includes a section that mixes works by African American artists with those of their non-black peers and friends.
Last week, artist John Baldessari joined Times art critic Christopher Knight for a public talk at the Hammer Museum. At one point, the conversation turned to street art and graffiti, and their place in the overall cultural hierarchy.
Baldessari discussed the recent exhibition "Art in the Streets" at the Museum of Contemporary Art. "It brought people into the museum who had never been there before, at a very young age level," he said. "And they all had cameras."
He continued: "Some good artists have come out of it. Once it gets into a museum, it becomes something else. I think street art is basically anarchic."
In our final clip from last week's conversation, Baldessari talks about the culture of street art and its complicated relationship to the museum world.
At the UCLA Hammer Museum, "Now Dig This! Art and Black Los Angeles 1960-1980" tells an important story that is not so much unknown as underknown.
Many of the individual artists -- Melvin Edwards, John Outterbridge, Noah Purifoy, Betye Saar, Charles White and others -- are certainly familiar, while David Hammons ranks among the most important American artists of the last 30 years. What hasn't been the focus before now is the context within which their work developed. "Now Dig This!" lays it out with clarity and compelling insight.
That means, of course, that the exhibition is not simply a compendium of great art. Quality is mixed. Even Hammons is represented mostly by precocious student work (he moved to New York in 1974), interesting primarily for seeing where his subsequent work came from. One of his most potent pieces is a bristling wall assemblage composed from shards of broken records, hair and plaster -- contemporary materials combined to evoke an ancestral African "power shield" -- but it dates from 1983.
The show, part of the region-wide Pacific Standard Time series, opens with a quiet wallop. The Hammer's small entry room juxtaposes just two works -- Edwards' 1965 welded steel sculpture "The Lifted X," all muscular strength laid low by battered industrial forms and grimly suspended hooks, and White's monumental 1964 ink and charcoal drawing "Birmingham Totem," its crystalline mound of splintered wood surmounted by the shrouded figure of a crouching youth.
Edwards spent his formative artistic decade in L.A., moving west after high school in Houston and leaving California for New York in 1966. Initially a painter, he began to weld compact wall-reliefs from salvaged metal objects -- chains, tools, bolts, gears, padlocks, scissors, etc. -- composing intense abstractions that nonetheless recall African masks, Cubist heads and the industrial-strength syntax of Abstract Expressionist sculptor David Smith.
"The Lifted X" ruminates on Malcolm X, the civil rights activist who was murdered as Edwards was at work on a then-unattributed sculpture. Frontal and more than 5 feet tall, almost like a figure on a pedestal, its robust but broken forms seem forever poised between being upraised and hammered down.
The career of artist John Baldessari spans nearly 50 years, intersecting with the rise of the Southern California art scene that took off during the postwar period.
During his long career, Baldessari has witnessed tremendous changes in the local cultural landscape, mostly for the better but sometimes for the worse. The artist appeared recently with Los Angeles Times art critic Christopher Knight at the Hammer Museum, where he described the "roller-coaster" ride that has been the L.A. art world.
Here's a video clip from the conversation, in which Baldessari talks about the effect of CalArts, as well as money's effect on art-making ...