It's easy to understand why curators, critics and others have a soft spot for artists engaged in "social practice" -- those who roll up their sleeves and use their skills to try to bring about some sort of real-world change, whether raising awareness about domestic violence or helping to rebuild post-Katrina New Orleans. But is it possible that when it comes to social practice that the art establishment has a blind spot too?
That is one question raised by our report on the problems behind the scenes at Watts House Project, a highly lauded community redevelopment effort founded by artist Edgar Arceneaux to bring artists and architects together to renovate homes on East 107th Street, across from the Watts Towers. They called it "an ongoing, collaborative artwork in the shape of a neighborhood redevelopment."
Despite serious art-world support and funding (about $700,000 in all, from the likes of LACMA, the Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, and ArtPlace), the small, 3-year-old nonprofit has been struggling with resident dissatisfaction, construction delays and board defections. In October alone, seven of Arceneaux's 12 board members left, including doctor-collector Joy Simmons, LAX Art founder Lauri Firstenberg and real estate developer Eve Steele. Residents are now talking about pulling out.
Last Saturday, several local museums offered free admission as a way to mark the end of the sprawling six-month-long exhibition festival Pacific Standard Time. But don't throw away your little red guide to the PST shows quite yet.
As could be expected from such an unwieldy event involving many different institutional schedules, several exhibitions are spilling beyond the official six-month mark, giving people a little more time to fill in gaps in their knowledge of Southern California art history.
Here's a list of shows that run beyond this week:
Google knows something about the power in numbers, even in an art website.
Google Art Project, which launched last year with virtual tours and digitized artworks from 17 museums, has added 134 new museums to its site, including four from California.
Initially, no museums from the state were included in the project; now the Getty Museum, the L.A. County Museum of Art, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and the De Young Museum in San Francisco are participating.
Other newcomers in the U.S. include the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Mass., the Rubin Museum in New York, and the White House.
New partners from outside the U.S. include the Sao Paulo Museum of Modern Art in Brazil, the Musée d’Orsay in France, the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico, Islamic Museum of Qatar, and the National Museum of Indonesia, just to name a few. Altogether, 40 countries are now represented.
This expansion addresses early complaints from cultural critics that the site was too Eurocentric and Old Masters-heavy, because of offerings from such venerable institutions as the Frick Collection and Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Uffizi in Florence, the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, Russia, and the National Gallery in London.
While LACMA’s plans to build a massive Jeff Koons sculpture of a train outside the museum seem to be running out of steam, the Friends of the High Line in New York have thrown another possible wrench into the works: They announced their desire to build the same unrealized sculpture by Koons in their popular city park, which overlooks Chelsea and neighboring areas in Manhattan where an elevated railway once ran.
“I think the train connection is really powerful for us,” said Robert Hammond, co-founder of Friends of the High Line, which is known for integrating art, though usually temporary, into the elevated park.
As a permanent attraction, the Koons sculpture “could point to the city’s industrial history and how freight trains used to run here,” he said, adding that one proposed site is the rail yards between 30th and 34th streets, near the West Side Highway.
The sculpture, which the Los Angeles County Museum of Art unveiled to the public with dramatic renderings five years ago, consists of a realistic-looking 70-foot replica of a 1943 Baldwin 2900 steam locomotive hanging from a real 160-foot crane. The train is meant to look and sound authentic, with wheels chugging and steam releasing on occasion. The project was estimated to cost at least $25 million, though several people close to the project say that actual costs could run much higher.
A major exhibition on the American painter Thomas Hart Benton is in the pipeline at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art -- one that would dovetail very nicely with the new movie museum that could be part of LACMA’s campus by fall 2015, when the Benton show is tentatively scheduled to open.
The news of the Benton exhibition came Wednesday when the National Endowment for the Humanities announced its latest round of grants, including $40,000 to LACMA for the show's planning. The grant was modest -– less than half the average of $82,000 in a round that totaled $17 million and included much bigger ones for the Getty Research Institute, UCLA, USC and UC Santa Barbara.
But the show whose planning it will support is a biggie: “Benton, Hollywood and History,” co-organized by LACMA and the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Mo., will feature about 100 works, including 75 paintings and murals and 25 preparatory studies and drawings, plus a selection of Benton’s historical prints, illustrated books and never-exhibited ephemera and photographs.
A written description LACMA released after The Times inquired about the grant says the show “will be the first exhibition to examine the visual strategies that Thomas Hart Benton (1889-1975) pursued to become the preeminent history painter of 20th century America, and the ways those strategies intersected… with the strategies of Hollywood, America’s paramount myth-making machine.”
Michael Heizer's "Levitated Mass" -- the 340-ton boulder that recently completed an 11-day trek across Southern California -- will be lifted into place at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art using a 700-ton crane.
The L.A. Now blog reported Thursday that the massive crane is being constructed in order to lift the rock onto a 456-foot-long slot constructed on the grounds of the museum's north lawn. It will likely be two months before "Levitated Mass" is ready to be viewed by the public.
Heizer's rock was excavated from a site in Riverside County. The art piece will be situated on parkland and will therefore be free to view for the public, the museum told The Times.
A security fence has been erected around the construction site as LACMA crews work on the installation. The museum said the completed site will feature a granite landscape intended to resemble the original quarry.
-- David Ng
Photo: A view of the LACMA grounds. Credit: LACMA
"I hope that's not costing us a lot of money," said the man on a bicycle at the corner of Atlantic Avenue and 36th Street in Long Beach, as we waited for the light to change the other day. Down the block, the 340-ton granite boulder that will be the centerpiece of artist Michael Heizer's sculpture "Levitated Mass" sat in the middle of the road, suspended in an industrial sling within a massive, specially built transporter two-thirds the length of a football field. A crowded block-party swirled around it.
This was Day 8 of the circuitous, 11-day journey that began in a Riverside stone quarry and ended, 22 cities later, at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. There, over the course of the next few months, the two-story-high rock will be positioned atop a deep, 456-foot-long trench of structurally reinforced concrete running along 6th Street. The trench was mostly completed last fall. When the sculpture is finished in late spring or early summer, a viewer will be able to enter the sloping trench and pass beneath the giant boulder balanced above.
Did eager anticipation for that day spark the flame of public imagination, drawing international media and tens of thousands of visitors during the rock's 105-mile journey? No. But the spectacle is worth considering. It tells us about the distinctive intersection between art and the public today.
The tale of a 350-ton piece of granite traveling from a quarry in Riverside County to the campus of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art captivated much of Southern California over the last two weeks.
Now: the video.
Times videographer Jeff Amlotte joined the caravan during its 11-night trip, capturing the sounds and scenes, the tight squeezes and the growing crowds.
The shrink-wrapped boulder was carried on a custom transporter across four counties. Its eventual resting place will be as the centerpiece of the museum's permanent art installation "Levitated Mass" by reclusive Nevada artist Michael Heizer.
The museum paid $70,000 for the rock itself and is spending $10 million to transport it and build the public art work -- all paid for with private donations.
And in case you missed it Sunday night, here's a first person story by Times reporter Deborah Vankin about her own adventure with the caravan.
Culture Monster has followed the 11-day journey of LACMA's giant boulder across four counties with reporter Deborah Vankin. She has kept us up to date with her blog posts, stories and several all-nighters of live tweeting.
Vankin was on the scene again Friday night into Saturday morning as the long, wide caravan traveled the final leg of its 105-mile trip from a Riverside County quarry to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
The evening began on Figueroa Street between 63rd and 65th streets.
Along the way, the rock encountered illegally parked cars, low-hanging traffic signals, giant palm trees, gawkers who were both amazed and befuddled, and one former Laker who got to ride along with the rock.
For those just catching up: The 340-ton boulder is protected in shrink wrap and sits in a steel sling on a custom transporter. Its eventual resting place will be as the centerpiece of the museum's permanent art installation, "Leviated Mass," by Nevada artist Michael Heizer. The museum paid $70,000 for the rock itself and is spending $10 million to transport it and build the art installation -- all paid with private donations.
For those who have been captivated by the effort, here is a recap of Vankin's final night of tweets and photos, including one of that former Laker.
-- Sherry Stern
Photo: Ludy Hurtado of Los Angeles takes a muscle pose with the massive plastic shrink-wrapped LACMA rock as it stopped on Wilshire Boulevard. Credit: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times
After 11 grueling, and especially cold, nights on the road navigating tight corners, “crabbing” across bridges and narrowly avoiding collision with towering utility poles, LACMA’s monolith has finally arrived.
That is, it arrived at the museum. It “arrived,” in the most general sense, as soon as it left its Riverside quarry and the media hype began to swell.
The 340-ton boulder –- still shrink-wrapped, lighted with string lights and resting in a steel sling on its custom transporter –- pulled up to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art at exactly 4:25 a.m., as planned. Its eventual resting place will be as the centerpiece of the museum's permanent art installation, "Leviated Mass," by Nevada artist Michael Heizer.
At LACMA, the piece of granite stopped opposite Chris Burden’s "Urban Light" sculpture -– a yin of sorts to Burden’s enormous outdoor installation’s yang. The rock was greeted by more than 500 cheering and clapping members of the "levitated masses," who’d been waiting hours for it to arrive.
After a short photo opp -- during which onlookers streamed into the street, some reaching out and touching the boulder -- the transporter rounded the corner onto Fairfax Avenue at 5 a.m., and pulled into the construction site that will be the rock's final home.