Category: Santa Monica Museum of Art

Art review: 'Allen Ruppersberg: You and Me or the Art of Give and Take' at SMMoA

September 16, 2009 |  3:15 pm

Ruppersberg Grandma

No, the big vinyl banner that says “Wave Goodbye to Grandma” in the middle of the new exhibition at the Santa Monica Museum of Art is not a healthcare debating fiction uttered by Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa). Instead, it's Conceptual artist Allen Ruppersberg's way of marking an epochal transition.

Using the span of human lifetimes, including his own, Ruppersberg compiles printed matter of many different but familiar kinds to quietly escalate an elemental awareness of impermanence and change. Keyed to vernacular objects and mechanically reproduced images — books, records, newspaper clippings, family photo albums, postcards, snapshots, magazines and more — his work is like a mountainous archive of half-remembered, shared events from the not-too-distant past, temporarily sorted in the midst of slipping into inevitable decay. Wave goodbye to Grandma.

“You and Me and the Art of Give and Take,” as the surprisingly poignant exhibition is called, includes two new large-scale installations and a selection of 10 drawings and collages made between 1985 and 1989. Among those drawings is an exquisite set that clarifies Ruppersberg's objective.

Titled “The Gift and the Inheritance,” each is a pencil rendering that shows a single book from Ruppersberg's extensive library — Shakespeare, Baudelaire, Horatio Alger Jr. and even a "Tick Tock Tales" comic. The books are rendered diagonally on the page, in careful perspective as if glimpsed resting on a tabletop; but, in fact, the images are adrift in the blank white space of the sheet. The result is an uncanny sense of materiality given to an illusion — of drawing as both an activity in time and a physical object in space.

Continue reading »

Barkley L. Hendricks at the Santa Monica Museum of Art

May 25, 2009 |  4:00 pm

Lawdy Mama When Barkley L. Hendricks began to paint portraits in Philadelphia around 1969, one would have been hard-pressed to find many black faces over the prior five centuries of Western art. “Lawdy Mama,” the first work encountered in Hendricks' survey exhibition at the Santa Monica Museum of Art acknowledges as much.

A three-quarter length young woman wearing a high-collared, short-sleeved, horizontally striped black dress is shown frontally, her left arm crossing her waist so that a hand can clasp her right arm at the elbow. The pose is casual, but it is also slightly defensive — a protective gesture.

Tenuous unease, perhaps from being scrutinized as an artist's subject, flickers across her face. Finally it's overcome by the straightforward stare — lips pursed, eyes set — all beneath the soft brown cloud of an enormous Afro hairdo.

The curve of the Afro is echoed in the arched top of the canvas — a lunette, common for religious paintings before the modern era. This reference is further enhanced by the gold-leaf background with which Hendricks sanctifies his otherwise realistically painted “lawdy” mama.

That gesture is a bit clumsy for being so old-fashioned, but it does serve a savvy purpose. Historically, gold-ground paintings are Byzantine — which means the reference dates to before the Renaissance, prior to the modern history of Western painting. Hendricks' ambitious picture is taking a wide and pointed historical detour, starting before America's colonization.

Continue reading »

Recommended on Facebook

In Case You Missed It...


Explore the arts: See our interactive venue graphics


Tweets and retweets from L.A. Times staff writers.