Thursday, March 29, 2012

LACMA in a crunch

You know you’re in for an experience when your curator casually mentions the museum she works in is commonly referred to as a campus. LACMA (Los Angles County Museum of Art) turned out to be just that. One drives in the back of the campus and parks underground. Once you’ve emerged two stories up you are greeted with three huge buildings, a ticket office, a multitude of outdoor sculpture and even an outdoor bar and restaurant. It is difficult to know where to begging. Luckily for us, that was decided by others.

One you have had a moment to take in the massive structure surrounding you and the expansive grounds of the museum, you just have to pick a place and start. If you are like the group we were with, this can be daunting experience. We had been visiting museums all day and had just driven from the Hammer museum in five o’clock traffic to meet with a curator by the permanent Richard Serra instillation. She spoke to us briefly, describing LACMA as a ‘encyclopedic’ museum, and correctly pointed out that the largest challenge they face is one that is not uncommon to many museums half its size: dealing with visitor short term memory fatigue. With over 40 curators working together to bridge the gaps between the various departments, the overarching goal of the museum s to have a watchful eye for globalizations and the ramifications the art presented within the museum represents to the rest of the world.

After circling the Serra piece, we moved as a group into the next room to view Chris Burden’s kinetic sculpture Metropolis II. While it was immensely fascinating to view the structure and to hear about the process of the construction and the decision of the museum to commission the work straight from the curator, it was ultimately like stumbling upon a giant oyster and discovering that there was no pearl. Or, rather that the pearl only appeared on the weekends as we were told that the gargantuan structure requires a person to operate it and can therefore only be turned on for the general viewing public on Saturdays and Sundays. I have since watched Youtube videos, which honestly only adds to my disappointment in not seeing it in action.

Since we were pressed for time most of the group quickly looked at the map and headed out in all different directions. I chose to wander through “California Design 1030-1964: Living in a Modern Way”. This was one of the two remaining exhibitions left from LACMA’s original five part contributions to Pacific Standard Time. I thoroughly enjoyed this exhibition. For me, it was a really enjoyable way to wind down a day of intense art viewing. I spend probably half an hour getting lost in the pristine Julius Schulman photographs and the case studies for the home plans allowed me to be incredibly dorky and imagine myself building and designing a house in LA in 1950. It was really fun and a really easy way to loose myself in the art. Another unexpected treat was the full scale Eames living room, which I actually found surprisingly bland --- I really though ay would have used more colors. There were many exhibits I visited during the trip where I wrote down to but the exhibition catalogue later, but I think this might be the only one I actually get around to purchasing. At least that is what I keep telling myself.

LACMA is one place where I would have really wanted more time to walk through. I was such a massive compound and I know that I missed out on seeing the other permanent exhibitions. It is certainly at the top of my list of things to do on my next trip to LA. That being said, I am extremely happy we fit into our day of marathon driving and gallery viewing. I could not think of a better structure to end on.

Martin Strickland

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