Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Darling, I Barely Recognized You...

I did not take this incredible photo.  I wish I had.
This is probably the best way to view the
Light Sculpture on Wilshire.
All credit goes to Michael Grobe Photography.
I used to know LACMA like the back of my hand.  Years spent as an Art History student meant frequent visits and a resulting familiarity with the institution.  Asian Art in the Basement, Rome and Egypt on 2, American Art and Furniture on 1, India and Costumes on 3.  True, it wasn't the Met, or the Whitney, or the Frick, and at the time The Getty Villa was closed and the Getty Center was still under construction, but it was still home, and it had endeared itself to me and many others.  Looking back, it was the first destination that drug me out of my suburban safety net and into the 'big city', if you will.

Much has happened on the LA art scene since graduating more years ago than I care to remember.  The Getty Malibu reopened, the Getty Brentwood finally opened, (I'm glad to say I'm a frequent patron of both), and some guy named Michael Govan took over LACMA, to much fanfare.  The hope was that, finally, LA would have a namesake Museum on par with those in other Cosmopolitan cities across the US.  It takes a while to climb a mountain that big, but I think LA is well on it's way.  Govan has certainly done his part to put LA on the map; enviable exhibitions, donor/patron driven building projects, and educational outreach.
Tony Smith's'Smoke' fills the atrium with it's now
uncovered original skylight.
 With all the dust being stirred up from construction, I had hung back and not paid a visit.  Initially, there was to be a Renzo Piano overhaul, calling for the demolition and reconstruction of the entire Museum.  While it horrified me (what some called disharmonious and out of date, I called charming), my unrest was not in vain; funding never materialized and the job was shelved.  Since then, they have completed the Broad and the Resnick galleries (both design by Piano), as well as a brilliant subterranean parking structure.  I say brilliant because in LA, parking is everything.  And, they are currently putting the finishing touches on a new Cafe (also designed by Piano.  I think they're trying to compensate...) which will be added to the dining roster with the Pentimento Restaurant and the family friendly Cafeteria.

The former Roman gallery, with windows open to Wilshire.
 I found myself there a few months ago, with a good friend who's wonderful company on Museum excursions, though he knows more than he lets on.  It was a rainy Saturday and what better way to spend it that at a Museum. 

When I entered, I was first blown away by the fact that they had finally (FINALLY) torn off the shredded tarps from the original skylight in the Ahmanson building, and took the Atrium back to it's 1960's International Style Travertine clad glamour.  For years I had lamented being able to see the blue tarps flapping in the wind while standing inside; it was so tacky and low rent.  Thankfully, those days are gone.  The wood paneled Elevators and brass mounted clocks were also still in tact.  The other major architectural favor they did for the building was to open up the windows onto Wilshire Blvd.  All the years I trudged through the dimly lit rooms, I never suspected there were windows hidden behind false walls, but there were.  Beautiful, floor to ceiling windows that let in glorious natural light.  Light is of course the enemy of painting and textiles, but it's not of sculpture.  These room now house less environmentally sensitive art.

Another surprise laid in the reorganization of the Art in the Museum.  Galleries had changed floors, or buildings, periods had been combined to wonderful results, and rooms had been reconfigured to allow for better traffic flow and new ways to view the art.  Though this was not a bright, shiny, modern master by Piano, to this native, it was a brand new experience.  I didn't have enough time to see everything, and for the first time in a long time, that what I wanted to do.  I wanted to get to know my old friend all over again, and I think with time, I will.   

- Ian

The Sculpture Garden on Wilshire, seen though the Ground Floor windows.

A table I j'adore.  Dare I say it's precious?
I am enamored with the little Turtle feet.

Refreshingly, quite a bit of the art is hung Salon style, an old
trend  that I am happy to see come back into the public eye.

A dramatic display of Bronze Sculpture.

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