The Broad- A Journey That Wasn’t
“The Broad” is Los Angeles Down Town Contemporary Art Museum that is free to the public with tickets, though they do have paid events. It has different shows with different themes. The current exhibition, “A Journey That Wasn’t” is about time as represented in Modern Art. The central focus are artists who “present perceptual changes of time.” Central to the exhibit is a film by Pierre Huyghe whose film is the name of the show. The film is a combination of an exploration of Antarctica in search of an elusive albino penguin and a later artistic reconstruction of the trip in New York’s Central Park set to a live orchestra. I saw the film before reading what it was about and the penguin is fascinating and worth the look alone. It is about 20 minutes long and plays on a loop, just remember when you enter what you see on the screen. The obvious start of the piece is scenes of the orchestra warming up as there is also a moment of darkness just before.
The first room of the exhibit is vibrant with several works by Edward Ruscha. Two of the works, “Azteca/ Azteca in Decline” (2007) is the imaginative decay of a mural the artist saw in Mexico. It is interesting because separately the works are geometric and colorful, but together they tell a story of time passing. The other works are from a series done by the artists about books. Books often capture time, and yet the artist apparently feels books are disposable. I personally would disagree. There may come a time when we wish we still had printed words on paper. The first work called “Gilded, Marbled, and Foibled” (2011-2012) depicts a painting of an open book from an interesting angle. It is the art from the inside and back cover with a visual representation of the pages as if standing straight up. The last work in the room is a series of three book covers, visually real and yet untouchable. The three dimensional technique is called trompe l’oeil (trick of the eye). The books painted in 2002 actually not only look real but also aged. They are “Bible,” “Atlas,” and “Index” and represent time from use.
I may be out of order with this but two of the rooms of the exhibit are of works by Paul Pfeiffer and Elliott Hundley. Both apparently look at history and time, yet one present and another past. Pfeiffer uses photography and film to examine sports events, specifically basketball. His still work, “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse” (2004), only one #17 shown here, and his film work “Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion” (2001) show athletes stripped of team insignia, other players, and advertisements. He in effect shows the game as spectacle.
Elliott Hundley is a paradox of Paul Pfeiffer in that his work removes nothing, but uses found material, cut out text, photos, and is not flat, but has depth. His work rises above the surface of the canvas. The subject of his work also recreates Greek Theater from 400 BC, in this case the Tragedies of Euripides. “The high house low” (2011) and “Blinded” (2009) start with classical text but transitions into the contemporary and imaginative. “The high house low” is made from wood, sound board, inkjet print on Kitakata, paper, pins, magnifying glass, photographs, plastic, and metal. This piece is a visual representation of Euripides “The Bacchae.” Apparently hidden in this work is friends of the artist actually performing the play. For any Theater lovers out there worth a look. It is interesting how one form of art can influence another. The artist has also dated each section of the work, 1959, 1968, 1998, and 2008. If interested in the play, there are several ways to read it for free, online and at a library. For example “The Project Gutenberg.” “Blinded” is made from wood, cork board, extruded polystyrene, canvas, oil paint, bamboo, willow, paper, ink, silk pins, plastic, wire, string, glass, and glue. Just to show you art can be made with many resources.
One room of the exhibit explores daily life from different views and medium by four different artists. The largest piece in the room is Toba Khedoori’s “Untitled” (black fireplace) (2006). It is an image of a hearth ablaze within a large black abyss. The piece is twelve feet tall and represents home. The expanse around though black, is a blank canvas for the imagination of the mind. The other three artists are Janine Antoni, Charles Ray, and Ron Mueck and explore the ordinary and the themes of “family, home and personal identity.”
Janine Antoni has taken images of her parents in “Mom and Dad” (1994) and transferred with makeup and costumes her parents into each other. It kind of reflects how people often merge into each other over time.
Charles Ray’s work “All My Clothes” (1973), the artist documents his own wardrobe. Each image are self portraits but in each the artist has no expression and is in the same position to perhaps reflect banality. Ray apparently is parodying the “seriality” of minimalist conceptual artists of the time, Sol LeWitt and Hanne Darboven.
The final piece by Ron Mueck is a statue of a seated elderly woman who appears to be meditating or exhausted. It is called “Seated Woman” (1999-2000) and is realistic except its diminutive scale and seems to be a reflection on aging. Mueck has worked as a model maker for film television and advertising, hence his incredible ability to make sculptures that are realistic but not to true scale. The size lends itself to close examination and relatability.
Again these may not be in order. This next group of artists reflect historical events from the Rhine River, Karl Mark’s grave, and Jerusalem. Each location has a long history with human impact from legends to great tragedies and national identity. They span history but also have a great amount of impact in the world now. The tragedies of yesterday still leave an imprint in the headlines of today. Anselm Kiefer, Goshka Makuga, and Marlene Dumas work is dark and important as a reminder of how history is still playing out today.
Anselm Kiefer’s work focus on the Rhine of Germany, combining vintage photographs with the artists own work. “Alarichs Grab,” (1969-89) which means Anaric’s grave, is mixed media on photography. It is gray and surreal. One can barely see the river in the background. The second work entitled “Maginot” (1977-93) reflects on the misogyny that lead to the Third Reich. It is made from acrylic, emulsion, and shellac on woodcut mounted on canvas. This painting is constructed from a series of 28 wood cuts made by Kiefer on German thinkers who helped build the ideology of the Reich and again the Rhine.
Goshka Makuga’s work is a tapestry of Karl Marx’s grave. It combines vintage photographs with images of women from twentieth century Czech artist Miroslav Tichy with images by Makuga. It is a critique of communism. It is called “Death of Marxism, Women of all Lands Unite,” 2013 wool tapestry. The women become active to comment on a history that excluded them. It in effect refocuses the call of class struggle to a call to end sexist oppression.
Finally Marlene Dumas’s work “Wall Weeping” (2009) oil on linen, is derived from a newspaper photograph of Israeli soldiers searching Palestinians at a stone wall. The image removes the soldiers leaving the men against the wall with raised arms, that could be taken as a different context of prayer or prostration. The Palestinians could thus be Israelis praying at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem.
This next set are two artists from two countries who both juxtapose images from different times to create modern surreal pieces. David Salle from New York lifted material from various sources to create paintings that do not necessarily tell a story but resonate an artistic form. “Demonic Roland” (1987) and “Savagery and Misrepresentation” (1981) are the pieces from Salle. “Savagery” uses the technique called pastiche, or imitating the style of another work. It contains contrasts with images drawn from art from the eighteenth to the twentieth century, 1950s advertising, and drawing manuals leaving the viewer to question if it has meaning, and yet it reflects the tone of the art world of the 1980s. “Demonic Roland” references the “Song of Roland.” The song is one of the oldest surviving pieces of French literature. Yet the piece seems to display working men, one appears to be holding a bust of a man from the time of Roland. It also contains a touch of eroticism with a striking nude floating over the image, and yet it seems to me to artistically just blend with the work as if it is decorative and not center. The men’s emotional expression and clasping of items as if weapons or of importance elevate their action within the work as center.
East German Neo Rauch creates what are called “knotting of episodes” that reflect the history of the demise of communism to the popular rise of capitalism of the 1990s. The images are dream like but also reflect Germany’s history, art history, and the artists own experiences. “Der Laden” (2005) in English translates to “The Store,” captivates all dimensions of the subject from front to back. It is painted in a way as if multiple temporal layers are revealed at once. The store is effectively in alternate realities coexisting. The characters appear in their own reality that exist simultaneous from ordinary to other worldly. The second piece called “Fundgrube” (2011) translated to Treasure Trove, is an environment of vibrant color and again alternative universes, and the over tone is chaotic, as if watching multiple sets of people in different scenes painted on the same plane viewed at the same time. The style is a combination of classical painting and surreal.
Sharon Lockhart’s photography takes up its own space in the exhibit. It is called the “Pine Flat Portrait Studio Series” (2005). Lockhart set up a dark backdrop in a barn in the small town of Pine Flat, California located in the south of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Over three years the local youth could come to the studio where Lockhart would take intimate portraits. There is also a film component that apparently only aired once in October at the museum. Each image has the first name of the subject. The image containing three portraits are “Becky, Damien, Katie” (2005). While the one of two images are Mikey and Sierra (2005). I included Mikey particularly because the image of the GUN I found disturbing. The artist did not censure and apparently these children were encouraged to come by the studio and take pictures of themselves. It appears as if this boy is perfectly comfortable with a firearm on his shoulders. It is shocking and yet appears normal. In America guns are the center of conflict, politics, and unfortunately too many deaths. I am biased on this issue. Yet this artist did not censure because it is a part of the life of these children. Is it shocking to you too, what does that mean for you and what will you express from the effect of this image? Something positive that will change the narrative?
The next set reflects on the issue of inequality of American culture through time. Sherrie Levine and Glen Ligon borrow from different sources and use different mediums. Ligon examines the dark history of slavery through the use of modern neon lights and a recreation of the pages of an eighteenth or nineteenth century book. “Warm Broad Glow II” (2011) is the reproduction of text from Gertrude Stein’s “Three Lives” (1909). It reflects the line “warm broad glow of negro sunshine.” The words carry a different meaning than they did in 1909 hence a play on language and time. Ligon “Narratives” (1993) is another example in this show of artists making books the subject of their work. In this case the very printed words have a voice.
Sherrie Levine recreates two images from Walker Evans, negatives. Levine also recreates Walker Evan’s Pit Town, New Mexico, Farm Security Agency government funded Depression area images, giving new meaning. Her intent is to in effect create a new theory or understanding.
Andreas Gursky has a series on display of seamless composite photographs of pit crew races from around the world. The series is called “Boxenstopp.” Gursky takes a high speed activity and choreographs it theatrically and defies the concept that an image just captures a moment.
Ragnar Kjartansson “The Visitors” (2012) is a nine screen installation filming his friends singing in different locations on an historic farm in Upstate New York, Rokeby Farm. The Icelandic artist references ABBA’s final albumn with the title. The lyrics are by Asdis Sif Gunnarsdottir, music arrangement by Kjartansson and David Tor Jonsson. Each is recorded simultaneously, yet each performer presents their own rendition. All nine performances are maintained in the same room, so it is impossible to watch all together. The installation runs over an hour.
Many of the paired exhibits in this show contain an American with a foreign artist, but then art is global and we should not be xenophobic with it. In this second to last part are two such artists, one American Gregory Crewdson, and co German Artists Bernd and Hilla Becher. Both artists reflect the theme of decay but of vastly different subjects. Crewdson’s “Sanctuary Series” (2009) are photographs of the Cinecitta’s Studios of Rome. These abandoned sets were commissioned by Benito Mussolini in 1937. The sets were the locations for both fascist propaganda and Artistic Italian movies. The Bechers work consists of declining industrial structures of Post World War Two Europe, mostly in their home town of Ruhr, Germany. The images are arranged in grids called typologies. Here are a series of water towers shot in 1972.
The final two images of the exhibit are by Richard Artschwager, who is a unique artist. He studied Science and Math, and was employed as a cabinetmaker. One work called “Destruction V” (1972) is the fifth of a series of five capturing the demolition of the New Jersey Atlantic City fancy Traymore Hotel. Each image is taken from a different media source. The Medium for the image is acrylic on Celotex, a “commercial insulated board.” The second image is called “Night Watch” (1999) and is charcoal and acrylic on fiber panel and wood. Both are harmonious in their grey yet one is the dying of a creation of man and the other of a group of men alive and vibrant if colorless. Time flows and life moves with it.