Made In California
a guide to the exhibition

Los Angeles County Museum of Art

Eleanor Antin
The Freebooters
Fiberglas, wood, yellow rubber boots,
and miscellaneous found objects and
materials
2000

A.C. Martin & Samuel Marks
Wilshire May Co.
1939

You started with Eleanor Antin's Voyage of the Freebooters at LACMA West (the former May Co. building, a curvilinear masterpiece). The Freebooters began as a sort of Géricault caricature or variant of Boots, and continued, the Freebooters marching across the lawn that faces Wilshire Boulevard, over to the Ahmanson Building (newly trigged-out in the Oz-green glass that is the unofficial official style in this latter day), where they emerged from the ceiling, climbed down a rope ladder, and gathered amidst the Museum's period collections. The last sight of them was outside over a Plaza railing, where down below, under the trees, they had a campfire going.

William Wendt
Malibu Coast (Paradise Cove)
oil on canvas
c. 1897

Reginald Machell
Katherine Tingley's Chair,
The Theosophical Society,
Point Loma
carved and painted wood
c. 1905-10

The show proper opened with Impressionist works by Granville Redmond, John Paul Edwards and William Keith from around the turn of the previous century. Marguerite Zorach introduced a spectral Fauvism, and George Inness recalled Corot in his great California (which appears to need a cleaning). These are artists who saw California and painted it, as did Taizo Kato and John O'Shea and William Wendt in Malibu Coast (Paradise Cove); these are great works, and there were many: Robert Harshe, Marion Wachtel, Guy Rose, Maurice Braun (Moonrise over San Diego Bay) et al. Then you hit Greene & Greene's designs, and Arthur Bowen Davies' Pacific Parnassus, Mount Tamalpais (ca. 1905). When you saw Reginald Machell's Katherine Tingley Chair, you knew where you were.

Edward S. Curtis
A Desert Cahuilla Woman
photogravure
from The North American Indian,
vol. 15
1924

Robert Henri
Tam Gan
oil on canvas
1914

Edward S. Curtis had a nice selection of photographs here, and I would have directed your attention to William S. Rice's 1903 watercolor, Chinatown—Monterey, which may have served as a model for the seaside village in Marlon Brando's One-Eyed Jacks. Not far from it was a portrait by none other than Robert Henri, a painting that justifies his reputation.

Travis Banton
Costume for Marlene Dietrich
silk chiffon, silk crepe,
and fox fur
created for "Desire"
Paramount
1935

Gilbert Adrian
Costume for Greta Garbo
silk crepe, paste stones,
and rhinestones
created for "Inspiration"
MGM
1930

1930's costumes by Gilbert Adrian, Orry-Kelly and Travis Banton closed Section 1, designed for Marlene Dietrich, Dolores Del Rio and Joan Crawford.

Charles Payzant
Wilshire Boulevard
watercolor on paper
c. 1930

Millard Sheets
Angel's Flight
oil on canvas
1931

Stanton MacDonald-Wright and Thomas Hart Benton presided over Section 2, where you got Barse Miller's evocation of Revivalism, Apparition over Los Angeles, Charles Payzant's Wilshire Boulevard (Bullock's Wilshire), and streamlined or architectonic chair designs by Kem Weber and Richard Neutra. And then there was Helen Lundeberg's somewhat Egyptian History of Transportation in California, a mural represented by studies. Millard Sheets (Angel's Flight) appeared for the first time, a great artist, and Edward Biberman (also Childe Hassam's California Oil Fields, Will Connell, Otis Oldfield and Eduardo Scott). Dorothea Lange was there, of course, and John Gutmann (The Cry), and Millard Sheets' rural California (ca. 1935), Horace Bristol, Paul Sample, and the influence of Rivera appeared with Henrietta Shore. Edward Weston, Anne M. Bremer, and there you were at Diebenkorn's precursor Clayton S. Price and his Coastline (ca. 1924). More works like Fernand Lungren's brilliant desertscape Wall Street Canyon (n.d.), Weston's Twenty Mule Team Canyon, a landscape by Helen Forbes closely akin to Georgia O'Keeffe, an aloe by Imogen Cunningham, Agnes Pelton (Sandstorm), Chiura Obata's sketchbook (!), Stanton MacDonald-Wright's dazzling Cañon Synchromy (Orange) (ca. 1920) and Santa Monica (1933). You were not to miss a downtown portrait by the photographer J.T. Sata and another Helen Forbes before you saw a gemlike and studiously primitive deadpan portrait of herself and Diego Rivera by Frida Kahlo. Julia Morgan's rendering of Hearst Castle gave you the architect's vision, and there was Stiles Clements' design for the Mayan Theater (1926-27), and Frank Lloyd Wright's perspective of Hollyhock House (1917-18), which showed you the "temple" effect. Dorr Bothwell and Jean Charlot and Siqueiros brought you to another masterpiece, Rivera's Allegory of California study (in one hand she holds apples, pears, grapes and wheat, in the other the activities of man).

Elza Sunderland
Woman's Two-Piece Playsuit
printed cotton
c. 1940

Rudolph Schindler
Armchair and Ottoman
gumwood and wool upholstery
1936-38

Elza Sunderland's Woman's Two-Piece Playsuit (ca. 1940) is a pleated bottom tied-in-back top of printed cotton that is superb. And there you were in the Rudolph Schindler room with Neutra's drawings. You would note the advanced plan by Harwell Hamilton Harris (1939).

Rudi Gernreich
Woman's Bathing Suit
wool knit
1952

John McLaughlin
Untitled
oil and casein on fiberboard
1952

Section 3 brought you George Hurrell and Lorser Feitelson and great bathing suit designs by Rudi Gernreich and Christian Dior, and the whole school of artists out of which Diebenkorn emerged: Wonner and Park and Bischoff and Theophilus Brown, stark and vigorous paintings. There was Minor White and Gordon Onslow and Lee Mullican, and Rico Lebrun, followed by John McLaughlin and James Weeks and John Mason and Paul Landacre and Milo Baughman's great desk and the prodigious Eames and Van Keppel & Green and Kienholz. You would have listened to Philip Whalen reading "Further Notice" in 1956, and Kenneth Rexroth reading "Great Nebula of Andromeda." Then there was Diebenkorn's seminal Freeway and Aqueduct (1957), Man Ray's Watts Towers, Rex Brandt's Surfriders (which might be overlooked) and Charles Sheeler (!) and lots of Max Yavno and Lundeberg's The Shadow on the Road to the Sea (1966), a cloud shadow study.

Ed "Big Daddy" Roth
Road Agent
Corvair engine/inverted transmission
chrome moly tubing frame
'37 Ford suspension
VW torsion bar
Fiberglas body
1965

Wayne Thiebaud
Down Mariposa
etching
from the portfolio
Recent Etchings I,
pl. 3
1979

Section 4 opened with Ed "Big Daddy" Roth's Road Agent, and it's a sight to behold, from its chromed engine to its orange bubble top and passenger TV. Oldenburg's cast Pacific Airflow (1969) served as an overdoor along with Craig Kauffman. A chef-d'oeuvre by Gernreich, Bathing Suit and Hip Boots, Matching Belt and Sun Visor reveals his harmonies very clearly. Sam Francis was barely mentioned, and so was Wayne Thiebaud, but Ruscha got shown. Craig Ellwood and Ray Kappe had important designs, and Peter Alexander's homage to Man Ray, or vice versa, Cloud Box (1966) was featured.

Alexis Smith
Madame X
mixed-media collage
1982

Alexis Smith
Sea of Tranquility
mixed-media collage
1982

Section 5 was all Gehry and Meier and Jerde and Moss, until you got to Alexis Smith.

Chris Burden
L.A.P.D. Uniform
thirty uniforms and
thirty Beretta handguns,
wool serge, wood, and metal
1993

Chris Burden
L.A.P.D. Uniform
thirty uniforms and
thirty Beretta handguns,
wool serge, wood, and metal
1993

You went downstairs to the basement and saw Chris Burden's L.A.P.D. Uniform, a sort of Versailles for 9-foot boys in blue.

You will have ignored the "revisionist" commentary by the Museum's Education Department, which had nothing to do with anything.

 

NOTE: Not long after this show, Eli Broad, the wealthiest man in Los Angeles, a well-known patron of Charles Ray and Jeff Koons as well as the driving force behind Frank O. Gehry’s Walt Disney Concert Hall, announced the razing of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Broad ordered a new one from Rem Koolhaas, the Dutch design firm.

This plan has been dispensed with, and construction is now underway on a Broad Museum of Contemporary Art occupying the lawn referred to above (in its first decade, the County Museum was a center of contemporary art, but has for a long time lost its standing). All existing buildings, including LACMA West (the May Co. building) are to be faced with a scrim by Renzo Piano, in accordance with Broad’s desire to “unify the campus”, despite the architectural independence of the buildings in question, and the fact that the Los Angeles County Museum of Art is not a private institution.

That plan has been dispensed with, it is still evdently a desideratum to replsce LACMA, however.

 

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