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Duration:08:53
Uploaded:2016-06-09
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In which we explore sunny Los Angeles and take in its enormous range of art offerings, from the eclectic campus at LACMA to an incredible exhibit at Hauser Wirth & Schimmel. It's all worth the drive.

Featuring:
Ramen Yamadaya
Hammer Museum
Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects
Honor Fraser Gallery
Coolhaus
Nuestro Mexico Restaurant
Buck Owens Crystal Palace
Los Angeles County Museum of Art
The Broad Museum
Wurstk├╝che
Hauser Wirth & Schimmel

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 Day 1 (0:00)


When we arrived in LA it was sunny and warm, and so we decided to jump right into the most quintessential of Los Angeles experiences, driving.

Feeling we had spent a sufficient amount of time in the car, Mark and I met up with my friend Emily in Westwood and had lunch at Ramen Yamadaya. We enjoyed delicious bowls full of porky, noodly goodness, except for Mark's which was also good, but vegetarian and not at all porky.

And what do you want to do immediately after eating a large bowl of ramen? You want to get in one of these chairs at the Hammer Museum.

These are Spun Chairs designed by Heatherwick Studios, which were part of an exhibition at the museum last year and were so loved that they've remain on view, or -erm, on spin since then. Sorry.

We then checked out their exhibition "Leap Before You Look," which explores the history of the legendary Black Mountain College near Asheville, North Carolina. It lasted from 1933 to 1957 and was a hotbed of experimental art and cross-disciplinary collaboration.

Artists Joseph and Anni Albers taught and worked there, as did Robert Rauschenberg, John Cage, and Merce Cunningham.

Walking through the galleries, admiring the huge, diverse gathering of work, I kept thinking about how mere things can rarely capture the spirit of a place or time. But there I was imagining that place and time nonetheless, cobbling together a sense of it from thoughtfully presented text, images, and artwork. 

The show didn't seem like a fully resolved encapsulation of Black Mountain College, but instead a small, but meaningful glimpse of it, in perfect alignment with the experimental spirit of the school.

And we also enjoyed this terrace where they bring together the ideas of several artists into a less choreographed space. Machine Project is responsible for the ping pong tables, Chris Johanson and Johanna Jackson for the furnishings, and Yunhee Min for the brightly colored drapes that can be reconfigured into different arrangements.

The Hammer Museum pays a lot of attention to these non-gallery spaces, with a graphic installation in the lobby by Kenny Scharf and this installation by Oscar Tuazon, which bores a hole into the side of the museum.

We've all heard of art being a window to another world, or the like, and for me, this plays with that idea. Most galleries are white cubes, designed to create a neutral backdrop for the art objects within, to block out all of the crazy visual information of the outside world. This lets all that crazy visual information in; it lets in the city bus and the Chase bank and all the chaos and commercialism of the everyday world that white-walled galleries encourage us to forget.

And the Hammer has free admission by the way, so take advantage!

Then we had a grand plan of visiting the Museum of Jurassic Technology, but it was closed on Wednesdays of all days, so we headed over to Culver City to see some gallery shows instead.

We dropped into Susanne Vielmetter to see work by Ruben Ochoa, who made these incredible paintings that at first look like metal slabs, but upon further investigation reveal themselves to be acrylic paint and rust on linen. His use of rust, or iron oxide, as a pigment is captivating, and one starts to see all sorts of ghost images in the compositions, of landscapes, supernatural beings, and galaxies.

We also saw two fantastic shows at Honor Fraser, shadow paintings by Andy Warhol and works by Richard Pettibone. The shadow paintings are some of Warhol's most abstract works, cult favorites of Warhol fans, which repeat silk-screened images of, you guessed it, shadows.

And since the 60s, Pettibone has remade art by other artists, including Warhol, but at much smaller scale and taking extreme care to do it well. It's a jarring experience to see such monumental works by history's most revered artists on such a tiny, personal scale.

Both Warhol and Pettibone deal with mirroring in different but complementary ways, urging us to consider and reconsider the images and objects we are presented with, in life and in art galleries.

And after walking around in the sun for a while and appreciating a Kenny Scharf out in the wild, we took refuge in Coolhaus, an architecturally-inspired ice cream shop, where Frank Gehry and Rem Koolhass welcomed us warmly. They had the most scrumptious and inventive flavors, and then we called it a day.

 Day 2 (3:49)


The next day we arose and returned to the car to take an unexpectedly lovely two hour drive to Bakersfield, California to film an assignment video with artist Jesse Sugarmann. Now Bakersfield isn't often a stop for art tourists I'll tell you, but we had a superb visual and cultural experience.

We had a first, and filmed an episode poolside, and we talked about what else? Cars! But in a way that considers more deeply what these boxes we ride around in really mean in our lives.

And then Jesse took us on a tour of the town. Its first downtown with traditional Basque restaurants and adjoining jai alai courts and its excellent Mexican food at Nuestro Mexico. We saw its second, more modern downtown, its Richard Neutra house, and its nonsensically placed town sign, moved from its original location to this one, next to pretty much nothing but Buck Owens Crystal Palace Music Hall and Restaurant. Hey Willie Nelson, table for three please.

We also took in Bakersfield's mesmerizing expanse of oil fields, appreciating this rough, dry, otherworldly, and for me, exotic beauty. It's a Dust Bowl town, an oil town, but one where artists live and work and teach and where good art happens.

 Day 3 (4:59)


The next day, another perfectly sunny Southern California day, we headed over to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and decided to just walk around outside.

Walking along 6th Street, witnessing Michael Heizer's Levitated Mass from its side, you see a boulder sitting on a flat expanse. And then when you turn and walk toward the museum you realize that it is indeed levitated. That you can walk beneath it, feeling your smallness in the landscape, feeling the weight of this enormous rock and its potential to crush you, with your simultaneous feeling of trust in the engineering it took to make this mother feasible for the public. For me it's a reminder of the desert that's not too far from drought-stricken, but still lush, LA.

And when you walk toward Wilshire Boulevard, between the older and newer buildings, you approach Chris Burden's now iconic installation Urban Light. It's a formation of 202 antique, cast iron street lamps from the 20's and 30's that Burden gathered, rewired, and painted a uniform gray. They are grouped by type and arranged in rows, like sentinels, drawing attention to the infrastructure of the city surrounding it. The lamps snap in and out of alignment as you walk around it.

And all of the sudden I am aware of the zig zag of the roof of the Renzo Piano buildings, the palm trees, and the street lamps that are not art, but just street lamps. Now you likely have seen many of these works appear on Instagram as flat pictures or stylish selfie backdrops, but these are really powerful, physical experiences.

We walked around, enjoying the peculiar amalgam of architectures that is LACMA, including the Pavilion for Japanese Art, designed by architect Bruce Goff, the exquisite Alexander Calder fountain that was unveiled in 1965, and the adjacent La Brea Tar Pits, which for me will never lose their strangeness.

The museum is developing a campus overhaul by Peter Zumthor, and I'm looking forward to seeing how and whether this new approach will begin to unify the campus or further embrace its diverse eccentricity.

We then stopped by the brand new Broad Museum in downtown LA by Diller Scofidio + Renfro, which presents the astounding collection of Eli and Edith Broad. It's here that you are going to see all of the greatest hits of the last century. Seriously, all of them. It's big, it's bold, it's exuberant, and it's jaw-dropping what these two mega-collectors have managed to amass in their lifetimes.

My favorite part of the experience was actually the little peeks you're given into the art storage spaces through windows in the interior. Museums often go to great lengths to hide their utilitarian bits, but I was happy to see this practical aspect of such a large collection embraced.

We then fueled up at Wurstküche, which serves gourmet hot dogs and sausages and super crispy fries with many non-ketchup sauces in a beer hall-type atmosphere. It was crazy good.

We saved for last the show "Revolution in the Making" at Hauser Wirth & Schimmel's new LA gallery. The exhibition is, simply put, mind-blowing. Better than most museum exhibitions, albeit with much less wall text. It brings together the abstract sculptures of 34 female artists, all made between 1947 and today. Displayed in a warren of clean-lined, but unstuffy galleries that were once a flower mill, the show exposed me to new work by artists I had heard of, and a number of works by artists I hadn't. 

It didn't matter to me that they were all female artists; of course you wouldn't have known it without labeling. Because it is just a really fantastic sculpture show, showing a fascinating array of materials and approaches from the past as well as the present. It's not alternative or revisionist history, it's just history as it's being written now.

What a feat for them to have pulled all of these works together, and what an opportunity for the community to have free access to it.

Then it was back in the car, and to the airport, to fly home to the vast Midwest. There is so much art to see in LA; it's an embarrassment of riches. With each visit I revel in the range of art I get to see, as well as the comparatively laid-back atmospheres in which to view it. The climate allows for art experiences where you can relax, and have the rare pleasure of taking in cutting-edge art while enjoying a nice breeze. Sure the driving is hell, but it's worth it.