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January 11, 2010

LACMA Report

Donald Pittenger writes:

Dear Blowhards --

Still in the Los Angeles area, still hitting museums. Saturday, we visited the Getty Villa, a modern version of what was in Pompeii, containing examples of ancient art. It's literally a long stone's throw from where we're staying. Problem is, it takes me a real effort to pay much attention to art from Greco-Roman times. The likely reason is that I'm most interested in arts that I can actually do, and sculpture (which is mostly what survived) is something I did little of.

Today I went to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). With a director committed to modernism as well as the new building housing the Broad Contemporary Art Museum, it's not a place to see much pre-20th century painting.

Actually, LACMA does have a number of good non-modernist works, but they're not emphasized. For example, their European Art collection is on the third floor of the Ahmanson Building (but the gallery's closed for renovation) and the modernist stuff is on the 2nd floor plaza entry level. Non-modernist American art is also on a third floor, that in the Art of the Americas Building; the main floor is reserved for special exhibits -- something about Persian rugs, currently, I think. This means you have to work harder to view traditional art than modernist art.

The American Art galleries were open and I was able to check things out. There were nice examples of arts 'n' crafts furniture, a few California Impressionist paintings and an obligatory John Singer Sargent portrait. Also I spied a small portrait by Whistler and one by George Bellows that looks as if it might have been done by Robert Henri (no surprise) plus a mother-and-child by Mary Cassatt. What was a pleasant surprise was a large portrait of his wife by John White Alexander (see image below).


The painting looks a lot nicer than this reproduction. It's painted thinly -- almost zero impasto -- though much of it is slightly sketchy with obvious brushwork providing a "painterly" effect without heaviness or drama.

The plaza level galleries in Ahmanson have plenty of works by modernists of the 1910-1960 era, something useful for students interesting in seeing painting and sculpture by well-known hands.

Having pounded on modernism and PoMo plenty on this bytes & pixels station, I'll spare you my reaction to what I saw in these galleries and at the Broad.



posted by Donald at January 11, 2010


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