We’re not religious. But museums are our cathedrals, our churches and temples, our shrines. MoMA may be the modern art world’s Vatican, but in terms of pure open space, MoCA’s Geffen Contemporary in Los Angeles comes closest to a giant cathedral like Notre Dame with its massive, cavernous structure. We’re not saying that this museum is equivalent to Notre Dame as far as degree of architectural achievement and historical significance. We’re saying that it is a big fucking space and one that invites reflection and a kind of awe.
The Geffen was kind of a happy accident. The building wasn’t purpose built to be a contemporary art museum. The structure is in LIttle Tokyo in Downtown LA and was originally built in the 1940s for the city as a warehouse and LA Police Department garage accommodating hundreds of vehicles. At the time, MoCA’s use of the space was purely practical.
While the main landmark MoCA branch was being built on nearby Grand Avenue in the early 1980s, the warehouse/garage in Little Tokyo was used as a temporary exhibition space dubbed the “Temporary Contemporary.” Its purpose was to host art shows until construction of the new main MoCA would be completed. The acquisition of the building made sense. The Temporary Contemporary was a success.
It was repurposed as a permanent exhibition space and extension of MoCA. Architect Frank Gehry led the effort. The Geffen’s location is walking distance to the main MoCA location in Downtown LA, and the former LAPD garage offers the kind of space that allows for sprawling exhibitions and epic, large-scale sculptural artworks and installations that might be more diffciult or impossible to mount in other museums.
This colorful flurourescent-light sculptural object at San Francisco MoMA is a minimalist classic by the late artist Dan Flavin. Regular visitors to GlobalGraphica may have noticed that we’re suckers for minimalism (it’s true). Works like this really appeal to our sense of a lean, clean, pared aesthetic and the power of empty space. Like much of the work that marked the latter and better-known part of his artistic career, Flavin’s SF MoMA installation makes use of readymade materials — tubes and fluorescent lights — and is composed within site-specific architectural spaces.
The artwork of the late American conceptual and minimalist artist Sol LeWitt dominates the new mezzanine-level ticket lobby of the expanded San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMoMA). This massive, painted installation is titled “Loopy Doopy” and is another example of LeWitt’s use of bold color and lines in his body of work. The artwork is fresh and exuberant and its curva-linear lines compliment the clean geometric lines of the architecture.
One of the distinct features of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art ( SFMoMA ) is its architectural design, which includes an oculus structure that funnels natural light through a massive cylindrical space into the museum’s lobby and mezzanine galleries. A bridge traverses the space near the top. There’s nothing quite like it at any museum or major building we know of in the United States.
We’re fans of German visual artist Gerhard Richter, perhaps best known for his “capitalist realism” and his photo-realistic and “blur” paintings. But Richter has explored several distinct visual styles and themes throughout his career. Among his body of work are his “color” (“farben”) paintings, such as this one titled “Farben 256” we saw recently on view at the San Francisco Museum of Art.