We never tire of revisiting this minimalist masterpiece by artist Robert Irwin at LACMA in Los Angeles. The colorful installation of fluorescent lights has a permanent home in a large ground-floor gallery at LACMA’s Broad Contemporary building. The title of the artwork is “Miracle Mile” and it is specific to its location.
The museum is on Wilshire Blvd. at the heart of an area named Miracle Mile, which was originally planned as an alternative urban district to Downtown LA in the 1920s. Wilshire eventually became one of LA’s main east-west traffic and business corridors and the “mile” area has since become a kind of “museum row” for the number of other large galleries and museums nearby.
Irwin’s artwork, in its length, geometry and brightly illuminated presence, is a visual metaphor for the commercial strip and aptly is displayed on a wall that faces and runs parallel to Wilshire Blvd itself. A long floor-to-ceiling window in size and proportion similar to the artwork separates the gallery from the boulevard and makes “Miracle Mile” a kind of symbolic mirror.
The first time you see “Death of a Clown” by artist Liz Craft, you can’t help but want to get up close to and examine it, to bear witness to its texture in detail, as if to confirm that the woman lying on the sofa is not real. You know its not a real person, you assume she’s not real, but a part of you thinks she could be, like those street performers who pretend to be statues. It could be a real person, lying deathly still, forezen underneath a thick coat of ghostly-pale make-up and improbable orange hair. And you can’t help but think of Sleeping Beauty. And of a character in a Hayao Miyazaki anime film. Unreal, yet rendered in three dimenions, life-sized, in the actual physical space of a gallery at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
But this is a sculpture, an object. There is no performer.
Craft is a Los Angeles-based artist who runs the Paradise Garage art space and collective in Venice Beach. Her faux-naive sculptural objects and installations have a whimsical, fantasy quality, though, as in the case of “Clown,” there’s a sense of realism baked into the layer of dreamy, fantastical imagery. The colors beguile, at once bright and muted, at once like saturated and then over-exposed like some old polaroids discovered in a shoebox at a flea market.
The artwork of Australian-Iraqi artist Toba Khedoori leaves a distinct impression. Her works are primarily finely detailed, photo-realistic pencil drawings in monochromatic lead or color on massive sheets of waxed paper. The drawings tend to be focused on discrete, single objects set in a vast emptiness — a chair, a fence, a door — or a piece removed from its larger architectural context — rows and rows of seats from a theater or, as in the example pictured here, a fireplace. It’s one of a series of drawings of fireplaces currently on view as part of her solo show at LACMA in Los Angeles. The drawing has a trompe l’oeil quality but has none of the cheap gimmickry of that anachronistic decorative conceit. Looking at the drawing from afar, it appears as if there’s an actual fireplace recessed into the gallery wall.
On a recent visit to the sprawling, campus-like Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), we revisited one of the prized possessions of its permanent collection, a massive painting by British artist David Hockney. “Mulholland Drive: The Road to the Studio” is a quintessential L.A. painting. The image is an impressionistic depiction of the route traveled in the Hockney on the daily commute from his home in the Hollywood Hills to the space where he painted.
The late Paris-based Venezuelan artist Jesus Raphael Soto made a career of painting, sculpture and optical and kinetic art. It was the last of these for which he’s perhaps best known, such as this interactive, immersive “Penetrable” installed in the plaza in front of the Ahmanson building at the sprawling Los Angeles County Museum of Art, or LACMA.