William Poundstone’s Los Angeles County Museum on Fire
October 6, 2014, 7:29 am
LACMA is debuting a couple dozen newly acquired pieces in “Variations: Conversations In and Around Abstract Art.” Gerhard Richter’s St. Andrew (1988) is the frontispiece, but almost everything else was made in the past few years. (At top is an Aaron Curry next to paintings by Christopher Wool and Mary Weatherford.)
Rachel Lachowicz’s Cell: Interlocking Construction (2010) is an assemblage of plastic polyhedra containing blue powders—cosmetic eye shadows. This experiment in feminist chiaroscuro is shown next to Lachowicz’s Lipstick Urinals, 1992, that LACMA bought in 1995. The pairing makes a concise introduction to Lachowicz. You can say the same for groupings by Sterling Ruby, Mark Grotjahn, and Mark Bradford.
LACMA must have been one of the first museums to acquire a Bradford (in 2003). This year it added two large recent works. Shoot the Coin is one of the best in any museum. Carta (above) has a faux basketball that might recall Joe Goode’s milk bottles.
Speaking of bottles, Amy Sillman’s Untitled/Purple Bottle recapitulates a history of postmodern bottle painting, from Giorgio Morandi to Mike Kelley.
Rashid Johnson’s Afro-futurist psychoanalytic couch, Four for the Talking Cure (left), is from a series shown in London in 2012 “inspired by… an imagined society in which psychotherapy is a freely available drop-in service.”
Think contemporary art is an exclusive club? Dianna Molzan’s Untitled (2012) conjoins a frame with a velvet rope.
A downside of the global art market’s feeding frenzy for contemporary art is that even mid-career artists may be unaffordable by the biggest museums. Going by the quality and quantity of what’s on view, LACMA has moved to the forefront of institutional collectors of art here and now.
Nearly all the work in “Variations” was donated by private collectors, and no single name dominates. LACMA is collecting the old-fashioned way, by persuading wealthy citizens to buy top-of-the-line art and donate it to their city’s museum for the good of all. That’s a “variation” from the L.A. model of even a few years ago. Amen to that.