Ooh La-La LaBrea and LACMA

My two hits for the day were the Page Museum at the LaBrea Tar Pits, and the LA County Museum.

The La Brea Tarpits contain asphalt that formed after the sea was covered over millions of years by organic trash and debris. The bubbling mass is caused by natural gas or methane, and the goo on the top is asphalt. La Brea has some of the most complete deposits in the world where many animal remains were preserved in the tar. When animals got stuck in the tar, they in turn from their scents and sounds attracted predators and birds. Eventually all the living creatures got stuck in the thick mess and died, leaving intact an entire ecosystem. While Dinosaurs existed 65 million years ago and Homo Sapiens 200,000 yrs ago, these animals found in LaBrea were much later, from 40,000 years ago. During the Ice Age these animals migrated south and settled in this area. This move might have been a fine annual sojourn were it not for getting stuck.

Photos above, clockwise:

1. Tar Pits, with occasional eruption or two
2. Display of Ice Age bison, ca. 40,000 BCE (not a dinosaur)
3. Researchers in lab studying bone fragments

In the afternoon, I decided to focus on the Islamic Art and German Expressionists at the well-endowed LA County.

I couldn’t find any traditional Islamic Art on display, but was captivated by a contemporary exhibition of Islamic artists.

Photos, from top, left to right:

1. Display of women as a topic in art (very cautiously and respectfully depicted, although one showed women being trained to scale a wall in the Police Academy in their full burkas). The Ipad in the foreground was a very effective tool available to the public to access additional information about the collection nearby and to read about the artist and the work beyond a tag and title. Seating with the Ipad also made the experience of doing and viewing art much more pleasurable.

2. Display of text describing artwork of woman viewing life through a veil
3. Tombstone of dissident who was not allowed to have a monument in the cemetary

For further reading: http://www.lacma.org/about/press/islamic-art-now-contemporary-art-middle-east

German expressionism sounds pretty dry, but like all things German there is much more depth than what meets the eye. My first introduction today perusing the LACMA collection was to Ernst Barlach. He was a graphic artist of sorts, and sculptor who tried tackling the horrors of poverty and dying. Although trained in Dresden and Berlin as a fine artist, it was his travels to Russia that affected him deeply. He drew from Goethe’s Faust and other literary contexts to depict the emotions of the suffering and the end of the world. The information provided at the exhibition is attached.

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(For further reading: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ernst_Barlach)

Other German Expressionists, like Rottluff who was instrumental in Die Brücke group and Otto Dix from die Blaue Reiter movement, moved away from the illusionary three dimensional depictions on a flat plane to more abstract forms that introduced feelings into their art. More use of color and obscuring the picture plane were techniques used, and inner feelings of fear, alienation and tragedy were common themes. The role of religion was often challenged, and an ominous premonition of bad things to come seemed evident in the short period of 1913-1925, before this type of art, considered degenerate, was banned by the Nazis in 1933. (for further reading: http://www.lacma.org/art/collection/german-expressionism).

However, there was a third and accidental discovery. I found myself looking for women artists. Initially I thought it would be nearly impossible. I was curious about the lack of noteworthy women artists mentioned in the play “Heidi Chronicles” (I saw it in NYC earlier this month). I was delighted to find several examples with relative ease. Perhaps there are female artists, albeit fewer in the earlier development of art. See those below:

1. female artist and work to be identified
2. Hannah Hoch, Picture XI Blue, 1920
3. Barbara Hepworth, Reclining Form, 1959
4. female artist and work to be identified

2 thoughts on “Ooh La-La LaBrea and LACMA”

  1. You definitely get first prize for the most dedicated museum aficionado that I know. Believe it or not, here in slightly provincial Beirut, there is an active museum scene. Last night we went to a presentation on Le Louvre Abu-Dhabi, both the architecture and the exhibits that they plan to put in place once the building is finished (if ever). Tonight is the “nocturne” where one can take a shuttle bus around a circuit of 6 or 7 museums until midnight.

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    1. That’s fantastic! What is the population of Beirut? San Francisco hasn’t come close to anything so stimulating and has often been characterized as provincial. Post some pictures of your event! I’m a museum junkie and the more I focus on the areas initiated by my trip last year, the more purpose and excitement I get from each. They are completely different experiences from former visits that lacked focus. I can build on the knowledge and research available at each institution. They serve as my canvas and tools for learning. I never realized that you are free to take photos of original works of art (at least at most). I am building a library of my favorite pieces. I feel as if I have “contributed” to each of them with love and affection, and imagine myself as an Ahmanson or Page (or better yet a big Met Opera donor?!?)

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