LACMA & The Global Contemporary


Story: Rachel Winter
Photography: Rachel Winter
Monday, September 9, 2019

Nestled in the heart of Wilshire Boulevard (in a neighborhood of Los Angeles conveniently known as Mid-Wilshire) is the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Also known as LACMA, this museum is the largest art museum west of the Mississippi River with over 142,000 objects spanning all cultures and time periods. Before it was LACMA, its collection was a part of the Los Angeles Museum of History, Science, and Art, which was founded in 1910. Officially founded in 1961, LACMA moved to three buildings at its present location on Wilshire Boulevard in 1965. Those three buildings, now known as the Ahmanson Building, the Hammer Building, and the Bing Center, will soon be the site of one new building designed by architect Peter Zumthor. Although the museum is in a period of transition as it prepares to welcome its new home, the rotating exhibits on display in the Broad Contemporary Art Museum and the Resnick Pavilion are still worth the $25 admission price for adults (or $21 for students/seniors, $10 for teens, and free for youth under the age of twelve).

One of my favorite exhibitions at LACMA right now is The Allure of Matter: Material Art from China, which is on view until January 5th, 2020 in the Broad Contemporary Art Museum building (or BCAM) at LACMA. The Allure of Matter is a great representation of LACMA’s recent emphasis on global contemporary art. The exhibition highlights contemporary art from China over the last 40 years with well-known artists such as Ai Weiwei, Xu Bing, and Cai Guo-Qiang, and features a wide variety of objects that are larger than life, engaging viewers of all ages. What is most important about the exhibition is the eccentric media used to create the various works, which is sure to intrigue visitors: silkworm cocoons; cigarette ash; nails; human hair; burned Coca-Cola; and more. The media create not just a visually engaging environment, but also a wide array of unique smells, sounds from video works, and even a work that you can touch (I won’t tell you the name now – it’s for you to find out when you visit!). Underlying these complex works is an engaging story about the recent history of China. For more information, see: https://www.lacma.org/art/exhibition/allure-matter-material-art-china.

If you’re not a fan of contemporary art, there’s not only more to see at LACMA, but also in the greater Los Angeles area. In the Resnick Pavilion at LACMA, there are a series of rotating exhibits that highlight works beyond the contemporary, including the following upcoming exhibitions: Betye Saar: Call and Response; Thomas Joshua Cooper: The World’s Edge; and a mid-career survey of artist Julie Mehretu. The exhibitions in Resnick Pavilion are constantly rotating, so there is always something new to see. There is also a work in the Resnick Pavilion that is a part of the Allure of Matter exhibition that is too big to fit in the main show – it’s Wave of Materials by Zhu Jinshi, which is my personal favorite. The wave is constructed with strings that hang from the ceiling, and horizontal rods that have delicately wrinkled pieces of paper folded over them. You can learn more about how they constructed Wave of Materials here: https://unframed.lacma.org/2019/04/24/zhu-jinshis-wave-materials. Walking all around the room, guests can see a different view of Wave of Materials from each place in the room, and how intricate each piece really is.

I also really like walking around outside at LACMA, especially around Michael Heizer’s Levitated Mass, a monumental work of land art (https://www.lacma.org/press/levitated-mass). Located behind Resnick Pavilion, Levitated Mass is a 340-ton stone located above a walkway that dips into the earth, and then back up again, allowing visitors to walk under the mass. I could walk up and down the ramp under Levitated Mass all day and never get bored!

For more museums in the area, LACMA also shares the same land as the La Brea Tar Pits (https://tarpits.org); it is also conveniently located in walking distance from the Craft Contemporary Museum (http://www.cafam.org), and the Petersen Automotive Museum (https://www.petersen.org). If you’re driving, don’t forget to check out the new Broad Art Museum (https://www.thebroad.org), and the Museum of Contemporary Art (https://www.moca.org). Los Angeles is now a hub for museums that rivals New York City’s museum scene, and it’s more than worth your time to visit all that Los Angeles has to offer.

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