OF SUNSHINE NOIR
I stayed up until 2 in the morning last night working on a personal web project. It is fun to see it come together but not fun to deal with all the limitations of the web. I felt like dabbling in the curse of the web developer and shouting, "Screw 'em all!" As the night wore on the layout got simpler and simpler and the code less complicated. Oh well. This project doesn't have to be that interesting.
Yesterday, I went on my own to see Sunshine & Noir: Art in L.A. 1960 - 1997. It was an exhibition at the UCLA Armand Hammer Museum of Art and it is ending today. So, I had to go.
The pamphlet that I picked up described the purpose behind the exhibit like this:
Acknowledging that the City of Angels harbors its share of demons, the exhibition's title alludes to a polarity that has frequently been invoked to embrace the range and complexity of the L.A. experience. The city's geographic circumstances yield a perfect climate and a climate of fear -- the unpredictable inevitability of earthquakes, mudslides, and fires. The ease of California living can easily become a living nightmare, as the area's extremes of affluence and poverty would indicate. The unrelenting optimist of the California dream provides the necessary foil to the promise of disillusionment offered by Hollywood noir films and novels. These dual metaphors, of utopia and dystopia, can be found in the work of many L.A. artists...
Well now, isn't that nice?
It wasn't a bad exhibit and the museum is architecturally quite lovely. It's on the corner of Wilshire and Westwood and has an underground parking garage. I didn't expect the number of installation pieces that there were. I was hoping for more photographs. A notable piece was six hugely oversized LAPD uniforms. The person that could wear them would have had to be at least ten feet tall. The belt buckle was right about at the top of my head.
I think the message there might have been about the commanding presence that the LAPD has in this city. I have truly never seen as many cops in my life. I suppose the symbolism could work in any large city. The division between crime and society is often tenuous. The thin, blue line, if you will. Or, in this case, the ten-foot tall, massively gargantuan line.
The theme of the show was artists with a tie to L.A. rather than L.A. depicted through art. They did, however, have a large number of Dennis Hopper's photographs which I really enjoyed. He had (has?) a really great eye for people and images within the city. There was an excellent photograph titled Biker Couple of a shirtless, tattooed man and a beatnik beauty with hair flip and kohl eyes. They were, of course, in a diner and smoking.
Another work that caught my eye was what looked like a color photograph taken from the driver's side of a car speeding down the freeway. The color perfectly captured the color that I see in L.A. The air was dusty and hazy and the pastels in the picture had lost their brilliance to muted age. When I got closer to Freeway 1966 by Vija Celmins I saw that it was a painting! I spent a long time looking at that: close up to see the tiny brush strokes and then far-away to appreciate the quality of the photograph. There's an even larger message about Los Angeles in the quality of the work and the completeness of the illusion but I can't quite put my finger on it.
There was a lot of forgettable installations in the exhibit and I just wanted photographs. I didn't want "artist formerly living in Los Angeles ponders homosexuality and rusted-out tin cans." How 1991.
What I did get out of it was a renewed vigor to pick up my camera again. I need to find a darkroom that I can rent and start developing and printing. If I leave Los Angeles without a packet full of photos I will be doing myself a disservice. Last night, there was an awesome moon so I took photos of it hovering over a busy intersection. It doesn't have to be art it just has to be fun. I wasn't counting the seconds I had the lens open or anything. We'll see how it turns out.
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