Out West Arts: Performance at the end of the world

Opera, music, theater, and art in Los Angeles and beyond

Two Hearts (Beat as One)

March 15, 2009

Werner Tübke, detail from "Reminiscences of Schulze III, JD," 1965
Photo: Museum Associates/LACMA 2008

Not been to LACMA in awhile? Now would be a great time to go. (And sign up for a membership while you're at it since it's one of the best museums in the country, and, times being what they are, they could use your support and are one of the most inexpensive entertainments around.) On Saturday, though battling a bit of a head cold, I saw two excellent current exhibitions, including the recently opened “Art of two Germanys/Cold War Culture.” Perhaps the most surprising thing initially about the show was the exhibition space itself. Occupying the second floor of the Broad Contemporary Art wing of the museum (BCAM), “Art of two Germanys” feels immense. making the space seem much larger than it did in my previous visit to BCAM with Broad's own collection on display. Now the second floor is filled with hundreds of paintings, sculptures, photography and a significant amount of video and filmed material from both East and West Germany from 1945 through the fall of the Berlin wall in 1989.

The names and movements one might expect from this period are all represented – Gerhard Richter, Joseph Beuys, Martin Kippenberger, Georg Baselitz, Anselm Kiefer, Dieter Roth, AR Penck, Jörg Immendorff and even Achim Freyer. But this show is not primarily about any individuals or the techniques they exemplify. This is about art imitating life and the specific ways work produced in East and West Germany reflected post-WWII culture and political developments in two divergent, but closely related societies. The works are arranged chronologically and often explicitly refer to various historical events or persons. But this is no dry history lesson either. There are numerous examples as well of how German art integrated not only across the iron curtain, but also within the larger history of art in the latter 20th century. There's a real excitement and direction in the show and the narrative implicit in the timeline never overwhelms the broader picture. There are too many favorites of mine to mention, so go see it for yourself.

from Francis Alÿs, Fabiola
Photo: Museum Associates/LACMA 2008

Before you leave the museum, however, be sure not to miss a single room installation on the third floor of the Ahmanson building from Francis Alÿs entitled “Fabiola”. Alÿs has arranged perhaps the ultimate post-modern exhibit by displaying a collection of over three hundred amateur and semi-professional paintings and other objects copying the image of St. Fabiola. The images are arranged in one room and hung closely together emphasizing the deeply embedded variety in these seemingly endless copies on an original. Here’s the twist, the original, a 19th century paining by Jean-Jacques Henner, was lost prior to the advent of photography. Since no one knows exactly what the original looks like, the copies exist only as repetitions of other older copies. The many faces of the saint that also appear in needlepoint and wood, say much about the nature of iconography, identity and faith. It has a very big impact, so hurry to see it before the exhibit closes on March 29.


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