Kyle and I had a friend visiting from New York this weekend so we decided to take her out to Abbott Kinney to wander through the shops and drink good coffee. As we parked on the street though I see this giant JR piece that you see at top and get a little giddy. If you’re not familiar with JR he’s a French street artist who’s been posting giant portraits on the sides of buildings and walls and anywhere he can get to. The world is his canvas and he uses it to the fullest.
Recently he won the TED Prize as well as $100,000 grant with which he’s starting the Inside Out Project, which you can hear more about in the TED Talk he recently gave. See the full video below.
I know, I know, it’s totally an overly sensational title. Bear with me and let me explain. The other day four new Banksy pieces went up here in Los Angeles, causing a flutter among street art blogs and Banksy hanger-on-ers alike. As potentially residing in either or both of these camps, I can say that I was flatly disappointed.
First off, the two top pieces, which are definitely him, seem a bit… too easy. A child soldier with a machine gun full of crayons, hasn’t that been done before? It feels like something a person would do if they wanted to try and rip off Banksy. A dog wizzing on the side of a building? That’s it?
I did find the Charlie Brown one funnier once I saw the image on Banksy’s website, giving it the proper context. The problem is, a lot of the people who wrote about the piece failed to mention that it was painted onto a building that had been condemned after it had been through a fire. Still, it seems a bit cookie cutter as well. Take on part pop icon, mix it with another part anarchist ideology and voila, you’ve made art. Good grief.
The last piece I’ve read was commissioned by Banksy, but that story seems weird to me. At the same time it certainly doesn’t seem like his style. Sure, there are people who can fake a different style but for whatever reason none of it feels like him. Either way I find this last piece totally out of character, and that’s a shame. It almost diminishes him in my eyes, like he was going for a cheap joke, even if it is well done, instead of being more clever, but clever is what makes him so good. It’s what separates him from all other street artists. Perhaps this is a fluke, perhaps I’m overthinking all of this, either way I think Banksy needs to try harder next time.
Yesterday, billionaire philanthropist Eli Broad unveiled the schematic design for the Broad Art Foundation Museum alongside design architect Elizabeth Diller. The museum will live in downtown LA, situated between the Walt Disney Concert Hall and the Museum of Contemporary Art. Since the news broke, I’ve seen a few words that I’d like to highlight by briefly talking about each: anticipation, sponge, veil and dimple.
Anticipation. The release of the design has been greeted with a level of excitement bordering onhullabaloo, and for good reasons: this building is on a financial and spatial scale that architects have missed since the recession started (incidentally, architecture billings are up to levels unseen since 2007) but it’s also exciting because Diller, Scofidio + Renfro (DS+R) has a small crop of completed buildings from a much larger field of exciting conceptual work. You may remember the giant, inhabitable balloon that DS+R proposed for the Hirshhorn museum, or you may have read about unfortunate sparring between partners that has undoubtedly been a distraction for the firm. Gladly, the Broad design refocuses interest on the firm’s design work.
Sponge. LA Times architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne was interviewed on Which Way, LA last night, where he reiterated concerns from his article: that the revealed version of the design lacks some of the compelling concepts that won DS+R the commission (winning over firms like SANAA, OMA, Herzog & de Meuron, etc.) Specifically, Hawthorne laments removed moments of confrontation between LA’s car culture and pedestrian culture as well as missing digital programming. I think one explanation (other than dollars) for the removing of the huge, digital screens that would cover the sides of the building could be explained by Liz Diller talking about the dialogue between the Broad and the Walt Disney concert hall: “As opposed to Disney Hall’s smooth and shiny exterior that reflects light, The Broad will be porous and absorptive, channeling light into its public spaces and galleries.” If the project is conceived as one that channels energy from the surrounding inward, covering the sides with over-sized digital billboards that broadcast out to cars may actually be a missed opportunity. DS+R’s overhaul of the Lincoln Center utilizes digital displays in a more pedestrian-oriented way, and displays at a similar scale may make more sense for the Broad, an urban-scaled museum trying to engage both drivers and pedestrian.
Veil. The most embedded concept, and most obviously feature of the design is the urban-scaled veil. The veil contrasts a dense and insular vault that houses artwork in the collection that are not on display. The veil will be pre-cast concrete spanning 24′ feet over the roof of the vault for nearly an acre without columns, creating a flexible, sky-lit gallery. (Sound familiar?) Diller has described the veil as an “airy, cellular exoskeleton structure” that will “play a role in the urbanization of Grand Avenue by activating two-way views that connect the museum and the street.” In this sense, the veil is an animated, living organism that presents to the public one of the most astounding collections of contemporary art.
Dimple. Disturbances in the geometry of the veil have different purposes and names. The veil lifts at the entry of the museum to welcome visitors and one of the more prominent disturbances is the “dimple” along Grand Avenue (which begs for the disturbance along 2nd street to be called the pimple, if you ask me.) But these warps are not blemishes; they break up what could be a monotonous or monolithic exterior and broadcast the contemporary attitude of the museum through these exaggerated idiosyncrasies. It’s not dreary functionalism, but a vault wearing a jovial dress.
Of course, the design continues to evolve, and only time will unveil how the design changes as it matures into a realized work, and once it’s realized, how the public responds.
My buddy Felipe wrote me a nice email the other day letting me know about a new video that he had completed for MOCA’s new exhibit Suprasensorial: Experiments in Light, Color, and Space. The show features Carlos Cruz Diez, Lucio Fontana, Julio Le Parc, Hélio Oiticica and Neville D’Almeida, and Jesús Rafael Soto and their exploration of light and color as a different way of seeing art. For someone like me who can have some, um, problems with contemporary art and how exactly it’s art this video does a great job of explaining why these artists are in the museum and why their work is important or unique. I think a lot of these works are really beautiful especially Cromasaturación by Carlos Cruz-Diez. It’s beautiful to see how he’s creating these spaces out of color and that you as the viewer are the final necessary part of the piece.
Last night I had the pleasure of hanging out at the opening of the Heath Ceramics and House Industries partnership and it ended up being a great night. House had taken up a good chunk of the space at Heath and had aw ide variety of things for sale like their signature cast ampersands, their Alexander Girard nativity scene and Eames blocks. Made specially for the show though were these tiny wooden birds which were hand silkscreened with alternating patterns on each side. I got an amazing red and white one that’s really beautiful.
It was also nice to be able to meet both Andy Cruz from House Industries as well as Catherine Bailey who is the co-owner of Heath. As I said in my previous post I’ve been a big fan of House Industries for a long while now so it was a huge pleasure to chat with andy about the show and find out all the work that was involved. For example, the birds that they created were inspired by a recent trip to Japan after he was trying to find a good gift to bring home. Catherine was extremely nice as well and she and her story are a big inspiration for me.
There’s a bunch more pictures under the cut, be sure to take the time and check those out. If you’re in the L.A. area and you missed the show I think it’s going to be up until the end of the year, so be sure to stop by and see it.