SERRA at LACMA

LACMA, or the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, has a huge space devoted to a powerful sculpture by Richard Serra. I love Serra’s cor-ten steel pieces. They pull you in and push you away, and cannot be ignored. I remember the intense controversy in New York  after his “Tilted Arc” was installed at a plaza in front of a Federal office building, in lower Manhattan. It was 1981, Serra was a well respected artist, and he made a huge statement with “Tilted Arc.” It had a looming presence as it cut sharply across the open space. It wasn’t polite. Being near the work changed the way you felt, throughout your body.

It’s hard to describe the sensation of these pieces, but they can make you tingle, they can throw you off balance, they can draw you in or push you away, and yes, they can make people angry. Some people hated that piece, and after years of litigation and controversy, it was removed.

That fate seems unlikely for the Serra at LACMA.

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Serra had been asked to make the New York piece for that specific location so removal meant not only a loss to the plaza (at least in my view) but a loss for the sculpture, too, as it lost its context.

As he said, “Site-specific works are determined by the topography of the site, whether it is urban, landscape or architectural enclosure. My works become part of and are built into the structure of the site, and often restructure, both conceptually and perceptually, the organization of the site… I am interested in a behavioral space in which the viewer interacts with the sculpture in its context…”

The Los Angeles sculpture, called Band is immense, resting and flowing like a giant orange whale on the concrete floor, soaring twelve feet over your head, offering openings, sheltering spaces, and broad expanses of gentle curves to wend your way around.

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Serra was already a well respected artist when Tilted Arc was installed in New York, and feelings ran high on both sides of the controversy the sculpture engendered. The artist said that removing it would destroy the work, since it was built for the site. Local employees didn’t like the way the sculpture interrupted their habitual paths across the plaza. It was a clash of cultures, with art world stars at one end and government employees at the other. There was a trial and a public hearing. And finally the huge sculpture was removed in 1989.

Tilted Arc remains in storage. Serra doesn’t want it erected anywhere other than on the site it was designed for. Our loss.

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My camera was as overwhelmed as I was the day I experienced “Band” at the museum in Los Angeles. The camera wouldn’t focus. I grabbed my phone is frustration, because I really wanted to bring home a piece of this experience. Later, I got the camera to work.

But I really like the blurred photos. I’m posting both here, so you might feel a little of the disorientation that a good Serra sculpture creates.

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I’m sorry I didn’t take more photos, photos of the kids and adults playing in and out of the curves, photos from every angle, from near and far. But I remember the feeling of being next to it, walking along it, soaking in the strange mix of benevolence and power that it conveys. A good memory.

 

L.A.

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Ah, how exciting to soak up sun and stylishness in Los Angeles, if only for a long weekend…

…and that’s what we did.

Above, some random impressions, mostly from Hollywood and environs.

  1. Home in Hollywood Heights
  2. Canter’s – (“L.A’s Best Since 1931”) I cannot say enough about how happy I was to buy goodies here. Canter’s is a balm for the soul of someone who achieved adulthood with the help of New York Jewish delis.
  3. Lunch at the Paramount Coffee Project (“Australia’s Hippest Coffee”) on Fairfax. I recommend the Dirty Bird (check out this menu!). And of course, there’s a place for pooch!
  4. Sunglasses, a must
  5. Look up!
  6. Sunday evening espresso at Verve Coffee on Melrose in West Hollywood – SERIOUS coffee!
  7. Iced espresso at the Paramount Coffee Project
  8. The door to the tiny courtyard at our little airbnb in Hollywood Heights
  9. Help Wanted sign, Canter’s
  10. More local architecture, with typical palm and cactus landscaping
  11. Island Fresh, Caribbean seafood restaurant in the Mid-Wilshire neighborhood. I wish we’d had time to stop!
  12. Seems about right for L.A.
  13. Recycled San Francisco patrol car – and they found a parking spot!
  14. Vintage duds at the Fairfax Flea Market – a great way to spend Sunday morning
  15. A Bird of Paradise bloom in someone’s garden (using an in-camera effect)
  16. The view from Hollywood Heights
  17. LACMA architecture (Los Angeles County Museum of Art)
  18. Full moon with palms over the city

Last, setting up for the Oscars. The statues were getting their golden glitz treatment in a lot behind the Dolby Theater. We were en route to grab an espresso on our way to the airport but the street was closed and there was no place to park and run over.But we did pull off briefly to grab a few shots of the behind the scenes prep for Hollywood’s favorite event.

But more important – what about my double espresso?? There was nothing else nearby other than Starbucks, so I took my chances that at least one genuine independent coffee purveyor would be located at the airport. Yes, but what a walk – all the way from terminal five to terminal six at LAX – whatever works – it did the trick!