Room to Live | Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles

Sculpture Room to Live

Marni Weber, Giggle of Clowns. Installation view of Room to Live: Recent Acquisitions from the Permanent Collection, October 5 – March 30, 2014 at MOCA Grand Avenue, photo by Brian Forrest, courtesy of MOCA

As I write, the art community in Los Angeles is preparing to welcome the new Director of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Philippe Vergne, who heralds from New York.  Celebrations are planned for a welcoming party on March 31st at the Museum’s Geffen location. Vergne, who had been Director of the Dia Art Foundation, told the L.A.Times, that his first task as director “is not to act quickly but to think and plan deeply.”  This strikes many here as wise and in tune with the building of professional alliances that are essential for establishing successful leadership.

The two immense exhibitions are currently on view at MOCA -Grand Avenue offering signs of the new Director’s leadership style and artistic eye. One  exhibition reexamines and regroups the institution’s Permanent Collection, while the second  presents  New Acquisitions.

Sculpture room to live

Installation view of Room to Live: Recent Acquisitions from the Permanent Collection, October 5 – March 30, 2014 at MOCA Grand Avenue, photo by Brian Forrest, courtesy of MOCA

Brochures were not available, and neither the guides nor the Press office would not confirm who had curated the shows. Yet, the rearrangement  of works manifest a visually astute The entry wall to the left of the foyer features paintings and drawings clustered  together and hung from the baseboards up reframing modernism with postmodern panache . Roughly five inches above the floor an early, very small Mondrian playfully anchors the profusion of works. It can be no coincidence that directly across the entry foyer and to the left  a later and larger Mondrian work shares space with two other paintings.  Twining the two exhibitions then, is the concept that balance is necessary but continuously offset in both Modern and Post Modern artworks.

The cavernous space to the left of the entrance featured  large scale installations. Memorable amongst these are the works of Liz Larner, Marni Weber, and Rodney McMillan. Larner’s Neo-Pop work critiques social inequalities that exist in America.  Her installation up-ends Warhol’s  canned food imagery that suggested a leveling of social hierarchy was eminent  as people from all social strata could  afford  Campbell’s  soup.  But, Larner’s work suggests that class stratification is still manifest  by food. Contrasting the plight of temporary migrant laborers, some of whom still  risk life and limb  to cross the  border  for work, Larner underscores  social inequality as a continued plight in our times.
Nearby, Weber’s anachronistically titled Giggle of Clowns, invokes a wake scene with  eight over-life-sized  clowns gathered around the open casket  of a young figure. Whether the deceased is one of their own and/or a victim of abuse remains unresolved in this haunting and ghoulish installation that  projects a loud and grating sound track that hints of the underbelly of life and its masquerades.

Installation view of Room to Live: Recent Acquisitions from the Permanent Collection, October 5 – March 30, 2014 at MOCA Grand Avenue, photo by Brian Forrest, courtesy of MOCA

Installation view of Room to Live: Recent Acquisitions from the Permanent Collection, October 5 – March 30, 2014 at MOCA Grand Avenue, photo by Brian Forrest, courtesy of MOCA

Most searing of all, is McMillan’s construction, which presents a near life-sized forest strewn with blood, suggesting a violent chase. Underscoring the savagery of man, this installation proved to be the most powerful and haunting of all. Whether alluding to the Civil War era or to the postmodern present matters less than the visual indictment of the harrowing subject that makes this work psychologically unforgettable, excoriating humanity’s legacy of bigotry, cruelty, and lust for power.

By Collette Chattopadhyay

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