Thanks for coming back for the second part of my reviews of two temporary exhibitions at the LACMA. My first post in case you missed it was about Diana Thater’s exhibition called The Sympathetic Imagination, which you can check out by clicking here. New Objectivity (which is now closed, sorry!) was an art exhibition about Modern German Art in the Weimar Republic, 1919–1933. I initially was attracted to this exhibition because my partner is very fond of Modern German art, and thought I would go along for the sake of bettering my blog and expanding my art knowledge base. I must confess, I am lacking in my art history knowledge, as my pre-museum background is in archaeology… I am a work in progress!
Anyways, I will say that I went into the exhibition with an open mind, and no prior knowledge beyond some minimal historical basics. This exhibition was intended to cover the broad topic of ‘the dominant artistic trends’ of the period, according to the online description published by the LACMA. I am again, far from an adept student for this period; hence my other motive for taking my partner to the exhibition with me- he is. My basic understanding of the motivation of the art from this period, is that it arose out of the isolation and other societal conditions that Germany experienced during WWI. It was avant-garde, and it was rooted in realism.
We walked through the exhibition while I took notes on my IPhone, and afterwards we caught up over some lemonade in the outside patio area in the center of the buildings. My partner had a few general conclusions about the interpretation that I think are worth mentioning here. He mentioned to me that he was surprised at the selection of pieces from the period, based on title of the exhibition, and that he expected to see more of the geometric style works belonging to the Bauhause movement. (We did find work from this movement, but it was in a separate exhibition at the LACMA in a different building.) He also felt that many of the interpretive panels for some of the art pieces made tenuous ties to Hitler and the rise of Nazism that were trying to push a certain agenda that was not necessary or even accurate. Nazism did later on suppress the arts all across the board both before and during WWII, but that should not have had such a universal impact on the interpretation of works created mostly in a pre and post WWI society.
However, my partner concluded that he enjoyed the exhibition overall. He remarked that he was please to see a sketch of Card Players by Otto Dix, a work and artist he had learned about in his studies. Two of my favorite pieces from the exhibition were Industrial Peasants by George Sholz, and The Street by Franz Radziwill. Please click on the links to see the images on my Pinterest page.
I do have a few comments about the exhibition overall, some positive and some negative. Again, no photography allowed. I understand the loan agreements with other museums and the art licensing issues. There was no sign posted, so I assumed it was acceptable. I went to take a snapshot of an interpretive panel, and was berated by a very rude gallery assistant. I am not sure what it is about museums in Los Angeles, but they seem to have a trend of off putting individuals who are gallery assistants. Unfortunately, as I progressed through the exhibit, I was continuously reminded of how disturbingly angry this individual made me, as I could hear him accosting people about the ‘no photography’ rule throughout the entire exhibit. How unpleasant! So I am sorry that there are no photos for this post, but I do respect museums rules… even if I do not agree with them…
The exhibition started with graphic themes of prostitution, sexual violence, sexual liberation, nudity, and death. Granted these themes are viewed in different lights in different places in the world, I would still argue that sexual violence and death are considered taboo in most places in the world. These themes were all crammed into one room, making the entrance to the exhibition comparable to being shoved into the deep end of an unheated pool. I am not sure if this was done in order to shock and unsettle visitors, or if it was done for the typical ‘sex sells’ strategy. This first room, I noted, was very crowded. Taboo is attractive, after all! I had to wait a few moments for groups to clear out to properly examine some of the especially graphic art pieces. As the rooms progressed into less ‘sexy’ themes such as the nature of landscape, man and machine, still life’s, portraits, and children, I saw fewer and fewer people. Many people clearly had come for the first space, and then left before finishing the entire exhibition. There is not much that a museum can do about audience preferences, but perhaps this topic should have been placed further into the progression of the exhibition; especially since their interpretation clearly centered the themes of the first room to have been the most pivotal in the art movement and society itself (which I find debatable, but that it the message they went with nonetheless). I mean, even I feel that the rest of the exhibition was a bit anticlimactic compared to the first room.
On the other hand, I really enjoyed the construct and flow of the exhibition. The space consisted of a series of rooms that were not so large as to exhaust the visitor, but large enough to prevent overcrowding or cramp conditions. The interpretation for each room was easy to identify, but did not detract from or compete with the surrounding art pieces. Each room finished with a dramatic and eye-catching piece that naturally drew you into the next space, which I really enjoyed. In an offshoot room about half way through the exhibition, they had a silent film screening with chairs, and had a live musician playing the piano. The music resonated through the exhibit. I enjoy having music or sounds in exhibitions. It set an emotional overtone and period context inside which the visitor can view the artwork within. The idea of live music is great. I do however wish they had publicized the schedule of musicians so that I could have timed my coincided my visit with the beginning of a new piece, but it is likely that having that available online would create overcrowding at certain times for certain films or musicians.
The exhibition also had a ‘reading room’ style space part way through, which along one wall had a large (good- makes it easy to read) and detailed timeline. I noticed that many visitors had paused here to read the information, and place the exhibition in their prior existing historical knowledge base. Along the other wall was a row of tables and chairs, with large coffee stylebooks on different artists and styles seen in the exhibition, giving people the opportunity to sit and thumb through a book that looks interesting. Of course, there is also the subconscious connection visitors will make with wanting to purchase a book they may like in the gift shop!
Similar to my partner, I overall enjoyed the exhibition. I feel that it was a great learning opportunity for myself not only in regards to art, but also in regards to what goes into putting together an art exhibition. The LACMA did a wonderful job, and I look forward to comparing this exhibition to their upcoming temporary art exhibitions. Be sure to check out the home page for the LACMA if you are in Los Angeles, and plan a visit with your friends or family in the upcoming future- there is something there for everyone!
Peace and long life.