Monday, July 2, 2007

More Museums!

Yesterday I accompanied Kathy, her husband Bart, and niece Lynn, to the "new Getty," i.e., the Getty Center. A few weeks ago, I was at the "old Getty" a.k.a the Getty Villa. The old and new labels were given to them by the locals simply to signify which one was here first and which one came later. When the new center was built, (completed in 1997) it created quite a stir because of the chosen site which overlooks the 405 Freeway in the Santa Monica mountains and dominates the area. The main "campus" buildings were designed by Richard Meier and Michael Palladino in the Modernist style but using classical materials such as travertine. Charles S. Rhyne a Professor Emeritus of Art History at Reed College in Portland, OR, has created a wonderful website with photos from just about every angle of the entire complex which I invite you to peruse. Now that the Center has been here for a few years, the locals are still not sure if they like it. It is just too big for the site. It actually is in the foothills and the immense white buildings look like they might crush the poor hills with their weight. However, it does provide us amateur photographers with lots of opportunities for picture taking.

Inside, there is plenty to see and even though we spent the entire day there, we did not see half of it. Right in the main Entrance Hall was a massive exhibit by Tim Hawkinson called Überorgan. I love Hawkinson's fanciful works which frequently include music as does this one.

The musical score for Überorgan consists of a 250-foot-long scroll. Black dots and dashes encode the notes of traditional hymns, pop songs, and improvisational tunes. The notes are deciphered by light-sensitive switches in its player and scrambled to create an endless variety of compositions.

We heard the hourly performance several times, but I was never able to make out the tune. It sounds like whales or some other large animals (moose?) singing to each other. The photo on the right shows the huge, two-storey piano-roll mechanism that governs the sounds to be heard. You can hear an example of the sounds the work makes at the website link above.

After a garden tour, during which we never got to the famous Central Garden designed by Robert Irwin, we had lunch in the cafe. Then the four of us split up into two groups to view the special exhibits that most interested each of us. Bart and I headed for the West Pavilion to see Defining Modernity: European Drawings, 1800-1900. I love the intimacy of drawings and the feeling of freedom they give. The artist uses simple tools and is not constrained to get things perfect. You can get a better idea of what the artist was thinking with drawings.

As it happens, today's LA Times had an article about this exhibit and the difficulty the staff had in finding just the right matting and frame for each drawing. They wanted the frames, mats, and even the wall colors to enhance the drawings while not being noticed. For this viewer, it didn't work because I always look at the frames and matting the experts choose. In fact, the very first thing I thought to myself when I walked up to the first drawing was how nicely it was matted. I know how difficult it is to pick just the right combination of mat and frame for my own photos which adorn all the walls of my house and also my son and daughter's homes. There is one seascape I took in San Pedro that we all three have and each of us framed it differently and it is amazing the effect the mat and frame can have not to mention the wall color and where the picture is hung, how high or low, etc. I like to look up closely at the artwork and then stand back, in the middle of the room if possible, to get the effect of how the pieces are all hung. Sometimes, the presentation is as artful as the works themselves.

To be continued...

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