By Catherine Wagley
By Channing Sargent
By L.A. Weekly critics
By Amanda Lewis
By Catherine Wagley
By Carol Cheh
By Keegan Hamilton
By Bill Raden
Fiskin's video, in fact, is probably the most experimental work presented. Having abandoned her highly regarded trademark tiny photographs for video only a couple of years ago, the artist turns in a refreshingly lo-tech and surprisingly hilarious critique of the ostensible accessibility promised in the museum's "Your Getty Center" ad campaign. Other artists who rose to the assigned challenge include Martin Kersels, whose annoying photography series has finally paid off in spades with the ã generously proportioned artist performing a vigorous gymnastic pas de deux with a foam replica of the notorious Getty Kouros. John Baldessari displays a similar ability to apply his considerable formal and conceptual gifts to a given set of criteria, with his multilayered appropriation of Dürer's exquisite Stag Beetlewatercolor. Ruben Ortiz Torres has taken the opportunity to reconcile his somewhat problematic representations of customized lowriders with his own artistic vision and family history.
Inspired by a series of 1899 stereographs of Cuba from the bowels of the Research Institute, Ortiz's La Zamba del Chevy combines bravura associative conceptual leaps with the more literal and crowd-pleasing dynamics of automotive hydraulics and 3-D video. All of the included artists turned in solid, occasionally challenging work, though some of the putative connections to Getty holdings are threadbare, and even a trifle insulting. Still, it's good to be able to see Lari Pittman's impressive recent work without traveling to New York. John Miller's Op paintings are similarly far-fetched from their alleged inspiration, but deliver the usual contemplative punch. Sharon Ellis and Uta Barth turn in strong, characteristic works. Adrian Saxe's installation is over the top in garish anachronism, even for him. Steven Prina's film is surprisingly moving, and Alison Saar's Afro-di(e)ty is an effective prod at the museum's political and spiritual Achilles' heels. The show is rounded out by a series of masterful portraits of the artists by architectural photographer Grant Mudford, whose formal approach varies widely but gracefully from subject to subject.
AT THE BERGAMOT STATION GALLERY OF Mudford's dealer (and sparring partner) Rosamund Felsen, another amazing coincidence is played out in the form of an installation by Renée Petropoulos. Having a Wonderful Time . . .consists of layers of colorful vinyl rectangles and chalk lines derived from the superimposed display schemes and architecture from eight different photography and painting galleries in the Getty's modern wing. The result is a humorous and affectionate deconstruction of the usually invisible design conventions that underlie our museological experiences. If you happen to be in the gallery at 11 a.m., 2 or 4 p.m., the sweetness of the work is given a more critical edge through the addition of the similarly layered audio-tour soundtracks, which build in complexity from a mere doubling of the authoritative voice of official explication into a Babel-ous text-sound of oceanic glossolalia. Petropoulos' work easily ranks with the best work in "Departures," but is only on view through March 18, so see it first.
If anyone in the late modern era was equivalent to the dukes and Sun Kings of the Renaissance, it was flamboyantly egotistical industrial robber barons like Getty and Howard Hughes, whose lives and legacies have been as intrigue-ridden as those of the Borgias. Within the walls of Xanadu, the noble effort to incorporate the finest examples of contemporary cultural activity with their illustrious forebears is just that, and commendable. Most of us have indeed had, and continue to have, some of our best art experiences in museums -- institutions that are able to mobilize resources to realize artistic visions impossible otherwise. Nevertheless, the discomfort generated by the impossible hybrid of institutional conservation and the imperative ephemerality (at least on some level) of contemporary art only grows.
The preservation of J. Paul's belief in the efficacy of benevolent cultural dictatorship -- in the face of the self-regulating anarchy of the best modern art -- is sustainable only by large infusions of cash money. In spite of the Getty Center's Sisyphean efforts to pitch itself as a resource for regular folk, and the fact that the moat-wade and slope-scramble have been supplanted by a not-unpleasant tram ride, it is impossible not to think of this fortress on a hill as a sort of postmodern Cuccagna monument encrusted with gourmet eye candy, where we peasants may, on occasion, and parking permitting, ascend to taste the nourishment Art is said to offer -- meaningful and finely tuned sensual pleasures, unhurried entertainment, deeply nuanced psychological adventure, sublime spiritual transcendence -- and carry away what we can. In his throne at the right hand of God, J. Paul looks down and chuckles softly at our naive yearning. Inevitably, back down the hill we must go, to lives by implication devoid of such lofty sustenance -- and the chasm between Art and Life never seemed wider.
THE EDIBLE MONUMENT: THE ART OF FOOD FOR FESTIVALSThe Getty Center, Research
Institute Exhibition Gallery, 1200 Getty Center Drive
Through May 21
DEPARTURES: 11 ARTISTS AT THE GETTY | The Getty Center, 1200 Getty Center Drive
Through May 7
HAVING A WONDERFUL TIME, WEST PAVILION ART AFTER 1800 J. PAUL GETTY MUSEUM LOS ANGELES CALIFORNIA | Rosamund Felsen Gallery
Bergamot Station, B4, 2525 Michigan Ave. | Through March 18