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
The work of Nauman, who is white, has long dealt with the difficulties of language, double entendres and the mischievousness of meaning. The artist, who won the Golden Lion for the U.S.' participation in the last Venice Biennale, is widely considered one of the most influential artists working today. His influence can be seen in Ligon's work as he takes Nauman's play and adds a meditation on race and national history. As Sirmans says, Ligon's work is "a piece that questions the idea of America. There's some dichotomy, some ambiguity here that's being questioned. America has many different meanings." And so does Los Angeles. Throughout his career, Ligon has thought about blackness and black history in America, and when his work is set against Nauman's, it brings out less the wordplay of Nauman and more the subtle politics of the piece, making the statement heavier with political import.
The final rooms of the exhibition include works primarily from artists who live in Los Angeles. Many of them were purchased by the museum's Modern and Contemporary Art Council, and the artists received that purchase at important junctures in their careers. One example is Mark Bradford's 2002 painting Biggie, Biggie, Biggie, named after the rapper Notorious B.I.G. (who was murdered across the street from LACMA in 1997).
Bradford and other L.A. artists of color included in these rooms and elsewhere in the exhibit, such as Kori Newkirk and Rodney McMillian, plus the strength of women artists on view, including Alexandra Grant and Amanda Ross-Ho, show that LACMA has committed itself to wholly nurturing the diversity of Los Angeles artists. Grant looks at words via her forest of signs, creating Technicolor webs of language. Ross-Ho explores her process by including sheetrock cut right out of the wall of her studio, revealing both the considered trajectories and the serendipitous accidents of making art.
5905 Wilshire Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90036-4504
"Human Nature" is neither filler nor fodder, but something more historically substantive for the museum and its history. LACMA here proves it is not anymore a museum that Asco — which has an upcoming retrospective at the museum — or David Hammons or feminists would have to picket.
Newkirk once famously said in an interview with Thelma Golden, "I just live in L.A. I'm not of there." In some ways this statement was varyingly true for LACMA over the years, but thankfully and demonstrably it doesn't feel that way now.