Booze, loud music, shaggy heads bopping in unison, and . . . contemporary-art history lesson? It’s all being mashed together like one big, beautiful collage with MOCA’s “Night Vision” series, which combines live music and art-related activities with its usual gallery offerings. Think of it as a museum field trip for grown-ups, or a summery alternative to stuffy bars and buzzing nightclubs. The concept really gelled last year during the Jean-Michel Basquiat retrospective, which featured guest DJs such as Grandmaster Flash and Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore, and attracted an equally eclectic crowd. From Studio 54 funk to chaotic jazz to weird and dark druggie jams, the entertainment offered a glimpse into the urban soundscape that may have inspired New York’s most famous street scribbler — the next best thing to actually being in Mahattan c. 1984.
This year, MOCA and Motorola present another complementary coupling of art and music, for the Robert Rauschenberg exhibit, as well as new outdoor novelties such as craft tables, screenings and spoken-word performances. And the two full bars don’t hurt the loose atmosphere — or one’s appreciation of the works. Art ain’t created in a sanitized environment (Rauschenberg and Basquiat were hardly angels!), so why should it be viewed in one?
“It’s an opportunity to reach out to people who wouldn’t normally come to the museum,” says Liz Garo, who, along with her partners at Spaceland Productions, was brought in by curator and producer Moj Mahdara to help book bands like Gram Rabbit and Future Pigeon. Garo also booked all the acts at the Getty Museum’s just-ended “Summer Sessions” series, bringing in Dengue Fever and Calexico. “It’s nice to enjoy this music in an outdoor cultural environment,” she says.
MOCA’s not the only museum vying for the hipster set either. The Hammer Courtyard’s “Also I Like to Rock” series, presented by Indie 103.1, which showcased the likes of Silversun Pickups and Monsters Are Waiting this past month, looked like Cinespace Tuesdays on a Thursday — in Westwood, no less.
And though the outdoor element is a clincher for summer, the Natural History Museum has had success presenting DJs and live rock acts indoors during colder months as well, with its “First Fridays” events and last year’s L.A.: Light/Motion/Dream show.
Upcoming “Night Vision” artists sure to bring some zing include wordsmith Saul Williams (8/12), the Crystal Method (8/26) and DJ Z-Trip (9/2). If the shows are anything like the wild scenes when Gram Rabbit played last month, or when DJ Cut Chemist spun a few weeks ago — nights when the actual exhibit halls were buzzing nearly as loudly as the outdoor area — prepare for more fun at the museum than you ever had in fifth grade.