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A Visit to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art

By Pablo Helm Hernandez


While on vacation in L.A. with my family, My family and I went to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, also known as LACMA. It was very cool to explore a different museum with a large quantity of modern art besides the Walker. The Walker I know inside and out, but the LACMA was like exploring the Walker for the first time all over again.

We found a parking spot across the street from the museum in front of a sketchy, gated apartment community that looked more like they were trying to keep the residents in rather than keep strangers out. But across that street was a whole other world, a very beautiful world I might add. We’d parked behind the museum and entered through the back gate, where we saw a huge boulder resting on top of the narrow walls of an roofless hallway filled with tourists, and maybe a rock enthusiast or two. It’s a very interesting sculpture by artist Michael Heizer. It seems to suggest raw power, balance and fear all at the same time. We get tickets (18 and under are free! Booyah!) and begin our journey into the bowels of the museum. A huge black geometric sculpture towers over you as you enter the main lobby designed by the artist Tony Smith. Off to the left were the bathrooms. Spoiler alert: I use these later. We trot up the stairs into a gallery to the right containing the famous La Gerbe by Henri Matisse. The gallery contains many other interesting pieces, including some original Picasso’s (my favorite!). My family and I proceed to explore the winding galleries.


Above: Tony Smith’s Smoke

After leaving the first building, there lay an amazing sculpture by Jesus Rafael Soto. The sculpture consists of hundreds of dangling yellow rubber hoses. It was as if you were walking through a never-ending bead curtain, except it was made of spaghetti. There were tons of little humans running around in the dangling spaghetti, invisible to their moms busy talking about its possible meaning. We move next into the temporary gallery which hosts works of art by the amazing cinematographer Gabriel Figueroa. Gabriel was a cinematographer in Mexico from the 1930s to the early 1980s, and boy was his work amazing. Gabriel captured light so well. He used mainly black and white film to show the many contrasts of light. He also did some really amazing visual effects. This exhibit was my favorite by far, mostly because I am very interested in film.


Above is a still from the film La Perla. A film on which Gabriel did the cinematography.

Next we travel to the Pavillion for Japanese Art. The building itself is one of the coolest buildings I’ve ever seen. It had a very Planet of the Apes vibe, like the Ape City in the original movie with lots of stone and flowing walls along with lots of winding paths and panels covering the exterior. The inside was also very cool. There were some amazing old and new pieces from Japan. My favorite thing in this building was a small gallery filled with hundreds of these small charms called Netsuke. Netsuke are small wooden sculptures meant to be attached to traditional 17th century clothing like a Kimono. The small sculptures ranged from funny, old men to very intricate and detailed animals twisting around each other. And they were all smaller than a ping pong ball. As we make our way to the last building we walk by a life-sized model of the La Brea tar pits with some dinosaurs frozen in a screeching position, their little black beady eyes staring at all the tourists saying, “HELP ME!”

Our next stop is another main building where we’re greeted by the older cousin of Willy Wonka’s great glass elevator. While this glass elevator was huge and could easily fit around 25 people, the climb to the top floor was slower than a 500 year old turtle. Upon release from the glass doors, families scurried out into yet another priceless gallery at the top of the building. My favorite piece in this gallery was a shed made from old 35mm film strips stretched over a steel frame. This is an awesome piece by Agnes Varta. The shed itself had a blackish grey-blue hue of old film that contrasted so nicely with the flat white room which contained this masterpiece. The film stretched over the frame was art itself as well. It was fun to try and decipher the story hidden in the walls and roof of the shed. To top it off, the stools inside were made from old film canisters. We continue outside onto a huge staircase because we didn’t want to age a year by taking the slow glass elevator. As we go outside we notice that this staircase is the cream of the crop for photo opportunities, and many families make their offspring get preserved in digital image and put on display at their grandma’s and friends houses. My parents did the same and took many photos of my sister and I.

As my family continues to explore the small town that is the LACAMA, we go into yet another gallery with many cool projections and sculptures. The most bodacious piece here was by an artist named Chris Burden, called City II. It was a huge model of a metropolis made from all sorts of different materials. It looked like a genius-architect child was a millionaire and could buy all the toys he wanted just to make it. Throughout this beautiful city was a series of elevated roads that looked like the twisting urban highways in any major cities. In the middle was a big ramp filled with small model cars (probably Hotwheels). My brain exploded with excitement, I thought to myself, does this thing move?Do the cars race around the twisted highways?Let’s turn this baby on and let her rip! I asked one of the guards why the sculpture wasn’t running. She said it only ran on certain days and today was not one of them. Huge, huge bummer. I pick up my heart off the floor and we exit the building.


Above: Chris Burden’s City II

Sadly it was time for us to go, but not until I was able to test the bathrooms and buy a cool book on Mexican pulp art. We also walked around to the front of the museum to see the famous street lamp sculpture, which is by the same dude who made City II. It was close to sundown and the setting was perfect. The lamps were on and it was like walking through a symmetrical forest of light. It was super rad.

So in reflection, the LACMA compares nicely to our own Walker. It was well worth the trip and I already want to go again. I love the LACMA and I consider it a good sibling to the Walker. I did some research and the LACMA does has teen internships and special nights where the museum is only open to teens. Hopefully the the teens of Southern California benefit from their programs as much as ours benefits teens here at home.


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