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Monday, March 03, 2014

Museum Review: Agnès Varda in Californialand @ LACMA

Museum Review:
 Agnès Varda in Californialand
@ LACMA in the BROAD Museum
November 13th, 2013- June 22nd, 2014

  French filmmaker Agnès Varda is best known for two films she made decades apart: Cleo From 5 to 7(1962) and Vagabond(1985).  During her career she made dozens of other films, and spent two "brief but intense" spells in Southern California/California, to which this exhibit is devoted. During her time here she made at least one important documentary (on the Black Power/Black Panther party in Oakland, CA.)  She also made at least two unsuccessful features.

  The centerpiece of the exhibit is an installation of a house made out of film stock from one of her California era bombs. Called, My Shack of Cinema, it is literally a small house made out of shot film stock.  The walls have a collage from a "summer of love" type movie she shot, a collection of photos from her trips to Oakland to hang out with the Black Panthers, the hippies of Sausalito and street musicians of Los Angeles.

  Varda, as one of those film makers whose proximity to the epicenter of the French New Wave often results in her being lumped into that category incorrectly, has an interesting perspective on the recent history of cinema.  Because she has a perspective somewhat different then her better known peers, a museum exhibit makes more sense in the context of her better known films then I expected.

  At the same time, the level of studio art expertise brought to bear is just "ok."  It's nice to see a house made out of film stock, and a collage of photos from one of her movies, but they mostly shed light on Varda as an Artist vs. making some larger statement.  I would have gladly looked at several more walls worth of California photos, but limiting the size of the exhibit also makes sense.

 While I was there I also had a chance to check out the Fútbol: The Beautiful Game exhibit, also at the LACMA/Broad Museum (same floor as Varda in Californialand exhibit.) It's a museum exhibit about Soccer- interesting for sure- highlight is the video work Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait, by the artists Philippe Parreno and Douglas Gordon.  Zidane consists of footage from 17 different cameras which remained trained on Zidane throughout the duration of a single game.  The long periods where he is simply standing around make for an interesting video/installation piece and make a trip to the exhibit worth while.

 It was also my first visit to the Broad Museum itself.  The outside stairway/escalator set up inevitably remind the viewer of the Centre Pomidou in central Paris- it's almost like a quotation of that building.  The interior is spacious- as you would exhibit from a museum whose "Permanent Collection" consists of a Richard Serra sculpture, a Chris Burden item and a Bruce Nauman video piece- AND END OF LIST. 

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