Dirty Money, and Plenty of It

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My dear listeners, I have no doubt that most of you are upstanding citizens with unimpeachable moral standards. Therefore, it's with significant trepidation that I must confess to being tempted, and ultimately seduced by, a big bundle of dirty money. And if you think that you would be strong enough to resist the temptation, go ahead and try it for yourself. There is a place in town where a huge mound of silver coins is waiting for you. First you will stare at it in disbelief, then you will want to touch, to fondle, these coins, and then, inevitably, you will find yourself sitting on a pile of this money the way I did.

Enough teasing. Here are the straightforward facts. The Gallery of Functional Art at Bergamot Station shows the works of Vermont-based sculptor Johnny Swing, among them a chair and a couch literally made out of thousands of American coins welded together in the most amusing fashion. His Nickel Couch, with its seductively sinuous curves, is made with 7,000 nickels and 35,000 welds, and his Butterfly Chair took 1,500 half dollars and 7,000 welds to complete. Believe me, I don't make it up. You really need to see it to believe it.

And talking about making yourself comfortable...every museum-goer knows the 11th commandment, prohibiting one from touching anything on display. But here, for you, is one startling exception to that rule. The Getty Museum has a new exhibition, Please Be Seated, where visitors are not only expected to touch the beautiful chairs but are invited to sit in them, and thanks to a surveillance camera and television screens, they can see themselves transported out of this very room and these very chairs into the galleries of the Musée de Louvre or the glamorous interiors of Versailles.

The six elegant chairs in this exhibition are contemporary replicas of actual 18th century chairs that visitors can find on display at the Getty Museum, in galleries devoted to French decorative art. This exhibition is the result of an unusual collaboration between Los Angeles video artist Nicole Cohen and Getty curators, who not only gave her permission to shoot inside their museum, but also arranged for her access to the rooms of French museums and palaces, to which these chairs originally belonged. The whole construct is a very amusing way to learn about the history of art and, for a moment, to become an artwork yourself.

And now, it's time to raise the bar – from amusing to amazing. The great Mexican photographer Manuel Alvarez Bravo, who died in 2002 at the age of 100, left an artistic legacy of rare complexity and breadth. In thousands of images inspired by his homeland, he celebrates its landscapes and people with a poetic mixture of candor, sensuality, and solitude. Some of his most iconic images, along with a number of never-before seen photos, are currently on view at the Rose Gallery. The exhibition coincides with the publication of a new monograph on Bravo, for which the artist himself helped select many unfamiliar images. On the KCRW website, you can see his famously seductive and slightly disturbing reclining nude with a bandage around her pudenda. In another black and white photo, you will see a young woman slowly dissolving into deep shadow. A single ray of light shines on the luxurious, long waves of her black hair that she combs, as if in a trance...

Johnny Swing: Fast & Present
On view at the Gallery of Functional Art
through November 11

Please Be Seated
Ongoing at the Getty Center

Manuel Alvarez Bravo: Eyes in His Eyes
On view at Rose Gallery
through October 31

Banner image: Manuel Alvarez Bravo, "La buena fama dormiendo"