Gehry's Magic at LACMA / Barney's Fantasy at MOCA

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Photo: Frank Gehry, Experience Music Project, design process model, 1995-2000, Seattle, Washington.

In its tribute to Frank Gehry, one of the most celebrated and innovative architects of our time, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art has accomplished the near impossible. The exhibition conveys the magic of Gehry's architecture, and shows him as an inspired artist who shapes his buildings like monumental sculptures. By its nature, architectural exhibitions hold a degree of separation from the very subjects they present. Typically, the photographs, the models, the sketches… they all inform visitors in a manner reminiscent of an eloquent academic lecture.

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(Top) Frank Gehry, 8150 Sunset, model, 2015-present, West Hollywood, California
(Bottom) Frank Gehry exhibition at LACMA
Photograph by Fredrik Nilsen, courtesy of the museum and Gehry Partners, LLP

But this time around, LACMA, with its unique history of collaboration with Frank Gehry as a designer for a number of the museum's high profile exhibitions, was able not only to deliver a thoroughly researched lecture, but also succeeded to bring us, visitors, inside his studio and even inside his mind.

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(L) Frank Gehry, Frederick R. Weisman Museum, Minneapolis, Minnesota
Photograph by Don F. Wong, courtesy of LACMA and Gehry Partners LLP
(R) Frank Gehry, Nationale-Nederlanden Building, Prague, Czech Republic
Photograph courtesy LACMA and Gehry Partners LLP

It's simply amazing how prolific and unstoppable Gehry has been in his career, which stretches over five decades. What a treat it would be to see all his buildings, not only here in the United States, but in Europe and the Middle East as well. If I ever go to Minneapolis, I would make a beeline for his Weisman Museum, which shines like a gigantic, multifaceted diamond. And the first thing I would do in Prague is run to see his "Ginger and Fred" apartment building, dancing in the company of classic 19th century architecture.

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(Top) Frank Gehry, Fondation Louis Vuitton, model, Paris, France
(Bottom) Frank Gehry, Fondation Louis Vuitton, Paris, France

A few months ago in Paris, I saw Gehry's latest high-profile project: the Fondation Louis Vuitton. It took almost ten years to complete, and the complexity of its architecture is beyond description, and still, the impression the project gives you is that it was effortless ––as if Gehry snapped his fingers and pulled the building out of his magic hat.

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Matthew Barney: River of Fundament
Exhibition at the Geffen Contemporary at MOCA

Across the city at the Geffen Contemporary, there is a sprawling museum exhibition of acclaimed American artist, Matthew Barney. It's impossible not to be impressed by the courage with which the artist embarks on his mind-boggling journey, casting gigantic sculptures from bronze and brass, sulfur and resin, and making movies that go on for hours.

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Matthew Barney, "Trans America," 2014
Cast sulfur, epoxy resin, and wood
Geffen Contemporary at MOCA

This exhibition, River of Fundament, covers seven years of Barney's art making, which was inspired by the Norman Mailer novel, Ancient Evenings (1983), set in ancient Egypt and telling a story of regeneration and rebirth. I haven't yet had the time to watch the movie, which is screened daily in a specially designed theater inside The Geffen Contemporary. But I had the opportunity to stand in front of his monumental sculptures ––some of them weighing up to 25 tons ––and marvel not only at the complexity of their creation, but also at the logistics required to transport and install them for this exhibition.

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Matthew Barney, " Shaduf," 2014
Cast brass
Geffen Contemporary at MOCA

I've always been intrigued by Matthew Barney's art, but something prevents me from fully enjoying it. It probably has to do with their laboriousness, the way his works communicate all the sweat and all the labor that went into their creation. Don't get me wrong, I do appreciate and respect labor-intensive work, but when the artist succeeds, his or her artworks come across as effortless.

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(L) Matthew Barney, "Water Cast 14: Yellow Dwarf," 2015
Cast bronze with gold plating
(R) Matthew Barney, "Eye of Horus," 2014
Cast bronze and gold plating
Artist unknown, "Figure of Horus as a Falcon"
Ptolemaic-Roman period, Egypt (c. 323 BC – AD 395)
Geffen Contemporary at MOCA

And here is one piece in this Barney exhibition that actually makes me feel that way. There is a small, elegantly designed metal vitrine, with only two objects inside. One is an ancient Egyptian bronze sculpture of a falcon, borrowed from LACMA's permanent collection. The other is a tiny, egg-shaped bronze sculpture plated in gold. The objects are not only connected by proximity, they speak to each other. It's up to us to decipher and interpret what they say. This is a small piece but it whispers a complex and compelling story.

To learn about Edward's Fine Art of Art Collecting Classes, please visit his website and check out this article in Artillery Magazine.

All photographs by Edward Goldman unless otherwise noted.