L.A. Embarrassment of Riches

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L.A. Embarrassment of Riches

From King Tut's archaeological artifacts and 17th century paintings by Rembrandt and Ruisdael to early 20th century photographs by Hungarian born Andr- Kert-sz and to graffiti inspired American art by Jean-Michel Basquiat -- these hot summer months, love it or hate it, Los Angeles is the place to be for those who like their art to be all over the map.

In spite of my criticism of the way it was organized and presented, I'm glad that I saw the King Tut show. Many of the artifacts are simply spellbinding but, for me, seeing it once was enough. With Rembrandt it's quite a different story. On Saturday I went to the Getty for the fourth time. Talk about the gift that keeps on giving. It's such a pleasure to see the galleries crowded with people who came to pay their respects to one of the greatest painters of all time. Looking at Rembrandt paintings, it's not enough to see them from a distance. One simply must come close to the canvases to explore the rich texture of their surfaces. One wants to study the way Rembrandt alternates his brushstrokes: from vigorous, loaded with paint to the most delicate; from those depicting thick folds of clothing to those hinting at shimmering jewelry or a glint of light in the eyes of his sitters. But here's a problem. Half of the people standing in front of the canvases were staring not at the Rembrandts, but at hand-held electronic devices with text and images on a tiny screen. I couldn't believe my eyes. Instead of encouraging visitors to concentrate on the great works of art, the Museum, unfortunately, chose to distract people with electronic gizmos, thus undermining the very personal and intimate moment of interacting with art. It seems that some people in the Getty are more in love with technology than with art.

At LACMA behind the smoke and mirrors of the King Tut extravaganza, the curious visitor will find a scholarly exhibition of exquisitely painted Dutch landscapes by Jacob van Ruisdael. His quiet, meditative paintings provide stark contrast to the tumultuous emotions captured by Rembrandt. Immersing yourself into images of his native countryside with its low, flat horizon and billowy skies, you will feel the humidity in the air, hear the water running in a nearby brook and marvel at the beauty of mighty old trees. On the second floor of the same museum pavilion are black and white photographs by Andr- Kert-sz. The earliest, no bigger than stamp size, were shot in Hungary around the time of World War I and then in Paris where he moved in the mid-1920's. These captivating and rewarding images require maximum concentration. Surprisingly, the Museum doesn't provide visitors with magnifying glasses much needed to peruse the intricate details of these tiny photographs.

The fascinating exhibition of Jean-Michel Basquiat at MOCA got crowded from the moment it opened on Sunday--and it's no surprise, considering the glamour and tragedy of his life. Extremely talented and prolific, the artist was also royally screwed up with a drug addiction and a lack of discipline. One can see in his early paintings a great burst of raw energy and inventiveness but it lasted only a couple of years. His whole career had a short span of seven years and toward the end one can feel that the artist often runs on empty. At the age of 27, Basquiat was dead of an overdose.

Andr- Kert-sz Retrospective
Through September 5
Jacob van Ruisdael: Master of Landscape
Through September 18
Los Angeles County Museum of Art
Tel: 323/857-6000

Through October 10
MOCA Grand Avenue
Tel: 213/621-1749