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FROM THIS EPISODE

One of the most celebrated and prolific photographers of the 20 th century – Irving Penn – enjoyed a seven-decade-long career with a focus on fashion, portraiture, and ethnography. The current exhibition at Fahey/Klein Gallery, Irving Penn: Worlds in a Small Room, Seen & Unseen, presents a retrospective of Penn’s ethnographic studies with his exacting attention to detail.


Installation shot, Worlds in a Small Room, Seen and Unseen. Irving Penn. Fahey/Klein Gallery, Los Angeles. Photo courtesy Fahey/Klein Gallery.

Beginning in 1948, Penn traveled around the world photographing Peruvian Indians in Cusco, Gypsies in Spain, and inhabitants of New Guinea and the mountains of Nepal. He would set up ambulant studios to photograph indigenous people, and called these black and white photographs “records of physical presence.”


Installation shot, Worlds in a Small Room, Seen and Unseen. Irving Penn. Fahey/Klein Gallery, Los Angeles. Photo by Edward Goldman.

Each image feels like an intense encounter between the photographer and his subject. You feel the artist’s fascination with these people and their culture, resulting in small photographs with big stories to tell. There is an amazing attention to the tiniest details, which would keep a scholar busy for years.


Four Guedras (B) (All in Black), Morocco. Irving Penn. 1971. Copyright (C) The Irving Penn Foundation. Photo courtesy Fahey/Klein Gallery.

Still, all these impeccably composed photographs of indigenous people demonstrate Penn’s desire to maintain a respectful physical and emotional distance from the subjects he admires. This exhibition of photographs by Irving Penn runs at Fahey/Klein gallery through October 6.


Portrait of Yayoi Kusama in her studio. Image © Yayoi Kusama. Courtesy of David Zwirner, New York; Ota Fine Arts, Toyko/Singapore/Shangai; Victoria Miro, London; Yayoi Kusama, Inc. Image courtesy Magnolia Pictures.

But, if you, my friends, are big admirers of Yayoi Kusama, you have only a few days this week to enjoy the new documentary about this internationally known Japanese artist, titled, Kusama – Infinity, playing at the NuArt Theater through Thursday. After that, the film will go to The Landmark theater, the new Laemmle theater in Glendale, and Regency’s South Coast Village 3 in Orange County."


Artist Kusama next to her “Dot Car” (1995) in KUSAMA – INFINITY. Photo credit: © Harrie Verstappen. Photo courtesy Magnolia Pictures.

Here in Los Angeles, we can see two of her Infinity Rooms at the Broad, and a sculptural installation with her signature polka dots at the Marciano Art Foundation. These days, 89-years-old Yayoi Kusama is one of the top-selling female artists in the world, with her paintings and sculptural installations bursting with amazing, young energy.


Yayoi Kusama, Infinity Mirrored Room -Love Forever, 1966/1994. Installation view, YAYOI KUSAMA, Le Consortium, Dijon, France, 2000. Image © Yayoi Kusama. Courtesy of David Zwirner, New York; Ota Fine Arts, Toyko/Singapore/Shangai; Victoria Miro, London; Yayoi Kusama, Inc.

This documentary tells the story of how Kusama moved to New York City after corresponding with Georgia O’Keeffe, and how she spent the 60s staging body-painting festivals and anti-war demonstrations while also showing her work. Then, in 1966, she “crashed” the Venice Biennale by installing her work outside the Italian Pavilion.

Returning to Japan in the 70s, Kusama checked herself into a mental hospital on her own volition, where she continues to live today – her permanent residence by choice, though she also has a studio nearby. Watching her work obsessively on her art with millions of polka dots makes you feel and understand her pain and exhilaration. Be sure you see this movie which runs at the NuArt through Thursday.

CREDITS

Host:
Edward Goldman

Producers:
Kathleen Yore

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