If we look back more than 20,000 years ago to Homo sapiens earliest years, we are reminded of a burgeoning relationship, that of the human and animal. Recall the Lascaux caves in France, deemed one of the first works of art, depicting man and creature surviving through partnership. The Santa Barbara Museum of Art invites viewers to revisit this long-lasting symbiosis in Art to Zoo: Exploring Animal Natures, which opens next week. As we continue to co-exist with our fellow animals, extending a tradition of cooperation and respect, we recall the ancient theme of animal appreciation and understanding through a younger art form: photography.
Embark on an adventure of animal appreciation, photographic aesthetic, and scientific investigation in the Museum’s Emmons, Von Romberg, and Colefax Galleries as well as a shared portion at the College of Creative Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara (on view September 26 – October 19, 2014). This curation of photographs from the Museum’s permanent collection combines the unique photographic sensibilities of master artists with the foremost research on animal cognition, behavior, and characteristics. Our instinctual predilection to artistic expression leads us toward a greater appreciation and understanding of nature’s creatures.
As we so often anthropomorphize the animals we encounter, this exhibition suggests we look deeper into these qualities, for scientific research continues to prove that the characteristics that make us “human” can be found in a range of species. Famed photographers such as Larry Fink, Imogen Cunningham, and George Tice were once captivated by the forms and behavior of animal subjects; perhaps awed by the near humane presence of these subjects. Art to Zoo suggests we continue to engage with such images but through a scientific lens, encouraging a quiet contemplation of animal existence such as in Camille Soyagua’s drifting gelatinous jellyfish, Fink’s clawed and statuesque praying mantis, Henry Dixon’s powerful and solitary cougar, and Cunningham’s limbless meandering snake.
Though artistic expression has since evolved from the cave walls and into galleries we may continue to marvel at the art of animal natures.
For more information and related programming, please visit our website here.
This fall the Santa Barbara Museum of Art extends its popular weekly ArtVenture programs into two new and exciting ArtVenture After-School Classes inspired by the Museum’s current exhibitions and permanent collection.
In Art to Zoo: Animals in Art young artists and animal lovers ages 7 – 12 draw, paint, print, and sculpt amazing animal art inspired by photographs in the exhibition Art to Zoo: Exploring Animal Natures (on view September 28, 2014 – January 4, 2015).
Get a glimpse of some of the projects SBMA Senior Teaching Artist Monika Molnar-Metzenthin dreamed up for the class below.
Monika brings her experiences from a six-week artist residency in Eastern India to life as she guides students in a printmaking project inspired by Joan Myers Elephant, India (2013). Students learn about traditional Indian art and why elephants are sometimes painted and decorated as they create their own versions.
Poetic photographs of bugs and other winged creatures lead to a three-dimensional interpretation using everyday materials such as packing tape and wire in new and unexpected ways. These sculptures look particularly beautiful hanging in front of a window, dancing in the breeze and catching light through their translucent wings.
James Balog’s charming Chimpanzee with Curtain (1991) inspires the enchanting “Pets in Clothes” acrylic painting where students are encouraged to think of their own pets’ personalities and create an appropriately personalized wardrobe.
Art to Zoo: Animals in Art
Wednesdays, September 24 – December 17, 3:30 – 5:30 pm
$300 SBMA Members/$350 Non-Members
For more information and to register, visit www.sbma.net/kidsfamilies.
Contemporary/Modern: Selections from the Permanent Collection—which opened last weekend and can be seen at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art through January 4, 2015—features significant paintings and sculptures from the Museum’s permanent collection, dating from 1958 to the present. The works on view highlight the persistent influence of modernism throughout the second half of the 20th century and into the 21st.
Artists on view include Helen Frankenthaler, Guy Goodwin, Frederick Hammersley, Josiah McElheny, John McLaughlin, Jorge Pardo, Larry Poons, and Lucas Samaras.
John McLaughlin, whose two rectilinear paintings hang in the exhibition, sought pure abstraction in his art. He stated, “I want to communicate only to the extent that the painting will serve to induce or intensify the viewer’s natural desire for contemplation without benefit of a guiding principle.” Similarly, the exhibition serves as a space for reflection and observation, with illuminated sculptures and paintings presented in a way that sparks various connections.
The exhibition also debuts several recent SBMA acquisitions that have never before been on view. An immense lamp sculpture, Untitled (Sea Urchin) (2012), by artist Jorge Pardo recalls mid-century design merged with organic elements, while Frederick Hammersley’s Growing Game (1958) and In the pink (1964) showcase the artist’s clever hard-edge compositions painted with visible brushstrokes.
For more information about the exhibition and related programming, visit our website here.
For Tsukioka YOSHITOSHI (1839–1892) and his audience, the moon was a special symbol of human emotions.One Hundred Aspects of the Moon, currently on view in the Asian Art galleries at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, was Yoshitoshi’s largest and most important series. Through the poetic theme of the changing moon, Yoshitoshi explored the vast range of human emotions and intensely felt moods: from awe to tenderness, the sensual to the heroic, the whimsical to the profound, and the humorous to the melancholy. He contributed to it over the course of seven years, completing the last three images only two months before his death.
Yoshitoshi was considered one of the last giants of the ukio-e (floating world pictures) of the Meiji period (l868–l9l2), during Japan’s era of transition to modernity. Using innovative concepts of space, texture, light, and color, he produced an enormous number of woodblock prints and newspaper illustrations. He revitalized the traditional subjects of legends, heroes, and battles, and later expanded his repertoire to include themes from Chinese and Japanese literature and Noh drama.
Visit the Museum’s Upper Level to view the final rotation of this three-part exhibition, One Hundred Aspects of the Moon, in the Eichheim Gallery of the Asian Art galleries.
Mike Kelley, whose drawing Apple Tree is currently on view in Left Coast: Recent Acquisitions of Contemporary Art, has always been interested in the conflation of childhood sexuality, popular culture, and the pervasive powers of cultural archetypes as particularly powerful forms of psychosexual catharsis. In Kappa (1986), as well as The Banana Man (1983) and Family Tyranny/Cultural Soup (1987), which all screen this Thursday evening at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, he uses slapstick, whoopee cushion jokes, and vast amounts of sexual innuendo—these films are not for the faint of heart—to infuse even the most innocent form of language (physical as well as spoken) with unbounded (and, more often than not, highly destructive) carnal desire.
Thus in Banana Man—Kelley’s first and only truly solo video performance—he appropriated a marginal character from the TV show Captain Kangaroo who he had never seen perform but was able to reconstruct from friends’ first hand accounts. Anyone who knew Mike—before his untimely passing in 2012—would know exactly what to expect. Instead of a benign visit to Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood we get something closer to a cross between Antonin Artaud’s “Theater of Cruelty,” Pee-wee’s Playhouse and the BBC’s Look Around You, a wicked satire on scientific education films and school programming.
Underlying Kelley’s satirical take on an otherwise serious subject is his focus on jokes (which were of considerable interest to Freud as agencies or cathexes of unconconscious desires), particularly the archetypal slapstick action that always gets a laugh. This helps to explain Kelley’s well-documented fondness for Benny Hill, for as he pointed out in a 1984 interview with the author:
“I really like to use low-comedy stuff because I think it is a basic humor that is embedded in the culture, whereas high humor is specific to a time. That’s all I’m doing—it’s the same thing. All the jokes in Aristophanes are the same as the jokes in Benny Hill. It’s just that they relate to different politicians, or whatever. But what’s actually funny is not that—that’s just the framework. What’s actually funny is that someone’s getting hit in the ass with a baseball bat. That’s got something to do with child rearing […] something to do with western culture; or the male-female problem—that’s always been funny. Maybe it’s not funny in other cultures, but it’s funny in our culture [...] Benny Hill is just two jokes. It’s a little schmuck and a beautiful woman and then him sitting on something.”
Kelley associates these jokes (as cultural archetypes) with child abuse in Family Tyranny, (a harrowing, improvised collaborative performance with Paul McCarthy) and the Oedipus Complex in Kappa. In the former, Freud’s primal scene is displaced onto a simulated father-son rape. In contrast, Kappa reframes the Oedipus myth through an ancient Japanese folk story, whereby Freudian desire takes the form of Kappa (played with gleeful malevolence by Kelley) a Shinto god of freshwater who resembles a hairless monkey with a dish-like indentation in his skull.
After an expository tour of a temple dedicated to the libidinal sprite (it’s hard to tell whether this is real or completely fabricated), the Yonemotos quickly insert Kelley into an archetypal, over-theatricalized sexploitation scenario: a Hollywood mansion where Sophocles’ Jocasta (played by Warhol icon Mary Woronov) sunbathes languorously poolside under the lecherous eyes of her teenage son, Eddie (Oedipus: geddit?), played by Ed Ruscha Jr. Because the audience knows the Oedipus story so well, we are, of course, incredulous that mother and son cannot see the through the web of myth that has enveloped and trapped them, thereby making Freud’s all too tragic premise seem preposterous in the first place.
Ultimately, Kelley turns Freud’s would-be science of psychoanalysis into a sublime version of the obscenely vulgar Carnivalesque, a willful overturning of established social hierarchy which runs completely counter to fixed signifying structures like the oedipal family unit. As Mikhail Bakhtin noted, “Carnival was the true feast of time, the feast of becoming, change and renewal. It was hostile to all that was immortalized and completed.” In other words, it was the very stuff of booze, the bawdy and the bibulous. Bottoms up everybody!
Free Film Screening: Three Films by Mike Kelley
Banana Man, Kappa, and Family Tyranny/Cultural Soup
Thursday, August 14, 5:30 pm
Introduction by UCSB Critical Theory and Integrative Studies Professor Colin Gardner
The films may not suitable for young audiences and include some challenging material.
Mary Craig Auditorium
Reserve tickets at the Visitor Services desks or online at tickets.sbma.net.
Wondering what to do on these Hot Summer Nights? Why not take a field trip to the Santa Barbara Museum of Art Friday, August 15 when temporarily empty galleries become an absurdist form of Studio 54 for Atelier: Dada Disco and Left Coast Artists’ Party. High meets low and they get along famously at this homage to all things irreverent and provocative inspired by the current exhibitions Living in the Timeless: Drawings by Beatrice Wood and Left Coast: Recent Acquisitions of Contemporary Art. Cocktails, donuts, popcorn, a retro riff on the Ballet Russes, live music, and great art make up just about all the Hot Stuff we can handle.
Break out your Bianca Jagger white suit and your best dance moves for a Dada-inspired disco of Donna Summer hits. How else to best celebrate the twin iconoclasts: Beatrice Wood and California’s Left Coast artists?
Take a step onto to the dance floor in McCormick Gallery, where Tina Villadolid offers up the hits of the ‘70s with Donna Summer covers and two sets of dancers move across the gallery against a backdrop Dada films and “Dada Live” footage, courtesy of Echelon A/V. Watch as some dancers, choreographed by Robin Bisio, offer up Beatrice Wood-inspired movements while others perform a reinterpretation of the Ballet Russes’ 1917 production of Parade choreographed by Kaita Lepore Mrazek. Then, get in the Dada spirit with a six-seat bicycle ride to nowhere on Left Coast artist Robert Wechsler’s Circular Bike.
Santa Barbara’s own The Kinds offer up a steady flow of original songs and odes to California on the Museum’s front steps for the night. While you’re there, activate rumpled sheets of Betelgeuse and Bedtime, an interactive installation inspired by the work of April Street and created by SBMA Senior Teaching Artist Kendall Pata. The oversized nocturnal canvas bridges the gap between dreaming and waking and the public and the private as guests apply their own sleep signatures to it.
Take a break from the disco in Robert Wechsler’s relaxing Purring Chair in Preston Morton Gallery. Then, make your way to the Leave it to Chance Cocktail Station, a game of chance of randomly selected garnishes to accompany your Cutler’s Artisan Vodka, manned by Santa Barbara artist and mixologist David J. Diamant. Or try out an April Street-inspired Rumpled Bed: Cutler’s vodka, lemonade, and a splash of Tabasco sauce to spice things up.
Atelier: Dada Disco and Left Coast Artists’ Party
Friday, August 15, 5:30 – 7:30 pm
$25 SBMA Members/$30 Non-Members
For more information or to purchase tickets, visit www.sbma.net/atelier.
The large, three-panel drawing by Kim Jones, Untitled (War Drawing Triptych) (2000, 2001, 2008), in the current exhibition, Left Coast: Recent Acquisitions of Contemporary Art, was produced by the artist over an eight-year period. Like most of his drawings, Jones works on them for intervals of time, storing them until ready to work on them again. He repeats this process numerous times until they are released for exhibition. As Jones has stated in the legend for the War Drawings, the drawing “can continue indefinitely.” Indeed, it can easily be imagined that if the drawings weren’t finally sealed off in their frames, Jones would take them back and continue to work on them more.
Jones’s War Drawings reveal an extensive process—the staging of a battle between “x-men” and “dot-men,” among a “fortress” with thick walls and other structures, including “living quarters, places of worship, offices, factories, supplies, and jails.” These, as well as the surface of the paper itself, serve as sites for a detailed and sometimes frenetic sense of action and obliteration that is revealed not only through the artist’s nearly obsessive positioning of forms, but also through detected areas of erasure.
The genesis of the War Drawings came from the artist’s childhood. At age seven Jones suffered from Perthes disease, a generative bone disorder, and was confined for several years due to his handicap. “Jones spent much of his youth in solitude, immersed in Marvel comics, Disney cartoons, and playing with army figures. He also created things: cartoon sketches, clay sculptures, and pencil drawings of imaginary wars that played out in Xs and dots on paper, a body of work that formed the basis of his mature war drawings.”
It is interesting to consider Jones’s alter ego as a performance artist—Mudman—as a sort of physical manifestation of the artist’s “Xs.” Slathered in mud with a bundle of crossing sticks strapped to his back, Mudman was the enactor of performances such as Wilshire Boulevard Walk, “a twelve-hour trek that would last from sunrise to sunset, east to west, along the central corridor of the city of Los Angeles.”
To explain his process for the War Drawings, Jones created a legend for the drawings which can be found in his retrospective catalogue, Mudman: The Odyssey of Kim Jones (2007) (from which the quotes above are extracted). Jones will be signing copies of the book in the Museum Shop after his lecture.
Artist Lecture: Kim Jones
Sunday, July 27, 2–3:30 pm
Mary Craig Auditorium
Free for SBMA Members and Students/$10 Non-Members/$6 Senior Non-Members
Reserve or purchase tickets at the Visitor Services desks or online at tickets.sbma.net.
It started out as a modest 4′ x 8′ piece of plywood. The subject was to be a landscape rendition of Los Angeles as a kind of “lost frontier,” with a pioneer woman with a Mickey Mouse head in the foreground, standing atop a mountainous outcrop, rifle in hand. Much like Caspar David Friedrich’s Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog, the figure is dwarfed by the awesome sublimity of the infinite expanse beyond, in this case a smoggy, pinkish orange sky which melds into the urban sprawl of the City of Angels as it nestles at the foot of the mountains in the distance. A satirical blending of 19th-century German Romanticism with a snarky West Coast Pop sensibility you might think? Or, on a more philosophical note, Immanuel Kant meets Walt Disney?
Fortunately, it’s not that simple. According to the work’s author, the painting kept expanding, both in depth of field (through endless sanding, chiseling and building up of impasto) and in dimensions, until it eventually reached eight feet tall. But then it was too top heavy, so the artist cut off the top before adding figures to the immediate foreground—an emaciated Native American sitting with an empty food bowl, an observer (the artist himself?) with his back to the viewer, a dead animal, and a television set, in short, the stratigraphic detritus of L.A.’s urban archaeology spanning historical time from the area’s earliest settlers—the Yang-na Indians—to modern corporate exploitation and its inevitable corollary, ecological disaster.
In case you were wondering, the painting is called The Lost Frontier, and the artist is famed West Coast iconoclast Llyn Foulkes, whose Mr. President is currently on view in Left Coast: Recent Acquisitions of Contemporary Art. However, it is the work’s date of completion that gives us the first indication that something is not quite right here, that we are in the presence of an extremely unusual painterly process. The work is dated “1995-2005.” Ten years to complete a painting?! His gallery must be having fits!! However, it is precisely this long processual odyssey that defines the subject of Tamar Halpern and Chris Quilty’s absorbing 2009 short, Llyn Foulkes Lost Frontier: A Very Long Improvisation, screening this coming Thursday at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art. In many ways the film constitutes a trial run for the pair’s recent 2013 documentary on Foulkes entitled One Man Band, which covers similar territory.
Central to both projects is Foulkes’s improvisatory technique, which is clearly derived from his parallel career as a musician (he played drums with a band called City Lights from 1965 to 1971, and formed The Rubber Band from 1973 to 1977 before becoming a one-man band called The Machine in 1979). “My process is kind of like, ‘make and destroy and make again,”’ observes Foulkes. “It’s whatever happens. It’s like: ‘This needs to be done.”’ Of course, one problem with this approach is that you always have the fear of ruining the piece by overworking it, by spending too much time on it. Also, as the film clearly points out, it’s very difficult to decide when to stop. “I’m never really done with a painting,” admits Foulkes. “They have to take it away from me,” and indeed the documentary ends as the movers wrap up the painting and load it onto the moving truck. Otherwise the film might have rivaled Andy Warhol’s 485-minute Empire in length.
One of the key insights of the film is that art historical pigeonholing of Foulkes’s practice is well-nigh impossible. While on the one hand his work is undeniably cutting edge, he also has a conservative tendency to lionize the past, both in terms of his hands-on practice (no studio assistants for Foulkes) and his predilection for paying homage to old styles (his music, for example, is much closer to vaudeville and Tin Pan Alley than the avant-garde). Often mis-labeled as a Pop artist due to his use of comic book and postcard-like cut-out imagery in the 1960s, he is actually much closer to the Beat-cum-funk junk sensibility of his fellow Ferus Gallery contemporaries such as Wallace Berman and his Semina mail art circle (which included Dennis Hopper and Dean Stockwell), the collagist Jess, assemblage artist George Herms and most notably, Ed Ruscha.
Indeed, Foulkes’s “painterly” process throughout the development and expansion of The Lost Frontier is much closer to sculpture—particularly through the artist’s ongoing alternation of sanding down, cutting out and building back up again—and assemblage (Foulkes rearranges his painted images like so many found objects), “because the edges are what make things work.” “Everything is pushing in and pulling out until it keeps going back further and further and further,” adds Foulkes. In fact, the work’s surface is so three-dimensional that Foulkes generates real shadows (as opposed to trompe l’oeil painterly effects), so that if you change the position of the lighting, the whole nature of the work’s spatial parameters changes accordingly. “I consider it to be a light and space piece,” avers Foulkes at one point, stating that the most important thing is that the pictorial space is believable. How far can you push the picture back and still have it appear on the surface, while at the same time make it look physically deeper than it is?
While the film catalogs a number of changes in the work’s pictorial space—for example the pioneer woman was moved slightly to the left by chiseling her figure out of the wood surface—Foulkes also lists some of the things still to be done. “I have to get the mountain in there right. I’m trying to get it all in, in white,” while he has yet to sketch in the image on the television set— “I sure hope I got time to do that.” Part of Foulkes’s problem is that he has no real norm to measure his own practice against: “I feel so alone. I feel like what I’m doing is different from what everyone else is doing. I can’t even judge it myself in the sense of how it relates to society, except by reflection. Maybe it’s kind of like somebody looking at the sky. Something moves and something changes and something happens to it. Maybe it’s no different than that. It’s just another experience that somebody might have in the hope that it can reflect in some way that might help to change their thinking about things. I don’t know.”
And yet, despite these misgivings, he remains basically optimistic: “You know, it’s 99% done.” (LOL).
Free Film Screening: Lost Frontier
Thursday, July 17, 5:30 pm
Mary Craig Auditorium
Reserve tickets at the Visitor Services Desks or online at tickets.sbma.net.
The Santa Barbara Museum of Art is delighted to exhibit once again two wonderful oil paintings Winter: Juno and Aeolus and The Last Words of Marcus Aurelius by Eugène Delacroix (1798 – 1863). The works return just in time to celebrate Bastille Day July 14 following the closing of the successful traveling exhibition Delacroix and the Matter of Finish, the first U.S. presentation in more than a decade to focus on the celebrated French Romantic artist. Organized by the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Delacroix and the Matter of Finish made its debut at SBMA, running from October 27, 2013 to January 26, 2014. The exhibition, which featured loans from around the world, then traveled to the Birmingham Museum of Art, where it was on view from February 22 to May 18, 2014.
The Birmingham Museum of Art was proud to be the second venue to host Delacroix and the Matter of Finish…The Museum welcomed a record-setting 1,300 guests for the exhibition’s highly anticipated opening night. The exhibition went on to successfully engage thousands of regional visitors and students alike, introducing diverse audiences to one of the most important artists of the Romantic Movement.
-Cate McCusker Boehm, Director of Marketing and Communications, Birmingham Museum of Art
Winter: Juno and Aeolus and The Last Words of Marcus Aurelius are currently on display at SBMA in the Ridley-Tree Gallery. If you missed Delacroix and the Matter of Finish in-person, visit our Museum Shop for a catalogue of the exhibition.
The Santa Barbara Museum of Art (SBMA) hosts two performances this month of the Pulitzer Prize finalist for Drama Thom Pain (based on nothing). The performances in the Mary Craig Auditorium are under the direction of Santa Barbara’s own Maurice Lord and actor and Chair of the Westmont College Theatre Arts department Mitchell Thomas.
Lord is the artistic director and cofounder of Genesis West, a Santa Barbara theater company dedicated to the work of contemporary playwrights. He has directed productions at Center Stage Theater and the Lobero Theatre, as well as in New York and Los Angeles. Below he offers an introduction to the play and the route that brings it to SBMA:
Many factors must align to create a performance piece that’s truly special. When Mitchell and I collaborated on The Fever, by Wallace Shawn, we wanted to create a totally unique and highly interactive theatrical experience that maximized the audience’s emotional connection to the storytelling. It was a wonderful experience. Mitchell and I worked well together, the show was incredibly well-received, and we performed in countless “pop-up” locations ranging from living rooms to bars, churches and even the outdoors lit by a fire pit. We also got to travel with it, performing in Santa Barbara, Hollywood, Spokane, and London. The experience could not have been better. We found the right piece to do at that moment and figured out how to share it in an intimate and unique fashion.
Mitchell and I have wanted to collaborate on Will Eno’s play Thom Pain (based on nothing) for more than five years. It was a play we talked about doing before we did The Fever. Every few months one of us would mention it in conversation and we’d kick around ideas—lots and lots of ideas. The New York Times described the play as perhaps the “invention of standup existentialism.” I love that! The play is a fresh take on alienation, love, life, and society. It is about nothing yet it is about everything. A few things happen to one character, yet it is about the entirety of all of our lives. It’s a brilliant script and my favorite play by one of the most important playwrights we have right now. With each rehearsal I find it more and more fascinating and rich, thanks to Eno’s impeccable writing. It’s also very funny!
In the years since we began thinking about Thom Pain (based on nothing), Eno has risen from the cool up-and-coming playwright to one of the most vital and unique voices in contemporary theatre. He has had a steady output of very interesting and good plays. His newest play The Realistic Joneses is currently on Broadway with a large production cast of famous actors. Not bad for an avant-garde playwright!
We are very excited to be offering this totally unique theatrical experience from this very important playwright at SBMA. Mitchell and I wanted to do something very special with this play to give Santa Barbara audiences an experience that could only happen here. We hope you will join us.
Thom Pain (based on nothing) by Will Eno
Thursday, June 26, 6:30–7:30 pm
Saturday, June 28, 3–4 pm
Mary Craig Auditorium
$15 SBMA Members, $19 Non-Members
Purchase tickets at the Visitor Services desks or online at tickets.sbma.net.