LACMA Wanderings: Part 1

About a month ago I got a membership to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. I figured one bigger one-time payment would be all the inspiration I needed to get out and look at art more often (or at least four times a year - all you need for a membership to be worth it). My hope was to have one blog post a month focused on a trip to LACMA where I find a work I wish I had modeled for.

If not for the phone call
this could have been a very different post
Pablo Picasso, Man and Woman,  1969

 The other week I headed out, took the bus down to LACMA, of course forgetting that I had told my friend that I would have time to chat on the phone all afternoon. After heading straight to the Modern wing I was staring at some Picassos when my phone started ringing. I rushed out of the silent galleries and ended up wandering around the tar pits while I chatted on the phone. At the end of the call I found myself in front of the Japanese Pavilion. It was so swelteringly hot that the mere thought of A/C found me opening the door and sighing so loudly at the feel of cool air on my skin that the attendant made me promise not to pass out.

The beautifully lit circular building led me up past intricate scrolls depicting the beginnings of Japanese Naturalism and I got completely lost in squirming puppies reminiscent of Puppy Cam (or is Puppy Cam reminiscent of Japanese Naturalism?), spectacular snow capped mountains depicted only in the absence of value and the long feathers of bird upon bird rendered in tiny line after tiny line. After the heat and bustle of LACMA on a summer Saturday I was completely taken in by the cool simplicity of both the building and the art it housed. I found myself disappointed by the lack of a human presence in the works; none of them could fit into a blog post about what I wished I could model for.

Katsushika Hokusai (School of),
Woman holding a package in her mouth
Early 19th Century

Then I finally discovered the last room, a gallery of beautiful ceramics of all kinds, with the walls of the entrance devoted to the work of Katsushika Hokusai. If you ever heard anything about Japanese Art, Hokusai is the artist of The Wave, friend of all "worldly" college freshmen (second only to The Kiss and Water Lillies). Despite my facetious tone, I found Hokusai's work (technically the work of his school) really spectacular, and it was there I found the human element I was looking for.

I would love to have posed for Woman holding a package in her mouth. While looking through the gallery at the Japanese I was impressed by the personality in everything, from amazingly personified monkeys to the barefoot yet formal kimono-ed woman I spent so long gazing at. With the monkeys as an example, personality was not limited to or even focused on humans. In fact, what I enjoyed the most was that all the people in the work seemed to be a little silly. This woman has a dynamic, graceful pose, yet the package she holds in her mouth from lack of free hands gives her a charmingly human casualness. Knowing little to nothing about Japanese Art, I speak only from observation, but it seemed that the seriousness and majesty of that culture's art is generally limited to nature and the gods. I loved the self-awareness of these human artists, painting awe into giant waves, sunlit mountains and spectacular waterfalls then turning around to lightly tease the human condition. For that reason I would have loved to have been some kind of inspiration to an artist forming such a tradition, tripping over my carefully folded skirts with a mouth full of paper.

All images found on the LACMA Website.