New exhibitions at the Hammer Museum connect past, present with different art forms

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New exhibitions at the Hammer Museum dive into the future and trace the past.

Two new shows, “Lifes” and “Ulysses Jenkins: Without Your Interpretation,” debuted this month at the Hammer. Open Wednesday through May 8, “Lifes” is an amalgamation of works by artists in a variety of different fields and explores the notion of a total work of art, or a work in which art forms are combined to create a single whole, said Aram Moshayedi, senior curator Robert Soros at the Hammer. The exhibit focuses on how artists are brought into conversation with each other, he said.

“At the heart of it all is how the museum is supposed to operate today,” Moshayedi said. “What disciplines does it serve and what communities does it serve? »

“Lifes” began as four commissioned texts but evolved over time to include pieces by around 50 contributors ranging from painters to dancers, said Ann Philbin, the Hammer’s director. The huge range of different work present is accompanied by a time loop of performances, said Moshayedi. What underpins the show is that the performances interact within the space of the exhibition and provide experiences that change over time, he said.

For Scott Tennent, director of communications at the Hammer, watching artists move silently atop another artist’s lion sculptures is serene. “Lifes” is a show meant to be experienced not one piece at a time, but almost all pieces at once, he said. This unusual quality, combined with the performance, allows the show to reward patience, he said.

“It’s an interesting show that makes you slow down a bit and try to grapple with the whole thing,” Tennent said.

As part of the collaborative show of more than 50 artists, the performers of “Lifes” sit on sculptures of lions. (Kyle Kotanchek/Daily Bruin)

[Related: Hammer Museum’s exhibits mesh contemporary art with politics, history]

However, “Lifes” also highlights the dissonance and issues that come with trying to pursue the idea of ​​a total work of art, Moshayedi said. For example, a piece by artist Charles Gaines takes the form of a hanging rock that falls at random times in 10-minute cycles, shattering a glass pane at the bottom. Artists look for the perfect circumstances for their pieces to be seen and heard, and the presence of this discordant sound disrupts the environment and alters the sound experience of the room, Moshayedi said.

The exhibit also required inducing harmony from pieces that don’t necessarily go together, Moshayedi said, which differs from the usual curatorial process. Instead of choosing works that exemplify a certain concept, the show’s organization for “Lifes” was about trying to cater to what the artists wanted to put into the show, he said. Each introduction changed the energy of the piece and the composition of the piece had to be adjusted accordingly, he said.

Unlike the sprawling nature of “Lifes,” “Ulysses Jenkins: Without Your Interpretation” delves deep into three years of research into the artistic journey of the eponymous creator and his criticism of the mass media as the authors of the oppression of minorities in the United States. The show is not just a legacy of video art, Hammer’s associate curator Erin Christovale said, but also a recognition of black artists who blazed their own trails in the 70s and 80s since Jenkins came to prominence. by many as the first black video artist.

The exhibition itself is organized around four different but related themes: “The Allegory of Empowerment”, “Artists of the Humble Infinite”, “The Multicultural Ideal?” and “Other Visions: Conceptual Reality”. These themes match the titles of a memoir, “Doggerel Life: Stories of a Los Angeles Griot,” that Jenkins wrote in the ’90s, Christovale said.

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The name “Without Your Interpretation” comes from one of the artist’s video works, in which he responded to a white reviewer who had reviewed one of his pieces, Christovale said. Similar to the title of the exhibition which references Jenkins’ past, the museum retrospectively seeks to accurately represent the voice of the artist, which is facilitated by conversations with him and his collaborators.

“(Jenkins) is still here with us.” said Christovale. “He is still a professor at UC Irvine. It has been there for over 30 years. There’s something really special about bringing him into the fold.

With “Ulysses Jenkins: Without Your Interpretation,” the exhibition is the first solo retrospective in his catalog of pieces, ranging from murals to his most iconic video performances, Tennent said. The biographical nature of the exhibit contrasts with the temporal and immersive qualities of “Lifes,” which Tennent says encourages viewers to pause and interpret the show.

“You walk into the show and you let the show unfold around you,” Tennent said. “It’s not really about standing in front of a work of art and being moved by that work in isolation, it’s about standing in the center of the exhibition and letting the exhibition happen .”

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