Messerschmidt & Modernity at the Getty


With so many last minute summer errands to get done, we understand how hard it is to get out of the house and experience a day of culture in L.A. But trust us – Messerschmidt & Modernity at the Getty is more than worth the trip. Not only is it just the tip of the iceberg of art to enjoy at the Getty, but the fun and interactive portion of the exhibit is sure to excite your kids.

Sure, you’ve seen sculptures and busts before – but any like this?

Messerschmidt, Vexed Man. After 1770.

            Franz Xaver Messerschmidt mastered the art of capturing extreme human expression during the mid-18th century, claiming to catalog what he counted to be a range of 64 human expressions. In his time, intellectuals were interested in what the external aspects of a person could indicate about the internal, and several sciences, such as physiognomy and pathognamy, were dedicated to judging a person’s mind based on their appearances. As such, the comical and theatrical depictions of the human face made Messerschmidt famous.

            The Getty has several of these endearing sculptures on display until October 14. The show explores how the Vexed Man and his alabaster comrades influenced later artists, displaying paintings and sculptures in adjacent gallery room. Photos of artists making funny faces, paintings of heightened expression, and Tony Cragg’s fascinating sculpture “Mental Landscape” show hints of Messerschmidt’s original work.

Tony Cragg. Mental Landscape. 2007.

            The “Mental Landscape” should be of particular interest to kids, as the piece is covered in hidden faces. Walk around the piece and really look for all of the deftly molded visages – you can turn it into a fun game and count them!

The highlight of the whole exhibit is the Expression Lab where visitors can attempt to imitate some of Messerschmidt’s more notable sculptures — it’s not as easy at it looks! We wound up making plenty of funny faces. Best of all for our digital kids… you can email these shots to yourself for free.

A visit to the Getty always provides respite from our hectic L.A. life — a perfect antidote for days when traffic has us feeling like this:

Messerschmidt. A Strong Man. After 1770.

Messerschmidt and Modernity is open through October 14.