David Hockney’s largest canvas, “Mulholland Drive: The Road to the Studio,” is on display in LACMA’s Broad building, and standing before this iconic symbol of LA made me practically weepy. Although it’s been hanging in the museum for years, I had not taken the time to find it – but it’s an example of the upside of the museum presenting its collection anew. Like greeting an old friend, I was flooded with emotion – remembering the spark of seeing the piece for the first time years ago, re-discovering details and colors that are readily apparent when dwarfed by the art (like the tennis courts, which are hard to see in reproductions), and the recognition of Hockney’s gift – in simple brushstrokes, he depicts what it’s like to drive across Mulholland to Burbank. Maybe it’s only Angelenos who could understand this particular thrill, and maybe the Brits feel the same way about his paintings of the Cotswolds. But, it’s all there: the views, the glimpses of life in the Canyons, and the pure, swerve fun of tooling along the ridge between two very different parts of our city.
The Hockney is part of a new installment of highlights from the museum’s permanent collection. “Modern Art” was bustling with visitors this week enjoying the Picasso, Giacometti, and Matisse treasures on display. The show begins with German Expressionism, grants Picasso a whole gallery, and shows off the Giacometti platform that was always my favorite spot in the “old LACMA”. Matisse’s “Jeanette” sculptures are lined up in perfect synchrony, the Abstract Expressionists, the important Women and Black artists are included, and then the Pop Artists make you smile before you go. “Modern Art” provides a satisfying survey; although critics may find some key elements missing, discovering new paintings by familiar artists and saying hello to some old friends (I’m talking about you, “Ceci n’est pas une Pipe”) proved a satisfying experience.
Alongside many images are QR codes that link to Spotify, providing musical accompaniment for various artworks and this tech-assisted magic is a wholesome addition. Museums allow you to pull up various written and audio guides, but adding a musical accompaniment provides a less earnest spark that feels totally natural (even as I struggled to master the tech and still enjoy the paintings). After all, everyone is taking pictures or reading about the images already – listening just adds to the immersion. Don’t forget to bring earbuds!
Here’s what LATimes critic Christopher Knight thinks is notable in the show. Knight won the Pulitzer Prize in 2020 for his cultural criticism and is reliably tough and always insightful.
Two Bits of Good news: LACMA has made a new poster of “Mulholland Drive” (an older version was out of print) and it’s a perfect gift for a college dorm room. Here are some other popular ones, in the gift shop.
Finally – the museum has extended the popular “Yoshitomo Nara” show until January 2022. I am going to have to study up to learn more about the Japanese artist, whose work fills the whole second floor of the building (as much room as the entire “Modern Art” survey).