An excursion to see Exodus by the artist Anselm Kiefer is a must before it closes, both to learn about a world-class artist and this monumental set of paintings and to visit a unique exhibition space. A stroll through the neighboring avenues, lined with mansions from another era, provides a respite from the intense experience. Afterwards, take in a meal along the nearby Larchmont Boulevard.
Anselm Kiefer: Exodus, Gagosian at Marciano Art Foundation, is on view until March 25, 2023. Timed entry tickets are required (and still surprisingly easy to get) and the Pop Up Bookstore and Reading Room at the gallery is full of coffee table books, scholarly texts, and posters from the artist’s career. The exhibit itself is textured and deep. Click here to make your free reservation (parking is free, as well).
Upon entering the old Masonic Temple that is now the Marciano Art Foundation, you’ll cross through an entrance space which has a few treats: gorgeous imbedded gold tiles from the original building by Millard Sheets and a mural by Alex Katz (“Valet Parking”) that surrounds an upstairs gallery that you can see from below. Cross now to the main gallery, and you’ll find it dark and ominous. The paintings glow with gold and splotches of green but are primarily leaden colored, and so massive that they’re on wheels and constructed in large parts so as to be transported. As your eyes adjust, it’s easier to see the ladders and shopping carts and artist palettes that are attached to the paintings. The work is primordial and the scale powerful. It’s a different type of representation, the artist making sense of the world. Kiefer says “history is a material” and you’ll feel this deeply.
We lay on the floor to take them in (there were no benches, and no one discouraged us, though this is not something I do regularly) but there is such a surge of symbolism and language in the imagery that we wanted to pause to decipher what we were seeing. Kiefer’s topics are dark – he’s German and much of his work grapples with the legacy of the Holocaust. The paintings are awesome in the most powerful sense of the word. Layers of paint and meaning, color and shape reminding us of the capabilities of a great artist. The exhibit quotes from The Book of Exodus which tells of the Israelites flight from slavery. These paintings are rife with ideas about border crossings, refugees, and migrations of people and beasts that go back to the beginning of time. In an interview with LACMA’s Michael Govan, he refers to Keifer’s ability to contrast the “sacred and the profane, myth and memory” and multiple layers of meaning wash over you as you sit amongst these large-scale luminous works.
Outside the Foundation is a sculpture by Kiefer of an artist’s palette with leaden wings, a statement about the ability of the artist’s ideas taking flight.
Hancock Park, the neighborhood in the center of Los Angeles, is over 100 years old. The mansions that line its tree-towered streets harken back to a gentler era, built in the 1910s and 1920s, and are gawk-worthy – a pleasure to walk among. Within Hancock Park are the historic zones of Windsor Square, Fremont Place and Brookside. The Masonic Temple – which for years was shrouded in mystery – opened to the public in 2017 as the Marciano Art Foundation. The Marciano Brothers, whose fortune comes from Guess Jeans, purchased and restored the space to house their own art and hosted several large-sized art exhibits before closing in 2019, including Olafur Eliasson’s kinetic light artwork “Reality Projector” and “Ai Wei Wei: Life Cycle“. Here’s a story about the mystery and contraversy surrounding the abrupt closure. The venerable Gagosian Gallery is using the space to mount Exodus – it’s hard to imagine it elsewhere.
It’s a treat to walk around the neighborhood that surrounds the former Temple. After viewing the Kiefer exhibit, traipse about for a half hour or so before heading up to Larchmont for lunch.
KNOW BEFORE YOU GO
Kiefer is an important 21st Century artist – here is the Gagosian’s synopsis of his work. And here, a review of the show from New York that gives context to this work and the artist’s oeuvre.
Watch this 20 minute film to see the artist at work and hear him talk about his work – the film includes footage of Kiefer’s 200 acre home in Gard, France and close ups of the brush strokes and materials in Exodus. In the film, Kiefer says: “We don’t know why we are here. We don’t know where we go. we have to try and find out. And we cannot”.
The LA Conservancy has a bit of history of Hancock Park here. A local real estate firm has a solid description of the area here, including notes on the famous architects who built homes a century ago, and the story of George Allan Hancock who made money in oil and purchased the land in a Mexican Land Grant. The Windsor Square Hancock Park Historical Society is also a rich resource for this history, and includes profiles of current home owners.
EXTEND YOUR ADVENTURE
The best resource for walking around the neighborhood can be found in Paul Haddad’s “10,000 Steps a Day in LA” which is a book I reference frequently; I recommend it highly because he covers every neighborhood you could think of, provides excellent maps and fun details about what you will see along his routes. Buy the book and support a local enthusiast! Obviously, adding 10,000 steps is alot to pair with a gallery visit – you may just want to explore the streets to the north and east of the museum (#4 on the map) with boundaries of Irving and 3rd Streets.
Larchmont Village lies north of the Temple and you’ll need to get back in your car if you want to head up for lunch. Parking is on the street or in marked, paid lots.
Go Get Em Tiger is great for coffee and a light meal.
Great White is a fabulous new addition to the neighborhood.
Cap off your meal with a visit to Jeni’s Ice Cream (maybe take some home!)
Chevalier’s is one of LA’s great bookstores, with terrific programming and an excellent staff.