Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Hammer [museum]. Startling. L.A. as found art. Fresh inventive Thek. And some ho hum Ruscha. Women needed.

Yesterday I went to the Hammer. [On the corner of Wilshire and Westwood in L.A.]

The first thing I do is sidle into a dark room to watch a Paul McCarthy video, grotesque puppets, a fabulous mockery of Disney, grunting. A human puppet simulation asks a puppet puppet insinuating questions and of course the puppet puppet just sits there. Things turn crappy, literally. I move on. The point being, I've been in a dark room, take the elevator up, and walk into the main floor which startles me.

The Hammer is a treehouse of a museum. Stepped out of the elevator, left the stairwell, and I am looking north and west to the hills and sun from a massive wraparound terrace.  Slim trees reach into the space. Sun, at least yesterday, pervades. Like the Getty, the Hammer uses Los Angeles' beauty in its readymade glory.

Exhibits?  Paul Thek, for one.  An artist who matches the space--joyous, sweet, mournful, detailed, dying like dry leaves on the terrace. Sontag dedicated Against Interpretation to Thek.

The museum's standing collection is small but every painting is extraordinary. They just are. Maybe, because I've only seen a few previously in traveling exhibits, their newness to me helps but I spend enough time staring at art to be, not inured but able to expect a level of special. These exceed mere special. Someone has an astounding eye.

The bad news is the Ruscha. Ed R. illustrating or accompanying Kerouac text. It's been done and done better. At that point there is no excuse not to include an exhibit by a woman.  This all male, male on male thing is tiresome.

The poster for the Thek is misleading. A male figure diving into a pool. A set up for Hockeny-esque work which isn't what Thek painted. Cheap tricks are cheap tricks. The Hammer is a great museum in its airy way and should be above such.


  1. The Thek diver is ridiculous unless you know he was dying. I almost skipped the amazing Whitney show because of that image.

  2. The diver is ridiculous. It only makes some kind of sense if you know he was dying and it was hung at knee height. I almost skipped the amazing Whitney show because of this image.