Culture: High & Low
With Carolina A. Miranda
Marina Abramovic Institute responds to critics of unpaid positions

Art blogger Jillian Steinhauer of Hyperallergic picked up on an intriguing series of job postings Thursday on the website for the New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA). The not-for-profit Marina Abramovic Institute foundation (MAI), established by Serbian-born performance artist Marina Abramovic, was seeking unpaid "volunteers" for a series of part-time positions.

The various postings — there were four of them in total — were quite specific in their requirements, which cumulatively demanded a college-level knowledge of art history, "a familiarity with non-profit administration" and a working knowledge of Internet programs such as Javascript, HTML5 and Squarespace. (You can read Hyperallergic's article here and see the original NYFA jobs post here.)

The story touches on a very big nerve about inequity in the art world, where a small group of well-to-do artists frequently benefits from the unpaid or underpaid labor of others — as this story in Gallerist NY noted last week. (Income...

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Moment of Friday: Surf photographer Chris Burkard and an ant gallery

Photographer Chris Burkard has always loved water. "I just love being in it," he says. "I love surfing. I love body surfing. I love just getting into the ocean and swimming out."

It's an activity that suits his line of work perfectly. For roughly half a dozen years, Burkard has been a senior staff photographer at Surfer Magazine, where he photographs contests and surfers doing their thing in wild places. He has also contributed stories to magazines such as National Geographic Traveler and Outside.

A native and resident of San Luis Obispo, Burkard this year published a book of collected photographs from seven years' worth of journeys: "Distant Shores: Surfing the Ends of the Earth" (Ammo Books; $39.95). The images are as much about surfing as they are about landscape, featuring craggy peaks, pine-covered hillsides, the translucent bottle-green of a curling wave and chilly blue icebergs. (Burkard follows surfers to all climes.)

"When I started photography, all I ever wanted to do was...

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Datebook: Punk design, Tokyo photos, paintings by Marsden Hartley

The European years of a key American artist at LACMA, Japanese photography at the Getty, and an assortment of summer group shows that touch on everything from light to L.A. to rock 'n' roll. It’s happening all over our sun-baked metropolis:

"Marsden Hartley: The German Paintings 1913-1915," at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. In the early 1910s, the influential American painter Marsden Hartley lived in Paris and Berlin, a period during which he would develop his singular abstract style, one that blended military pattern with American Indian motifs and the dynamism of the city. For the centennial anniversary of the start of World War I, LACMA has gathered more than two dozen of Hartley’s works from his sojourn in Europe. Opening Sunday, it is the first exhibition of Hartley’s work in Southern California in more than 30 years. Show runs Aug. 3-Nov. 30. 5905 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles,  

“In Focus: Tokyo,” at the Getty Museum. As part of its “In Focus” series, the Getty...

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Object Lesson: When James Ensor turned to skeletons and satire

Of the more than 100 paintings, etchings and drawings in the Getty Museum's sprawling exhibition devoted to 19th century painter James Ensor, "Skeleton Looking at Chinoiserie" is the sort of work that you just might miss if you cruise through the galleries a little too quickly. It's small, with muddy colors. In a show filled with bright, reverberating, practically hallucinatory works, it comes off as dim.  

"The interior setting kind of evokes traditional genre paintings -- Dutch interiors," says Getty paintings curator Scott Allan, who organized the show. "But it's painted in a rough way. It almost looks unresolved or incomplete."

In fact, Ensor worked on the painting at various points in the mid- to late 1880s.

But the skeleton, who gazes earnestly at what appears to be a sheaf of Japanese prints, marks an important moment for Ensor, an artist who went from painting moody seascapes and portraits to producing almost garish, scathingly satirical works in which bare bottoms rain poop...

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Artnado! One more idea for filling MOCA's exhibition gap

Zach Alan, an arts enthusiast who lives in San Diego and has a wonderfully ranty arts-centered Facebook account, came up with one more idea to fill the exhibition gap facing the Museum of Contemporary Art.

He was responding to my suggestions for ways the museum might deal with the blank space that MOCA is facing in its schedule, something Times art critic Christopher Knight reported on over the weekend. Alan goes beyond my ideas for artist-selected or guest-curated shows, and even my proposal for MOCA to have some fun with a show in which all the work is organized by color.

On my Facebook page, he wrote:

"Honestly, what I'd like to see? I'd like to see all of it. I'd like to see this amazing, world-class collection we're always hearing about, or at least the best of the collection, exhibited salon style, by date of manufacture. That's it, just by year created. Pair like with like but do it by decade, and if they need to rehang to fit all the work, so be it. It'd be an insane...

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Round-Up: Drink your art, tweet your novel, make Gaudi a saint

A museum continues to grow in Gaza in the middle of a conflict, a bunch of Germans made liquor out of an old sculpture (and it’s art!), an attempt to canonize a Catalan architect, the labor behind art and architecture, and a cult sci-fi flick that touches on the economic politics of the U.S./Mexico border is making a comeback. All this and so much more in Wednesday’s Round-Up:

— Let’s start with the bad news: former L.A. County Museum of Art Director Andrea Rich has died. The UCLA administrator brought financial rigor to the institution as its leader from 1995 to 2005, though she faced criticism for being an art-world outsider.

Construction on the Palestinean Museum in the West Bank continues despite the conflict. (Artnet)

— And since it’s already all over your Facebook: The Gaza conflict has reared its head in the New York art world.

— An association in Spain is trying to get architect Antoní Gaudí canonized. He inspired more than a century of construction at his iconic Sagrada...

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5 things Grover Norquist can do at Burning Man

Apparently Grover Norquist — the very same Grover Norquist who heads the anti-tax Americans for Tax Reform — is going to Burning Man.

Yes, Burning Man. As in the festival in the Nevada desert where people wear crazy ensembles, make Mad Max sculptures, ingest hallucinogens and set a giant statue on fire.

At least that's what Norquist reported on Twitter yesterday. He tells the National Journal he's wanted to go since 2012, when he met Larry Harvey, the founder of Burning Man.

The reason? Burning Man's small-government ethos. 

Or, as he tells the National Journal, "Burning Man is a refutation of the argument that the state has a place in nature."

Upon learning about this unusual development, I prayed that it was all really real. (In the same way I pray that the chupacabra is really real.)

I also tried to imagine the activities on the playa Norquist might partake in. I've combed the Burning Man activities schedule. Here are five things Mr. Tax Pledge simply can't miss:

The Spank Bank . As...

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When Santa Monica had nude sunbathing

I've been getting quite a bit of mail on the story I posted Monday about a new book that covers the history of Pacific Ocean Park, the amusement park on a pier that was the place to hang in the late 1950s and '60s.

Folks have reminisced about the Banana Train ride, the dramatic starfish entrance, the Wink Martindale P.O.P. Dance Party and concerts at the Cheetah Club (all of which are exhaustively covered by Christopher Merritt and Domenic Priore in their book, "Pacific Ocean Park: The Rise and Fall of L.A.'s Space Age Nautical Pleasure Pier.")

But reader Lawson Desrochers, who was born and raised in Santa Monica and who has a postcard collection of the area that dates back more than a century, came through with a vintage postcard that shows another old Southern California pleasure pier: the Crystal Pier, which resided at the end of Hollister Avenue in the early decades of the 20th century.

The pier was home to the Rendezvous Ballroom. It also advertised some locally famous "nude sun...

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Three things MOCA can do about its looming exhibition gap

The Museum of Contemporary Art, as my colleague Christopher Knight reported over the weekend, appears to be facing a considerable gap in its exhibition schedule.

It turns out that the tumult of the Jeffrey Deitch years has led to an exhibition drought. Under Deitch's term, many MOCA shows were produced months in advance (instead of years, like most museum exhibitions). This left the exhibition pipeline well-stocked for the short term. Over the long-term, however, not so much.

But as Knight notes in his story, this is an opportunity for MOCA to bust out its stellar permanent collection.

The short notice means curators likely won't have time to do deep and considered shows like

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The rise and spectacular fall of Venice Beach's Pacific Ocean Park

If you had walked along the beach in Venice in the early 1970s, you would have come across the sagging, crumbling, partially incinerated ghost of an old amusement park on a pier. If you've watched the skate documentary "Dogtown and Z-Boys," which shows surfers nimbly riding waves under the gnarled carcasses of roller coasters, you've seen much the same thing.

But when it opened in July 1958, more than half a century ago, Pacific Ocean Park — or P.O.P., as it came to be known — was the thing: an amusement park that married Venice Beach's kitschy seaside carnival culture with the space-age Modern architecture of the late 1950s.

A new book by Christopher Merritt and Domenic Priore (with a brief foreword by Beach Boy Brian Wilson) chronicles the fantastical life and spectacular death of this incredible seaside park. "Pacific Ocean Park: The Rise and Fall of Los Angeles' Space-Age Nautical Pleasure Pier" (Process Media; $34.95) tells the story of P.O.P. in words, but also lots of pictures —...

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Moment of Friday: Hans Ulrich Obrist talks Instagram and poetry

Earlier this year, curator Hans Ulrich Obrist, of London's Serpentine Gallery, helped put together "Poetry will be made by all!" — an exhibition for the LUMA/Westbau art space in Zurich, Switzerland, that brought together poets and their peers from the worlds of art and design.

"I grew up in Zurich," says Obrist. "It's the city of Dada and Hans Arp. In those historic movements, art and poetry were very close together."

It was in organizing the show that he became enthralled with the work of a young New York poet named Andrew Durbin. (Warning: The video accompanying this post of his reading contains some expletives).

"Once you starting reading his work, you can't put it down," says Obrist. "It's quite addictive. And it's just as addictive to listen to. It's like he takes us on a trip, through high and low, through the experimental. He's current, but he's very aware of history."

In the video embedded here, Durbin reads a poem that picks apart the significance of the simple track suit:...

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Datebook: Fresh performances, art of the explicit and prison drawings

Performance, performance and more performance: at REDCAT, in Chinatown, at the Downtown Public Library. That's what the weekend is shaping up to be about in big, bad L.A. But there are also interesting group shows around town, one of which may be explict (or not). Plus, an intriguing collection of prison art goes on view in Orange County:

The New Original Works Festival, at Redcat. Today kicks off a three-week festival of dance, theater, music and performance. Things get rolling over this weekend with experimental dances by Wilfried Souly and Rosanna Gamson as well as the operatic love story “Iceland,” performed by Overtone Industries. The whole schmegagie then wraps up on the weekend of Aug. 7, with a dance by Ate9 dance company and what sounds like is going to be a dark-weird piece involving taxidermy and transformation by John Fleck called “Blacktop Highway.” Taxidermy and transformation? Sign. Me. Up. Starts today, July 24, 631 W. 2nd St., Downtown Los Angeles,


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