MOCA’s new director; Patt Morrison’s interview with artist Robbie Conal; ‘Avatar’ and its politics;
Art and then some
The Times’ article about Jeffrey Deitch, the Museum of Contemporary Art’s new director, compared him to Andy Warhol, mentioning his suit and his hangers-on. A better comparison would have been to Warhol’s deep and honest cynicism, exemplified by his well-known line: “Art is what you can get away with.”
Deitch is fortunate that these are troubled economic times. He should have no trouble filling MOCA with many more beer- and urine-soaked shredded phone books for far less money than he installed at his SoHo gallery.
Rancho Santa Margarita
The British curator William H. Flower claimed in an 1889 lecture that curators are, for museums, the life and soul of the institution upon whom its whole value depends.
At their best, museums are scholarly centers that offer rare access to other ways of seeing the world. A degree of separation from the market and its fleeting fashions is essential.
The choice of the Museum of Contemporary Art to name a businessman and peddler of pictures as its director is only the latest evidence of a contemporary museum climate in which the pursuit of scholarly excellence is secondary to the whims of donors.
MOCA would do well to remember Flower’s words; there is much more to the work of a successful museum than collecting and exhibiting hot artists. Perhaps Deitch is a good choice for the leadership of a market-oriented museum. However, readers deserved a more substantial critique of this vote of no confidence in MOCA’s future as a source of meaningful scholarly inquiry.
William L. Coleman
The writer is a doctoral student in the history of art at UC Berkeley.
Morrison and Conal
How wonderful that Robbie Conal’s art is in galleries and a book. To call this illustrator’s guerrilla art “a perfect medium for L.A., where everything is apprehended through the car windshield,” is to label it tagging, graffiti or littering with a pedigree.
I believe the plastering of affiches on public property is inherently wrong. When bumper stickers and posted bills are cluttering our streets, and the city spends taxpayer dollars to remove the detritus, this is nothing less than misdemeanor activity, and the “artists” should be responsible for the cost of removal. Everyone has the right to personal expression of opinion, but not when it intersects with my right to not have that opinion thrown in my face at every stoplight. That’s what art galleries and bookstores are for.
Mona Shafer Edwards
Political animals and endangered species: Patt Morrison, a rare surviving newspaper journalist, interviews Robbie Conal, a hero of the moral political conscience that Americans sometimes would like to pretend they don’t have.
These archetypes of the bold woman and the activist artist serve well as useful reminders of what can be lost if not sufficiently nurtured and appreciated. Thank you, Patt and Robbie.
It should be noted that The Times often talks about architecture without linking the architect to the building, as was the case with this story. Yet The Times will meticulously name the director of every film, no matter how trivial the film.
The religious buildings on which you reported contribute significantly to Los Angeles. Their architects deserve recognition. And no, I am not an architect or builder.
N. Richard Lewis
Escapism with a message
“Avatar” indeed is “escapist fantasy,” but it is also dauntingly realistic. One does not have to travel to the year 2154 to watch allied forces attack the Pashtun tribes on both sides of the Afghanistan-Pakistan borders. Director James Cameron has inserted his political opinion into a motion picture that corresponds to current reality.
I was struck by “Avatar’s” similarity to Custer’s Last Stand. The native Pandorans ride futuristic horses, shoot arrows and combine their forces in the year 2154 against the invading white man just as the Lakota, Northern Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes did against the invading U.S. 7th Cavalry Regiment at the famous Battle of the Little Bighorn in June 1876.
The evil Col. Miles Quaritch (played by Stephen Lang), leader of the invasion to obtain the resources of Pandora, can find a parallel in George A. Custer, who commanded the U.S. 7th. Both were killed in their efforts to subjugate and exploit the native population and their resources.
We will find out if any political lessons can be learned from the parallels of the Pandora and Little Bighorn conflicts when we see what happens with our multifaceted efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan in the next few years.
I want to applaud your editorial board for having the courage and honesty to acknowledge the liberal agenda of “Avatar.” Most of my liberal friends deny that the movie has any political message at all. However, I do object to your implication that “24" is a right-wing show.
For 7 1/2 out of eight seasons, the president has been a female or African American. For the brief time it was a white male, he was one of the villains. Last season especially, the audience was lectured continuously on the evils of torture, and all the Muslims were portrayed as peace-loving and patriotic.
The main evil genius of the season was the white male head of an American military contracting corporation who wanted to incite a war against Muslims by murdering hundreds of thousands of Americans with biological weapons. At the emotional climax of the season, Jack Bauer cries on the shoulder of an imam, begging his forgiveness for his past mistreatment of Muslims. The show may as well have been written by the Council on American-Islamic Relations or George Soros.
Who rules late-night?
I watched Jay Leno a lot during his 17 years on the “Tonight Show,” but he ought to take his not-so-regular-guy millions and retire from late-night TV. He agreed to pass the torch, and he should have the dignity to stick with it.
We all know Jay loves to work. He could still play Vegas and comedy clubs across the country. He also could do a yearly comedy special, raising money for good causes, which would go a long way toward salvaging his reputation.
He’s in a position to do anything he wants, but if he returns to “Tonight,” I won’t be watching.
I love Conan O’Brien’s show, and I don’t want it to go anywhere. He, the members of his band and everyone else he brought with him uprooted their lives and families to settle in L.A. Give Conan the chance he deserves.
NBC’s programming is an unmitigated disaster. Having worked for a major-market NBC affiliate, I can tell you that the “Tonight Show” was crucial to the success of the late newscast.
Leno nurtured the franchise and is responsible for making the affiliates and the network a lot of money. He never wanted to give up his time slot, and he shouldn’t be vilified for wanting it back.
Behind the scenes
In an otherwise well- reported article on “The Blind Side,” The Times gives direct credit to everyone involved in the process of making the movie a success except for “an agent at CAA [who] slipped the script to [producer] Molly Smith” and another agent at CAA who “extracted ‘The Blind Side’ script out of Fox.”
Credit for the former should go to Scott Greenberg, and for the latter to David O’Connor.
The writer is an agent at the Creative Artists Agency.