Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Art of Two Germanys/Cold War Cultures

DISCLAIMER: This article references my employer, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). The views expressed on this blog are solely my own and do not necessarily reflect the views of LACMA, LACMA's leadership, LACMA's Board, or LACMA's staff. Furthermore, the views posted on this blog have not been influenced in any way by the aforementioned parties.

"Mmm, Chocolate Lion Tower...aaaaahhhh" (In my best Homer Simpson voice)

Art of Two Germanys/Cold War Cultures installation view at LACMA. Dieter Roth's Chocolate Lion Tower is to the left.

The Art of Two Germanys/Cold War Cultures closes at LACMA on April 19th, so make sure to check it out ASAP! The show is intellectually stimulating (and dense), both in subject matter and artistic tradition. It will definitely leave you with a greater appreciation for and understanding of late mid-century German avante-garde artists working in front of and behind the iron curtain. Selections include works by Joseph Beuys, Hans Haake, Raffael Rheinsberg, Gerhard Richter, Dieter Roth, Sigmar Polke and others. All were scions of twentieth century image making in Germany, and successful at taking visual polemics to an whole new level.

My favorite work from the exhibition was Dieter Roth's Chocolate Lion Tower, 1968-69. I think that this work conclusively proves that it's okay to play with your food so long as it's in the name of art. Known for incorporating food stuffs into his compositions, Roth's art is tasteful, both, literally and figuratively! The work itself is a recreation of the original from the late sixties. Made entirely of chocolate, the cast sculpture of pint-sized lions stacked on top of one another is meant to slowly decay as the show travels from venue to venue. Roth's medium selection seems to view art through the lens of a perishable object rather than a cherished keepsake. Notions of value and materiality are simultaneously exalted and excoriated. In a recent exhibition-related lecture at LACMA, this piece was specifically sited by contemporary artist Paul McCarthy as a direct influence on his 2007 Chocolate Factory installation in New York City, where he tuned a gallery space into a fully functioning confectionery.

This show might be of great interest to people who were far too young to understand the politics of the Cold War, as well as practicing artists with an affinity for conceptual art. This is one history lesson that should not be missed.

Art of Two Germanys/Cold War Cultures through April 19, 2009 at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), 5905 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles; Phone: (323) 857-6000; LACMA closed on Wednesdays, open Fridays 12:00-9:00 p.m., all other days 12:00-8:00 p.m.; Admission $12.