Friday, September 23, 2011

The Mourners

This French Pleurant (Weeper) resin statue at Design Toscano reminds me of another exhibit we saw at the Los Angeles Museum of Modern Art. It was called The Mourners: Tomb Sculptures from the Court of Burgundy.

Forty small mourner sculptures from the tomb of John the Fearless, second duke of Burgundy, were on display,  in different poses conveying mourning or consoling other mourners, but all dressed similarly. These pieces have been on display in the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Dijon, France for almost 200 years, but are now on tour because that museum is being rennovated.

 Most are faceless, and rather eerie. I can imagine full-sized versions of these in a yard on Halloween.

John the Fearless's tomb, including these mourner figures, was completed following his death under the supervision of his son, Philip the Good.
If I were born in that time, I know my name would end with "the Weird."

The walls of the room holding the exhibit told the story.

One wall explained that funerals of that time "were lavish events that included black drapes and canopies, a golden drapery over the coffin, presentation of the insignia of the deceased duke’s power (his banners, weapons, and horses), and candles and music in abundance. Hooded black cloaks were distributed to all the participating laypersons, from the members of the duke’s family on down to pages and grooms, while the members of the secular and regular clergy wore the garments of their station. The carriages and horses were also draped in black....

...Class distinctions, normally expressed through dress, became temporarily suspended, the black of mourning reminding all present that death was an experience shared by everyone. "

These carved figures are obviously all in white, but that's probably because black marble was hard to obtain.

When the property where the tomb was located was sold off as national property in 1792, "the tombs were kept for the nation because of their historical value. The mourners had always been perceived as the tomb’s key attraction, and they were felt to possess a 'correctness' of style and modeling rare for the Gothic period." So forget the dead body- the mourners are the key attraction. That's a bit sad.

For more information on The Mourners, click here

In another building of the museum, we found sculptures that were FAR less intriguing, other than causing us to wonder how they could have possibly have been deemed credible enough to warrant being placed inside a museum. For example, there was the giant litter box full of clean kitty litter: 
Now that is some crappy art. It reminds me of this cartoon:

Then there was this ingenious painting, shown on the wall with its title card:

This 24x18 inch wonder is by Robert Therrien.
No Title (Blue Oval), 1994
Screenprint on spiral-bound acid-free paper and mixed mediums.

I researched it. The artists says: “Blue oval; all is a mirror, a female apogee, my mother.  Because of the edges, which recede toward the wall and create a shadow, from a distance it seems to float, and because of the paint, it seems solid or hollow.  This shows one aspect of the figure-ground play I’m looking for.”

Really? It just reminds me of a blue dot. And an episode of  the 1980's TV show  "Bosom Buddies" where Tom Hanks's character, Kip Wilson, sees a painting of a red dot that is highly regarded by art critics, and disgustedly exclaims  "It's the flag of Japan!"

 Someone is even selling a t-shirt with those immortal words:

The shirt designer and I are probably the only two people on earth that remember that episode :)

This thin glass case looked like there should be a poster in it. There's even a pushpin laying in the case. It looks like the cases in the halls of my old high school. But guess what? It's art. The museum's docent told me it was a work of "deconstructionism."

At least there was this cool, interactive, large piece of art outside:

during the day the noodles gain energy, and they glow in the dark at night.

And as everybody knows, if it glows in the dark, it's good art!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Skull Waterfall

We saw this skull waterfall on display at the Los Angeles County Fair, and it was instant love! The vendor is The Waterfall Company, based in La Puente, California.

An man standing nearby lends perspective as to the size of the skull
 The skull's eye sockets had recessed multicolor LEDs lighting up the water.
LED lights inside an eye socket
 There was also a mist-maker to create a fog effect and more multicolor LEDs inside the big basin.

 The signs on it indicate that the cost for Skull Falls is $2,999 installed and $500 down would lock in that price.

  Just think, you could have something like Skull Rock and the waterfalls in Disneyland's Fantasyland back until the rock's removal in 1982 during a major remodel of the area:

At night, it was lit from within with green lights, and green lights highlighted the foliage in the area.

A similar one now resides in Disneyland Paris with a less dramatic fall of water:

This is Skull Mountain, which has a massive skull waterfall at Six Flags Great Adventure in New Jersey:
photo by Gary Burke

Try using a skull as part of a grotto near your pool:

 Click here to see a bit of how that last skull was made. 

I imagine a skull water feature would look just as good near a koi pond, too.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Tim Burton Art Exhibit

 A Sketch of Stain Boy, from Burton’s 1998 children’s poetry book “The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy and Other Stories.”

A retrospective of Tim Burton's work is currently on exhibit at the Los Angeles County Museum of Modern Art. We went to have a look at the 700 pieces that were on display.
LACMA also has an installation of 202 street lamps out front
A topiary stag from "Edward Scissorhands" greeted us outside the venue, and even if everything about it was plastic- the mulch-mound it stood on, the hedges around it, and the brightly-colored flowers strewn about- it was still exciting as "Edward Scissorhands" is my personal favorite Tim Burton movie.

Yes, please, I'll take that for my private collection. It'd take up half my front yard, but that would be fine.
Honestly though, my bet is that came from Johnny Depp's private collection. He used to have this giant fiberglass rooster in his yard when he lived in L.A. (read it here) and he did loan some items for Burton's exhibit.
photo: Lance Staedler
Also lurking about on the museum grounds near the cafeteria and gift shop was this giant inflatable Balloon Boy, created by Burton just for this exhibit. The press release described it as "a 21-foot-tall, 8-foot-diameter many-eyed creature, an amalgamation of the tragic characters that Burton first introduced in his 1997 book The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy and Other Stories."

Burton also designed the entrance to this special exhibit. Patrons enter through this giant mouth, which has a red carpet for a tongue and a red-and-black spiral wall inside, which I imagine to represent noise and a vibrating uvula.
My theory could be hooey.  I later discovered the entrance to the exhibit while it was in New York looked like this:

Because it was a "special exhibit", separate tickets were required. Even though we had timed-tickets, the line was quite long.
No photography is allowed inside the exhibit, but I didn't hear that until I had snapped a few photos. On the other side of the spiral wall were these dangerous-looking sculptures created for the show based on drawings from Tim's "Creature" series. 

The line was slowly shuffling through the first 2 rooms before it opened up into a broader space. Sometimes the line didn't even move, as this first room had a sculpture of Burton's 2009 drawing "Robot Boy" in the corner and many people were fascinated by it.

The next room seemed to take us to the beginning of Burton's tale. The room was called "Surviving Burbank", and there was a chronology on the wall, starting in 1971 at age 13 with an untitled stop-motion short involving cavemen and a live-action short called "Houdini".  Below that was a display case with so much paper ephemera from his junior high and high school days in Burbank, California, you had to wonder if someone in the family was a hoarder- who else saves a teenager's hand-written list of 20 or so horror movies on blue-line notebook paper?
Some early samples from that wall:

These pages from "The Giant Zlig", a proposed children's book written and illustrated in 1976 by a 17-year old Tim Burton, were on the walls in that room :
He sent the book to Disney and got a sweetly encouraging rejection letter. He also used some of his Giant Zlig art as an automobile mural for a van-painting contest.

Moving into the large third room called "Beautifying Burbank", we see several free-standing walls with many framed pieces of concept art for unrealized projects, and you can see a progression in technique and persistent themes. Subject matter includes animals and clowns. After graduating from high school, Burton attended the California Institute for the Arts. He continued to make short films and by 1979, Burton became a puppeteer for The Muppet Movie. In 1971 he became an apprentice animator for Walt Disney Pictures "The Fox and the Hound." In 1982, at age 23,  he wrote a manuscript for another children's book called "Numbers", and Walt Disney Pictures gave him the green light on his animated short "Vincent", about a boy who idolized Vincent Price. This image from the movie appears on the tickets to the exhibit:

Here's an image of a young Tim Burton with models for "Vincent":

Vincent Price even voiced his animated character. "Vincent" was being screened  on a monitor at the museum. It was quite enjoyable, and I'm not surprised to learn it earned several awards.

The large canvas in the center of this wall is an oil painting called "Blue Girl with Wine", from 1997:

A closer look:

Notice that Blue Girl has facial scars similar to Sally from "Nightmare Before Christmas".

I loved the layering in this drawing with an "Unknown" title that has a pet cemetery:


I can admire this artwork of a pet cemetery, but I won't be able to watch his Frankenweenie movie, a remake of his 1984 film about a dog brought back to life, Frankenstein-style, after it is hit by a car. That just hits too close to home for me. Frankenweenie is due out October 2012.

Besides paintings, there were also small sculptural models based on his artwork.

That sure looks like Tim Burton on the left in this small sculpture!

You could clearly see Tim Burton had several different styles of drawing, but the same types of characters and subject matter was recurrent.  This room also had two of Burton's very early films playing: the aforementioned "Vincent", and "Hansel and Gretel", a live-action short from 1983 that aired once on the Disney Channel. It is shown playing on the right in this photo:

Tim Trivia: Did you know Tim Burton had cameo acting roles? Here he is in 1992's  "Singles":

"Singles" starred Bridget Fonda, who grew up to marry Danny Elfman, Burton's favorite composer for his movies and it was Elfman who provided the music you hear while viewing this exhibit.
(By the way, I have a co-worker named Tim Burton, and he is the exact opposite of this Tim Burton.)

Moving on at the museum, we then passed through a small black-lit transition room that featured a rotating carousel based on one of his drawings:

 We enter the final room, called "Beyond Burbank". This covers approximately 1988 to the present, and includes several costume pieces from his films, such as masks and a Catwoman suit from "Batman" and a mannequin dressed in the Edward Scissorhands costume.

The scissor hands were housed in their own showcase:

Burton's hand-written concept for Edward Scissorhands:

Here is the scarecrow from "Sleepy Hollow":

When the exhibit was in Melbourne, they promoted it with a headless horseman in a carriage on the streets!
photo by Dhani

The next room held only these air-blown figures that whipped around:
And just like at Disneyland, the ride dumped you out in a store filled with Tim Burton merchandise, such as Alice in Wonderland items and various books.

The Tim Burton exhibit runs until Halloween 2011, and related events include a costume party, matinee showings of Burton's movies,  and a Price-a-thon film series. More pictures at the museum's website.

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