La Fée Culturelle in LA: LACMA and Caravaggio

Having been to the Getty museum on my last visit in LA, I went to the LACMA museum this time with my dear friends from Las Vegas 🙂 The museum encompasses contemporary art, American art and also Latam and Asian art. During our few hours, we saw a temporary exhibition (Caravaggio) and the contemporary art section.

The LACMA’s Caravaggio exhibition shows the huge influence of the artist on European art. A “caravagesque” painting has the following characteristics, which influenced generations of artists: (i) dramatic lighting (ii) depicting real people (iii) half-length figures, and (iv) figures not at the centre unlike in Renaissance art. We were able to see shifts in his style in his short career: his paintings in his Naples period are even darker.

Caravaggio had many followers despite having no pupils and his influence extended outside Italy to Spain (Velasquez, Zurbaran, Ribera) and Northern Europe in particular. In my view, his followers were of varying quality, I believe the best ones are:
– Orazio Gentileschi: a superb Danae is on show with a magnificent rendering of satin;
– Simon Vouet: his St Jerome and Angel shows a typical caravagesque contrast between youth and old age and his Fortune Teller depicts gestures and expressive faces à la Caravaggio;
– Ribera’s St Mary of Egypt is exceptional.
– Finally, a highlight of the permanent collection and my favourite, De La Tour’s Magdalena with a smoking flame. It was made some 25 years after Caravaggio’s heydays but certainly carries the influence of Caravaggio in the religious theme, candle light, emotion, and simple background.

We continued our visit by seeing the Ed Rusha collection. Although I loved his exhibition in Paris a few years ago, without proper explanation provided, his power of words wasn’t enough. We then saw Lacma’s extraordinary collection of surrealist drawings including the most famous surrealist artists: Chirico, Miro, Magritte and the surrealist automatic methods of creative production: automatic drawings, frottages and collages. Last but not least, Chris Burden’s Metropolis is a large-scale sculpture with 1,100 miniature toy cars speeding at 240 scale miles per hour, mimicking a fast-paced modern city. For children and adults alike! A whole visit of the Lacma would take a few more days so I will return!



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