Friday, November 16, 2007

dali @ lacma

It should be noted that I work as a production artist for an interactive design firm. What this means is that I spent all of last week designing cell phone wallpapers out of Warner Brothers cartoon characters, and concepting menu comps for an upcoming Bratz Kidz straight to DVD feature. Needless to say, when I was invited to the LA County Museum of Art, I jumped at the chance to see real art that lives in frames.

The collection at LACMA is filled with old friends I don't visit nearly often enough. (Ceci N'est Pas Un Pipe has been spirited away somewhere since my last visit. I hope it didn't feel abandoned by my inability to drop by more often....) But stealing the spotlight until January 6th is a Dali exhibit that is decidedly intense. We arrived at one o'clock on a Saturday, and the gallery was packed, the museum-goers forming a queue through the first room that moved like the line for Splash Mountain at Disneyland. And given the subject matter of dead insects, melting people, optical illusions, and many, many phalli, the situation seemed both oddly fitting and totally absurd.

Several films and clips are shown in the gallery, including 1929's Un chien andalou. Forgive me if I spoil the movie for you, but I think my favorite part of the whole experience was the unified gasp of unsuspecting art fans as a razorblade slices through an eyeball in the opening scene. (Having seen the film in an art history class my first year in college, I knew it was coming, but still had to watch.) Even more bizarre, however, is the truly surreal Disney-produced Destino. Concepted and begun in 1946, this six-minute animated film was completed in 2003, and is full of disembodied eyes, desolation, nudity, and "uh, what?" moments.

Of course there are paintings, notes, sketches, letters, storyboards, set decorations, and a phone made out of a lobster, each more bizarre, visually compelling, and uneasy than the last. The reactions of my fellow museum-goers seemed to range from awe to disgust. Even my fellow would-be hipster was surprised to find how viscerally disturbing the images were – she saw them as sexually charged, violent, and misogynist. I saw nothing of the sort. Well, okay, there's a lot of phallic imagery, and a lot of – what's the female equivalent of phallic? There were several uteruses, anyway, and one particularly intriguing piece, The Invisible Man, wasn't trying very hard to hide its sexual imagery. But I was looking at it more as a visual vocabulary, wondering what it was Dali wanted to say with his work that involved so many ants. It's much more about pushing boundaries to me. I'm not sure what boundaries though. Probably all of them. It's definitely an exhibit worth going to - even if you discover that you don't really like Dali, they've got The Persistence of Memory. As a warning, it's smaller than you think it is. Just like most rock stars....

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