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Editor's Life Unedited - Day

Thursday, February 7, 2008

6:31PM - REVIEW: Broad Contemporary Art Museum

Pictures of the new BCAM at the Coagula Dot Com site.

ELI'S COMIN'

The Broad Contemporary Art Museum (BCAM)is the big play by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) to stay in the major leagues. As a blue-chip warehouse of ArtForum’s finest from the past 5 decades, it succeeds. But even more than an art museum, this new institution is as explosively a patriotic surge of Americana as exists in the art world.

In an art world that has always genuflected toward Europe (in the abstract, with no central allegiance beyond the archetype of old world elitism and snobbish elegance), The BCAM is the ugly, rich American telling the world ”this is how you fuckin’ do it, dude!” in a raging cowboy abandonment of the refined good taste and philanthropic generosity that has heretofore defined institutional culture. Architect Renzo Piano has lined up a series of repeating red stripes (with the white negative space of So.Cal) that screams out to be read as the starless part of the American flag. Jasper Johns’ flag paintings have never seen particularly political, but around the corner from a 1963 Robert Rauschenberg painting of John F. Kennedy and a floor below Andy Warhol’s Jacki O, Elvis and Marylin, they triumphantly announce the American cultures victory over good taste and one man’s investment in that triumph.

the low-lights of our self-induced vacuity abound at this palace of redneck chic:

• A half-acre sized room of Jeff Koons pastiching the ugliest banalities that this culture has produced into monumental agitations of market economics is the surreal investment banker wet dream made manifest.
• Cindy Sherman, Jenny Holzer and Barbara Kruger form a feminist Macbethian triumvirate that screams quota, while a room of amazing Basquiats is so out of place with Broad’s anal/machine aesthetic that it holla tokenism.
• The Leon Golub room next to Jean-Michel’s trove reveals the guilty white liberal soul of the art world and an 80s room of Bleckner, Taffe, Salle, Fischl, Schnabel and Tansey the remorse of every bad investment made in the land of plenty.
• Brit Damien Hirst seems quite at home with Broad serving as Ed Sullivanesque validator to this self-impressed contemporary Beatle-like exotic oddity.
• Ex-pat Cy Twombly looks out of place near Ellsworth Kelly, Roy Lichtenstein and Ed Ruscha until one compares the auction results of the aging masters.
• A first-floor Richard Serra installation is the big and bold ‘meerukan type vision that gives places like Texas its ego, with all the funhouse excitement of a county fair as it winds its way a few feet from Wilshire Boulevard.

The BCAM hardly seems to be here for Los Angeles. It features few local artists, and with its 1980s sensibilities, no contemporary artists. The BCAM exists for cultural tourists from abroad. It is a Disneyland-like attraction for European and Asian tourists. This museum gives them the chance to see the real America while simultaneously feeding the fine art urge that defines cultural tourism and the weak dollar it so loves. This is the real America of lip-service-liberalism, superficial philosophers, icons of fame and filth, big brash bold banalities and restrooms so clean you could eat your breakfast off their floors. If the security guards carried loaded pistols and the parking lot had traffic signals it would be the only place anyone ever needed to visit to comprehend the greatness, glory and ignorant grandeur of the United States of America.

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