Ever since it’s September 2015 opening, The Broad has become a staple of the Southern California art world. Located on Grand Avenue in downtown Los Angeles, the contemporary art museum was founded by philanthropists Eli and Edythe Broad, to which the 2,000-piece art collection housed at The Broad belongs.
Within that collection are famous works by artists who have become staples of contemporary art history. Most notably: Jasper Johns, Andy Warhol, Keith Haring, Barbara Kruger, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Ellsworth Kelly, Damien Hirst, Cy Twombly, Ed Ruscha, Jeff Koons, John Baldessari, Charles Ray, Jenny Holzer, Glenn Ligon and many more.
One Saturday a month, from June to September, The Broad has hosted ‘Nonobject(ive): Summer Happenings,’ a series of events showcasing music and performance art. In addition to all of the evening’s scheduled performances, each ticket purchased grants its holder admission to whichever special exhibition is on display at the time, as well as access to the museum’s full gallery.
Titled ‘Shifting Horizon Exploding Star, Underground and Rave Cultures,’ the final Summer Happenings event was held on Saturday, September 24. With the theme of nightlife and it’s associated subcultures in mind, the entertainment bill was filled with colorful characters including DJs and experimental musicians.
Three separate spaces on the museum grounds were used as stages. Set against the backdrop of The Broad’s instantly-recognizable building by design studio Diller Scofidio + Renfro, a charming plot of trees and lush grass beside the museum served as an excellent outdoor venue.
Inside, on the second floor, was the Oculus Hall, where all night long Julianna Barwick graced the room with her striking, ambiently layered voice and soft keyboard.
Accompanying Barwick was a projection of moving pictures by visual artist Charles Atlas. From abstract patterns and animated illustrations to footage of a parade, his images brought an even deeper profundity to the performance, with sound and sight mutually benefiting from the power of one another. Entering the darkened Oculus Hall, anyone was bound to be immediately transfixed by the illustrious atmosphere of it all.
Lastly, on the third floor gallery were superb back-to-back DJ sets. If exploring a massive room filled with millions of dollars worth of artwork by some of the world’s most renowned contemporary artists of all time isn’t wildly exciting enough, imagine doing so set to music.
Starting off the night was DJ and producer Kid606, spinning stimulating beats to set a scene of adventure and wonder. The Venezuelan-born Kid606 played half the night, followed by the epic electronic compositions of Lauren Bousfield. She joyfully played keyboard on site, a rarity in the world of live electronic music. Surrounded by an attentive audience of museum goers, Lauren Bousfield ended the evening with an unmatched buoyancy.
Though each ‘Nonobject(ive): Summer Happenings’ event lasts from 8:30 p.m. to midnight, those three and a half hours do not seem like nearly enough. Between multiple event stages, a special exhibition and the full gallery, there is absolutely no shortage of stimulating art to look at, listen to, and contemplate.
Emerging from the depths of a thick fog and dazzling white light bursts the maniacal screech of SOPHIE. Slight and soft-spoken beneath vibrant red lipstick and a mop of asymmetrically coiffed curls, the London-based electronic musician (actually named Samuel Long) delivers a thrilling hour-long set of passionate nightmare-pop to a gathering of convulsing young fans and established art lovers alike.
SOPHIE’s delightfully horrific beats ambiguously typify the product of either a man-made machine or a machine-made man, questioning the distinction between artificial intelligence and the intelligently artificial (a timely concept as the popularity of synthetically produced music is at an all-time high).
This introspective experimentation is what makes the industrial sounds of SOPHIE so exhilarating. In a truly innovative fashion, Long allows his listeners to ponder what is considered music and why, all the while doling out addictively refreshing, rivetingly unusual sounds.
During noisy crescendos, flashing white lights would illuminate billows of fog that encompassed both the stage and the crowd, leaving the audience virtually blind. This visual spectacle forced Long’s sounds to penetrate one’s eardrums in such an undiluted manner that made SOPHIE feel more like an all-powerful presence than a mere performance.
Cindy Sherman has spent over 40 years living other people’s lives.
Manipulating herself using setting, light, costume, props, makeup and prosthetic body parts, Sherman’s touching conceptual self portraits transcend the restrains of the physical form, each photograph being of a different person.
What’s more than the fine-tuning of a character’s appearance and environment to portray a personality is Sherman’s employment of a certain method-like acting that makes every image as effortlessly emotive as a spontaneous candid.
Despite often being interpreted as primarily feminist art, Sherman’s photography is about something much more broad than that. While many of her voyeuristic images revolve around themes of gender perception, objectification, and even abuse and perversion, Sherman’s overall intention is not to comment on the role of either masculinity or femininity in culture and society.
Speaking down on the excessive “theoretical [feminist] bullshit” often associated with her photographs, her work offers a more objective eye into the raw, disturbing feelings associated with the problems of such situations, rather than a commentary on society’s problems themselves. Whether posed as the abused or the abuser, each character and situation is so authentically personal that the matter of gender equality takes a back seat, instead allowing the more universal motifs of human nature and experience guide the viewer.
Thoughtful, somber, outrageous, disturbing and even humorous, ‘Cindy Sherman: Imitation of Life’ is a stellar first special exhibition for The Broad. Cutting to the core of the simultaneous complexity and simplicity that comes with existence, Sherman presents that delicate balance as an art itself, thus suggesting that merely being alive is the most sensational artform of all.
Credit for all photos: Lorenzo Alexander / The Foothill Dragon Press