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Laddie John Dill: One of America’s foremost sculpture artists has been a leading figure in the use of industrial materials for more than 40 years

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By David Rosenfeld

At first glance Laddie John Dill’s studio in Venice seems more like an industrial machine shop than an artist’s studio. A fence lines a storage yard with rusted parts and

Artist Laddie John Dill

Artist Laddie John Dill with his pup at his studio in Venice. Photo by Westside People

scraps of wood and metal. Without any noticeable entrance, a visitor hollers over the noise of a saw blade until the chain-link gate opens by remote.

It’s one of Laddie’s three assistants who lead me inside where a row of sunroofs bring in natural light. Hanging on the wall are some of the original neon tubes that lit up the art world, you could say, 40 years ago. It were these neon tubes with argon gases in fact that represent some of the first works that made Dill a fixture in the contemporary American art world beginning in the late 1960s, a time eclipsed by Andy Warhol and Jackson Pollack.

“I was in the right place at the right time,” he said. “But I also worked my butt off.”

Dill is well-respected these days in the art world as a pioneer in the use of industrial materials. It was an activity in which he has always felt at home. If he wasn’t an artist he said he’d likely be a truck driver. The 70-year-old who grew up in Malibu enjoys long hours on the road taking commissioned pieces to cities across the country.

Known for his use of sand and cement with reflective light, Dill has long been at the forefront of a modern American art movement that followed on the heels of an older generation of artists like Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg, both of whom gave support and encouragement to a young Laddie in his 20s.

New York, 1970

It all goes back to New York in 1970. Dill and his girlfriend at the time found themselves without a place to stay. So he called the only person he knew, the famed sculptor Jasper Johns. Johns wasn’t home, but he let the pair stay in his studio, which was a century-old former bank building on the lower east side of Manhattan.

“All the booths had been removed and it was like a museum,” Dill said. “I remember having the luxury of sitting on the couch in this bank and watching him paint this gigantic encaustic painting using wax and oil that was shown in the Montreal World’s Fair. When people knew I was staying there, they were all wondering who the hell is this kid from Malibu.”

They would soon find out. That same year Dill got his first break when Iliana Sonnabend offered him a show with the famed Sonnabend Gallery in New York, which handled Andy Warhol. His first show with experiments in light and space were at the Sonnabend Gallery in Paris and then in New York in February 1971.

“Other than that, no one else was really showing any interest in my work,” Dill said.

Shortly after that Robert Rauschenberg gave an equally praiseworthy blessing of Dill’s work when the pair collaborated on a show together in Los Angeles.

Is that art?

Laddie John Dill

An early work from 1971 with neon light and sand by Laddie John Dill called Red Tide.

Today, Dill’s work is shown in galleries and museums around the world. Individual pieces sell for tens of thousands of dollars. And his commissioned work for

companies like Northrop Grumman and University Synagogue in Irvine are among his proudest. When we sat down together, Dill talked about his motivation for using industrial materials and his outlook on modern art.

“I always wanted to use materials that are not necessarily associated with art making,” he said. “It’s not as revolutionary now. A lot of artists use other things. DeShaw was quoted as saying he’d rather spend time in a hardware store than a museum. I’ve always identified with that kind of mentality.”

The result has been a number of styles Dill calls activities. One is a technique where he uses tempered glass and an emulsion of oxides and cement to create images that look like aerial views from the Hubble Telescope. Another is the use of industrial grade aluminum, the kind manufacturers use to make airplane fuselages. Dill buffers the surface and cuts it to shapes that resemble leaves. When it comes to the interpretation, Dill said he doesn’t mind the question of whether it’s art.

“I got this from Jasper,” he said. “I wanted art that asks questions more than it answers. Is this art? I like that question, because it pushes the envelope. It engages you. I don’t find that question insulting at all. It’s not the point of it, but it’s not supposed to be totally accepted either. A lot of people would say this is not art. It’s just an exercise in materials. But I think some of the greatest art was not totally accepted in its time. That’s my only problem with the art world as it is today. It’s market driven. They buy too much with their ears.”

New art history

Painter Charles Arnoldi has been a friend of Dill’s for more than 40 years. The two shared a giant studio in downtown Los Angeles together in the 1970s where Dill filled his entire half of the floor with seven tons of sand and a mattress in the corner.

“You had a bunch of very creative individuals in Los Angeles at that time who didn’t feel like they were trying to make the next New York or European step,” Arnoldi said. “We weren’t following art history. And we felt sort of liberated. People were trying all kinds of innovative, new moves using less traditional materials. So what you had was this burst of creativity that was very unique and original.”

Laddie John Dill

This 9-foot-wide piece made in 2000 with glass, cement and natural oxides Laddie John Dill calls Glacial Collission

For Dill, working with light beams and mechanics were a natural extension of a childhood growing up with an engineering stepfather and a screenwriting mother.

“My mother basically raised us,” Dill said. “She encouraged us to do whatever we wanted to do as long as we made a commitment to it.”

He described a home where his tinkering stepfather would remove the backs of the television sets and laser beams he toyed with might be shining down the hallway.

“I don’t use these materials for shock value. It’s more the idea of using things that are associated with other walks of life or other worlds,” Dill said. “People all over the world look at something differently. Germans see materials. In Korea and Japan they see more imagery. They pick up things that resemble objects in nature. To them this tells a whole story. I think that’s pretty interesting.”

For more on Laddie’s work visit his website here.


By Koren Kordes

Film Academy to Pay LACMA $36.1 million for Movie Museum Lease

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By LA Times Reporter MIKE BOEHM
LACMA Film Museum

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will pay more than $36 million to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art for a 55-year lease on the former May Co. department store building and adjacent land where the academy plans to build a movie museum scheduled to open in 2017.

The deal may seem pricey at first glance, with the full $36.1 million to be paid by Oct. 1, according to LACMA spokeswoman Miranda Carroll. She said the academy paid a $5-million installment last year.

But once the large up-front payments are made, the academy, which is raising $300 million for its museum, will be in the clear for 108 years. The lease on the building known as LACMA West went into effect Oct. 18, 2012, said Academy Museum spokeswoman Morgan Kroll. After 55 years, the academy has the option to renew it for an additional 55 years at no further cost.

Kroll said lease payments are $28 million for the building and $8.1 million for adjoining land on which the academy plans to build the David Geffen Theater, a 1,000-seat cinema with a large see-through dome.LACMA Movie Museum

The May Co. store, built in 1939 and featuring a distinctive black- and gold-painted Art Deco-like sculptural column at the corner of Wilshire Boulevard and Fairfax Avenue, will be the main movie museum building, housing exhibition galleries and several spaces for screenings and lectures.

LACMA Director Michael Govan said that the art museum and the academy hired independent appraisers to calculate a fair market price for the land and building and that they agreed to abide by the outcome.

“The idea was not to haggle, not to make an issue of money; whatever was fair was fair,” he said. “We were sensitive about [avoiding potentially adversarial negotiations] because we’re going to be neighbors forever.”

An outline of the lease agreement first emerged in LACMA’s most recent audited financial statement, posted on its website. It will provide a welcome infusion of cash for the art museum, which had struggled since the recession under financial restrictions imposed by agreements with bankers concerning $343 million in construction bonds used to build the Broad Contemporary Art Museum, the Resnick Exhibition Pavilion and the BP Grand Entrance.

Plans to renovate the May Co. building for about $50 million had to be abandoned: Among other things, LACMA needed the money to keep its liquid assets above thresholds required to avoid a possible bond default. Money from the Academy Museum’s lease will make it easier to meet the requirement while continuing to make interest payments that are projected to exceed $15 million a year, according to information LACMA made public in August in conjunction with a refinancing of its debt.The Academy Museum’s payments will help LACMA’s efforts to bounce back fully from the recession, which blunted a funding campaign begun in 2003 to raise $450 million to revamp its campus.

Moody’s Investors Service has noted LACMA’s financial constraints in periodic ratings of its bonds since 2010, when it first placed a “negative outlook” on them as an advisory to potential investors. Although Moody’s continued last summer to give the museum high marks for a “consistently robust” financial performance for exhibitions and other day-to-day operations and did not lower the museum’s A3 bond rating, it cautioned that at that point, LACMA had “very thin” liquid assets relative to its debt. Nevertheless, in Moody’s rating scale, the A3 ranking — seventh on a 14-rung scale — signaled to investors that the LACMA bonds carried a “low … risk” of default.That report showed that the campaign to fund new construction in the 2000s eventually pulled in $339.3 million in gifts and pledges — 75% of LACMA’s goal. Members of the museum board provided $268 million, 79% of the amount raised.

Govan said LACMA’s financial picture has improved considerably since that bond analysis. Along with the lease payments from the academy, he said that LACMA quietly has launched a fundraising campaign leading to an April 1 celebration of its 50th anniversary in Hancock Park (what’s now the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County in Exposition Park previously did double duty with both art and nature exhibits).

“We’re already tens of millions into our campaign for the anniversary,” Govan said, declining to say what its goal was because “I don’t want to spoil the fun of the announcement.”

Even with a successful campaign to mark the anniversary, LACMA still figures to face the heaviest financial lifting in its history when it turns to the completely separate funding of an ambitious plan to replace the buildings on the eastern end of its campus (except for the Pavilion for Japanese Art) with a huge single structure, designed by Swiss architect Peter Zumthor.

The preliminary estimate for construction is $450 million, with an additional $200 million to be raised for operating and other expenses. If that estimate pans out, LACMA’s fundraising target would be 6.6% higher than the $610 million campaign by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art for a new wing that’s under construction.

LACMA does not lack for potential funding angels. Orange County real estate magnate Donald Bren, now honored as a life trustee, has been on the LACMA board since 1986, and his wife, Brigitte, is also a board member. Forbes Magazine has estimated Bren’s net worth at $15.3 billion, roughly 21/2 times the size of Eli Broad’s fortune.

Resnick Exhibition PavilionThe board roster also includes Barbra Streisand, Lynda Resnick, who shares an estimated $3.5 billion net worth with husband Stewart (they gave $45 million to fund the Resnick Exhibition Pavilion, which opened in 2010), Edward P. Roski Jr. (a $1.1-billion net worth per Forbes) and William H. Ahmanson and Wallis Annenberg, who head big Los Angeles charitable foundations that are proven LACMA backers.LACMA also can expect a boost from the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which is paying the museum $1.1 million to use a lot it owns for 20 months of “exploratory work” on its Wilshire Boulevard subway project. Then, when it begins digging the tunnel, Metro will use the lot as a construction staging area for an estimated 10 years, either buying or leasing the parcel at a price to be negotiated.For Govan, going with the tear-down and rebuild plan, targeted for completion in 2023, is the essence of frugality. The older buildings’ age is showing, he said, and it would cost an estimated $320 million to fix them.To illustrate issues LACMA is starting to face with its older buildings, Govan noted that the museum recently had to put its collection of 17th century Dutch paintings in storage because of problems with skylights in their gallery and that an electrical failure had hit the eastern end of the campus, forcing a film screening to be moved.

Moody’s had a point when it began raising questions about thin financial reserves in the wake of the recession, Govan said, but things are changing rapidly. “Without further fundraising, if you did the math, you couldn’t repay the bonds. But that isn’t the case.”

Govan said the museum board “unanimously supported” moving ahead with the Zumthor design, despite the expected price. “We have a strong board, and they’re fully confident.”


Do you know a recent high school or college graduate?  Buy them a gift certificate to have their diploma framed at Framestore!


By Koren Kordes

LA TIMES: Jackson Pollock’s ‘Mural’ Gives Getty a Bump in Attendance

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Getty Center in Los AngelesUPDATE:  The Getty Museum reported an uptick in attendance for March due in part to interest in its exhibition devoted to Jackson Pollock‘s “Mural.”

March attendance at the Getty Center reached 127,466 visitors, an increase of 3% from the same month last year, museum officials said. Attendance in March 2013 was 123,734, a Getty spokeswoman said, also an unusually high number due to an early Easter and spring break and an exhibition of Vermeer’s “Woman in Blue.”

From 2010 to 2012, average March attendance at the Getty Center was about 97,000.

Contributing to the attendance jump for March 2014 was the opening of an exhibition devoted to Ansel Adams photographs. 

The Pollock show, which details the conservation of the 1943 “Mural,” opened to the public on March 11. For that week, the Getty Center saw 29,374 visitors, a 25% increase from the first week of the month. The last week of March saw 34,306 visitors, a 46% jump from the first week of the month.

Pollock’s “Mural” will be on display through June 1. The abstract painting is part of the collection at the University of Iowa Museum of Art but has been in L.A. for the past couple of years so Getty experts could study and clean the work.

“In Focus: Ansel Adams,” which opened March 18, is scheduled to run through June 20.
By LA Times writer David Ng
Published April 1, 2014

By Koren Kordes

Hammer Museum Now Free to the Public

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Hammer Museum Free to Public

Beginning February 9, the Hammer Museum eliminated its admission fee and became entirely FREE to the public!

Free admission coincided with the opening of the Hammer’s new exhibition Take It or Leave It: Institution, Image, Ideology.

The Hammer is committed to eliminating admission fees permanently. Free admission is made possible through the generosity of longtime Hammer Museum benefactors Erika J. Glazer and Brenda R. Potter. Erika Glazer is an art collector who joined the Hammer’s Board of Directors in 2009. She has worked in the real estate business, construction, and as a private investor since 1976. Brenda Potter has been a Hammer supporter since 2003. An avid art collector, Potter is also a Fine Art Commissioner for the City of Beverly Hills.

The Hammer’s roster of more than 250 public programs each year—including readings, lectures, conversations between cultural figures, political forums, musical performances, and screenings—have been free for over a decade. The Museum’s shift to free admission builds on its current practice of offering free admission for several groups including students, children under 17, military personnel, and for all visitors every Thursday. In its role as a cultural center, the Hammer strives to be a vibrant intellectual forum for the exploration of art and ideas and believes offering free admission will play a crucial role in furthering this position!

Address: 10899 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90024
Hours: 11:00 am – 8:00 pm
Phone: (310) 443-7000


Info Courtesy of Hammer Museum

By framestore

11 of the Most Unforgettable Art Heists in History

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Through out the course of history, nothing has attracted the attention of criminals, and the occasional, not so criminal, quite like fine art and priceless relics.

Here is a short list of some of history’s most memorable art thefts and recoveries.

Mona Lisa 1. Mona Lisa Misplaced?

On August 21, 1911, a construction worker removed Leonardo da Vinci‘s masterpiece Mona Lisa from the Louvre, with the stated intention of returning the painting to Italy (presumably, the thief did not know that da Vinci himself had brought the painting to France while under the patronage of Francis I). Police questioned the thief in an initial investigation but dismissed him as a suspect, before turning their attention to Pablo Picasso (yes, that Pablo Picasso—he was questioned and quickly released).

Then, in December 1913, an Italian house painter contacted a prominent art dealer in Florence, claiming to be in possession of the celebrated portrait. Police swooped in and arrested Vincenzo Peruggia, a former Louvre employee. It turned out Peruggia had walked unnoticed into the museum, removed the “Mona Lisa” from its frame and spirited it out under his clothes. Hailed as a patriot in his native Italy, the burglar served six months in jail for the crime.

After two years, the Mona Lisa was recovered, but not before it had achieved a level of global celebrity unmatched by virtually any other painting. The theft had elevated the Mona Lisa from a topic of study for scholars to an indelible image in the popular consciousness.

2. One Person’s TheftElgin Marbles art heist

Thomas Bruce, 7th earl of Elgin, was the British envoy to the Ottoman Empire from 1799 to 1803. Elgin was passionate about classical art and, stating that he was concerned about the preservation of antiquities in Greece (then under Ottoman control), he secured permission from the Ottoman government “to take away any pieces of stone with old inscriptions or figures thereon.”

The collection, taken principally from the Parthenon and subsequently known as the Elgin Marbles, caused great controversy. Greece demanded (and continues to demand) that the treasures be returned, and critics, among them Lord Byron, accused Elgin of cultural vandalism. Indeed, the practice of removing cultural treasures from one country to another (frequently wealthier) one  has come to be called elginism.

entartete kunst 3. Entartete Kunst

In Nazi Germany, art was intended to support the ideals of National Socialism and enhance the notion of Aryan superiority. Works of modern art—and especially works created by Jewish artists—were labeled “degenerate” and confiscated. This so-called degenerate art was exhibited throughout Germany in an attempt to showcase the failings of modernism. Many of the works were ultimately sold, with the money flowing into Nazi coffers.

One of my favorite works of art stolen during this era (and eventually recovered) was Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I is a 1907 painting by Gustav Klimt.

For more tidbits regarding the Nazi art pillaging, check out this blog I did last year.

4. Crime Doesn’t Paypiero della francesca flagellation

In 1975 gangsters broke into the Ducal Palace (now the National Gallery of the Marches) in Urbino, Italy, and made off with a trio of internationally famous works: Raphael‘s The Mute Woman and The Flagellation of Christ and Madonna by Piero della Francesca. The thieves had little luck converting the paintings into profit, however, and all three works were recovered unharmed a year later.

Gardner Museum Art Heist5. Empty Frames

Boston’s Gardner Museum was bestowed upon the city as a public institution by art collector Isabella Stewart Gardner. In her will, the single condition that she placed on the donation of the museum’s collection, which included a broad sample of visual arts from around the world, was that it remains exactly as she had arranged it.

In March 1990 thieves made off with a number of valuable paintings from the museum, including several Rembrandts. In accordance with Gardner’s wishes, the collection remained unchanged, with empty frames and blank spaces indicating where the stolen paintings once hung.

As mentioned in a blog we wrote last spring, the FBI announced at a press conference in spring 2013, that they have identified two possible suspects in the scandalous heist of $500 million in art. Maybe it’s not the largest art heist in history, but it’s close.

6. He’s Screaming “Stop Stealing Me!”The Scream

Edvard Munch painted four versions of his iconic work “The Scream”. This is good, because thieves apparently like to keep their options open. One version was stolen in 1994 from the National Art Museum in Oslo, during an exhibition that was tied to the 1994 Lillehammer Olympics. The thieves demanded a $1 million ransom for its return. Norwegian authorities politely declined and conducted a sting operation with the assistance of British law enforcement. The painting was recovered undamaged just two months later, and the four perpetrators were imprisoned.

In 2004, ten years after the first theft, another copy of The Scream was stolen, this time from the Munch Museum in Oslo. The thieves, brandishing guns and threatening museum staff, brazenly walked out of the museum with The Scream and Madonna, another Munch piece. The thieves were arrested in May 2006, and the paintings were recovered in August of that year. Although both works had sustained some damage, authorities stated that their condition was better than expected.

whitworth museum

7. Theft for Art’s Sake

In 2003 thieves took works by Gauguin, Picasso, and van Gogh from the Whitworth Art Gallery in Manchester, England. The paintings were soon discovered in a public bathroom a short distance from the museum, however, with a handwritten note that read “The intention was not to steal, only to highlight the woeful security.”

Although police doubted that the thieves actually had such altruistic intentions, the museum did take steps to improve its security.

8. Stolen SunflowersVan Gogh Museum

In 1991 yet another globally famous painting went missing when thieves broke into the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam and absconded with some 20 paintings, including Sunflowers, a painting that had sold for a then-record $40 million just four years earlier. The thieves, apparently deciding that they couldn’t hope to fetch such a price, abandoned it and the rest of their haul in their getaway car, which was discovered by police just hours later.

National Museum of Anthropology9. The Mother Lode

In what is regarded as the single largest art heist in history, thieves stole 140 priceless Mayan, Aztec and other artifacts from Mexico’s world-famous National Museum of Anthropology on Christmas Eve in the biggest heist ever of pre-Columbian art objects in December 1985.

One or more thieves pried open seven glass display cases in three exhibition halls and grabbed several of the museum’s best-known gold, jade, turquoise and obsidian objects. Security was especially lax at the time of the theft; the museum’s alarm system hadn’t worked for some years, and guards failed to notice the removal of some seven showcases full of pre-Columbian art. Mexican prosecutors detained and  interrogated the nine police guards assigned to the museum on the night of the theft.

How crafty culprits thought they were ever going to sell these relics  is beyond me.

10. The Worst Time to Shop for an Alarm – Is the Day After You Need Itmuseum of modern art

In 2010 the Museum of Modern Art in Paris was victimized in a way that was novel in its directness. The thief simply smashed a lock, broke a window, and walked off with a haul estimated to be worth over $100 million. Paintings by Picasso, Braque, Modigliani, Matisse and Leger were among those stolen. As was the case in the Mexico City break-in, the museum’s alarm system had been out of service for some time.

Since then, the suspected thief, a 34-year-old watch repairman, was identified only as Jonathan B. by the French weekly Le Journal du Dimanche, has stated, that in a panic, he thru the art in the garbage.

rembrandt self portrait 11. Well, You Get Credit for Bravado

Art theft tends to be a low profile affair. Night falls, thief gets in, thief gets out, and no one notices that the priceless masterpiece is missing until the next morning. This was decidedly not the approach adopted by a trio of thieves who conducted a daylight raid on the National Museum in Stockholm in 2000. Armed with sub-machine guns, the thieves collected Renoir‘s Young Parisian and Conversation with the Gardener and a Rembrandt self-portrait.

As the robbery was in progress, car bombs were detonated on the roads approaching the museum, in an effort to divert police attention elsewhere. Upon exiting the museum, the thieves set fire to cars and scattered spikes across the road before making their escape in a waiting speedboat. Although Conversation with the Gardener was found during a drug raid, the other two paintings were recovered in a manner that was every bit as Hollywood as their theft.

In 2005 Young Parisian was uncovered by the FBI in Los Angeles, and that investigation produced leads on the whereabouts of the missing Rembrandt. An elaborate sting operation was conducted by Danish and Swedish police, with the head of the American FBI‘s Art Crime Team posing as a shady art dealer. After weeks of negotiations, the thieves agreed to met at a Copenhagen hotel. Once the undercover agent had verified that the painting was legitimate, a Danish SWAT team, which had been waiting in the next room, burst in and arrested the thieves.

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Courtesy of http://www.britannica.com/

By Koren Kordes

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