LACMA's Artists on Art videos offer insights into works in the museum's encyclopedic collection that have inspired and informed artists working today. Looking at art through their eyes, we hear directly from artists about works that intrigue them and have fed their own creativity.
Artists on Art
Natural and found materials and images speak for buried and present histories in Alison Saar’s powerful art. Her sculptures, paintings, and installations combine references to spiritual archetypes as well as the many identities that today make up the African Diaspora. Saar is a recipient of fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts and in 2012 was named a Fellow by United States Artists.
As a member of the Black Arts Movement in the 1960s and ’70s, Betye Saar emerged as one the most incisive visual artists to address issues of race and history in the U.S. Her early collages and assemblages are now canonical. In recent decades she has extended her interests in mysticism, folk art, non-western art, and personal memory into powerful, large-scale installations.
Catherine Opie’s photography is extraordinary for the range of its gaze, taking in our institutions and fringes, icons and outcasts, rituals and taboos. Her landscapes, portraits, still lifes, and interiors are, collectively, a profound document of contemporary America, and have been the focus of many solo exhibitions, including, at LACMA, Catherine Opie: Figure and Landscape (2010) and, most recently, Catherine Opie: O (2016).
Ever since Jacob Samuel set up his Santa Monica workshop in 1988, artists have turned to this master printer for his unparalleled insights into how centuries-old techniques can be applied to make contemporary prints. The archive of Edition Jacob Samuel has been jointly acquired by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Grunwald Center for the Graphic Arts at the Hammer Museum.
The photographs of James Welling have, since his start among the “Pictures Generation” of the 1970s, explored the technical reaches of the medium to create images addressing both abstraction and representation. Through his experimentations with Polaroids, photograms, black-and-white and color photography, and digital technology, he has worked with subject matter as varied as the poetry of Susan Howe, Andrew Wyeth’s paintings, architecture, and contemporary dance.
The groundbreaking conceptual artist John Baldessari is one of today’s most influential artists, both as teacher and practitioner. His extraordinary breadth of work—photography, paintings, prints, artist’s books, videos, films, and public works—has been celebrated internationally in numerous solo exhibitions, including the 2009–10 retrospective John Baldessari: Pure Beauty, co-organized by LACMA.
Through photography and video, Judy Fiskin has, since the 1970s, addressed narratives of both visual and personal significance—from pictures of the California landscape to intimate reflections on her own mother’s mortality. Her precise art is deeply affecting and has provided a path-breaking model to generations of artists.
Mario Ybarra, Jr. is an artist, educator, and activist deeply involved in the Mexican-American community and street culture of greater Los Angeles. He is co-founder, with Karla Diaz, of Slanguage, an artist group based in Wilmington, CA, that promotes intergenerational art education and cross-community discussion of contemporary art.
Thomas Houseago, born in Leeds, England, gained early acclaim for his highly tactile figurative sculptures. Made with traditional materials and techniques and informed by art historical precedents, his hulking figures are enlivened by a contemporary, often eviscerating effect. Since making Los Angeles his home in 2003, his monumental works have grown in scale. Now competing with architecture, they remain human in impact.
Employing a range of media—oil paint, watercolor, gouache, collage, graphite—Tom Knechtel creates spectacular images. “I often think of my paintings as a kind of imaginary theater company,” he has said, which perfectly encapsulates their mesmerizing play of color, characters, and scenes. Knechtel lives and works in Los Angeles and teaches at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena.
For Artists on Art, Tom Knechtel speaks on Centaur Arrested in Flight, a Female Faun on His Back by Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo.