Vera Lutter: Museum in the Camera

Vera Lutter: Museum in the Camera

Vera Lutter: Museum in the Camera, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 2020, art © Vera Lutter, photo © Museum Associates/LACMA

Residency at LACMA

Installation photograph, Vera Lutter: Museum in the Camera, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 2020, art © Vera Lutter, photo © Museum Associates/LACMA

Lutter, who is best known for her photographs of cityscapes, transportation hubs, and industrial sites, had never attempted to make studio photographs of two-dimensional subjects prior to her residency at LACMA. In collaboration with the museum, Lutter had two room-size cameras and two custom easels constructed specifically to photograph paintings from LACMA’s permanent collection. The works in this gallery were all made using these “copy cameras”—so nicknamed in reference to the pre-digital copy stand equipment once so familiar to artists and art historians for making image and slide reproductions. Lutter’s photographs, however, are far more than mechanical copies; instead, they often bring to light new ways of seeing once-familiar paintings.

Vera Lutter: Museum in the Camera

Art of the Pacific, II: September 21, 2017–January 5, 2018

Art of the Pacific, II: September 21, 2017–January 5, 2018

2017–18 Commissioned by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art through an artist residency supported by Sotheby’s
M.2018.174a–c
© Vera Lutter

To make this photograph, Lutter positioned objects and artifacts from the Pacific Islands in a gallery arrangement she curated specifically for her camera, configuring the artworks based on the compositional needs of her photograph, rather than regional or chronological relationships among the objects. Reflecting on the making of this image, Lutter noted: “I was allowed to pick all my favorite pieces…. I brought all these characters together that aren’t from the same tribe, and aren’t from the same island, and might not really speak the same language, but I wanted them all to talk to one another.”

Vera Lutter: Museum in the Camera

European Old Masters: December 7, 2018–January 9, 2019

2018–19

The conceptual starting point for Lutter’s residency at LACMA was her ambition to record, with a camera obscura, a photograph similar to the painted scenes of picture gallery interiors popularized during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, such as Hubert Robert’s famous paintings of the Grande Galerie of the Musée du Louvre. To make European Old Masters, a photograph depicting LACMA’s largest European painting and sculpture gallery, Lutter had a room-size camera built directly into the gallery, with its exterior finished to blend seamlessly into the gallery architecture, making it invisible to unsuspecting museum visitors.

 

Hubert Robert, Project for the Transformation of the Grande Galerie, 1796.

Hubert Robert, Project for the Transformation of the Grande Galerie, 1796. Oil on canvas; 44 1⁄8 × 56 1⁄4 in. (112 × 143 cm). Musée du Louvre, Département des Peintures, Paris, RF1975-10. Photo: © 2020 RMN-Grand Palais/Art Resource, NY, by Jean-Gilles Berizzi

Vera Lutter: Museum in the Camera

LACMA with YANG NA,  2011–PRESENT, IV: March 15, 2017

LACMA with YANG NA, 2011–PRESENT, IV: March 15, 2017

Collection of MGAC
© Vera Lutter

MARIA NORDMAN YANG NA 2011–PRESENT
Inter-generational inter-performative-sculpture—
With & for the maker or receiver of the image
Sunlight & contextual illumination
With black anodized movable aluminum frame.
A 24-hour work on loan to LACMA
Height of screen 279 cm.
Horizon of the two screens 741.7 cm.
Depth of the separating wall 208.3 cm.
 

In homage to John Bowsher supporting this work
From 2009–11 & earlier at LACMA—using his voice
As producer & giver of culture.
Built in continuity with Maria Nordman’s
FILMROOM EAT & FILMROOM EXHALE
1967–PRESENT

Vera Lutter: Museum in the Camera

Ludovico Mazzanti, The Death  of Lucretia, c. 1735–37: February 10–March 16, 2017

Ludovico Mazzanti, The Death of Lucretia, c. 1735–37: February 10–March 16, 2017

2017
Commissioned by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art through an artist residency supported by Sotheby’s
M.2017.283
© Vera Lutter

The painting photographed here, Ludovico Mazzanti’s Death of Lucretia, draws on an episode from ancient Roman history in which Lucretia, wife of the consul to the Roman Republic, was raped by Sextus Tarquinius, son of the tyrannical king of Rome. To redeem her honor, Lucretia killed herself with a dagger, but not before appealing to her husband and father to avenge her death. In Mazzanti’s painting, we see Lucretia at the very moment she plunges a knife into her chest.

Lutter’s version of Lucretia channels a very different visual energy than its source. In the photograph’s transposition of the light and dark tones, the billowing folds of fabric are dramatically accentuated, giving the fabric the appearance of being lifted upward, as if Lucretia’s body were caught in a swirling vortex of wind. As Patrice Marandel (LACMA’s former chief curator of European painting and sculpture) observed, “After Vera photographed the painting, it came out as a completely different Baroque object; it turned out, in my mind, to look like another staple subject of Baroque painting, the Virgin Mary ascending to heaven.”

 

 

Vera Lutter: Museum in the Camera

In addition to her use of room-size cameras, Lutter also makes photographs using portable “trunk” cameras—luggage-type trunks adapted into pinhole cameras and set on tripods. During her residency, she would regularly set up these cameras in the galleries on Wednesdays (the one day of the week the museum is closed to the public). Several of the images in this group are photographs taken during the exhibition The Inner Eye: Vision and Transcendence in African Arts, which was on view at LACMA in 2017.

Vera Lutter: Museum in the Camera

FILM – Vera Lutter: Museum in the Artist’s Camera Obscura (39164)

Vera Lutter: Museum in the  Artist’s Camera Obscura

Filmed between January 2017 and May 2019 Digital video, 13 minutes
Los Angeles County Museum of Art

Throughout Vera Lutter’s residency at LACMA, a team of filmmakers documented the building of her cameras on the museum’s outdoor plaza and inside the galleries, and followed the artist on a near-daily basis as she created the artworks on view here.  This short film shares behind-the-scenes footage as well as insights from Vera Lutter and exhibition curator Jennifer King into the artistic process and the meanings they find in her photographs.

Vera Lutter: Museum in the Camera

This exhibition was organized by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

All exhibitions at LACMA are underwritten by the LACMA Exhibition Fund. Major annual support is provided by Kitzia and Richard Goodman, Jerry and Kathleen Grundhofer, Meredith and David Kaplan, and Jeffrey Saikhon, with generous annual funding from Terry and Lionel Bell, the Judy and Bernard Briskin Family Foundation, Kevin J. Chen, Louise and Brad Edgerton, Edgerton Foundation, Emily and Teddy Greenspan, Earl and Shirley Greif Foundation, Marilyn B. and Calvin B. Gross, Mary and Daniel James, David Lloyd and Kimberly Steward, Kelsey Lee Offield, David Schwartz Foundation, Inc., Mr. and Mrs. Anthony and Lee Shaw, Lenore and Richard Wayne, Marietta Wu and Thomas Yamamoto, and The Kenneth T. and Eileen L. Norris Foundation.