"Unpacking the Collection" curated by Philipp Kaiser, an exhibition of the permanent collection, and "The Wig Museum" a site specific, solo exhibition by Jim Shaw, Marciano Art Foundation, Los Angeles, CA

Marciano Foundation
4357 Wilshire Boulevard, 
Los Angeles, CA 90010https://marcianoartfoundation.org


Los Angeles has a new art space for contemporary art, and it definitely lives up to expectations of a world class art collection of contemporary art. Housed in a former masonic temple, the Marciano Art Foundation does an excellent job at both displaying contemporary art, and honoring the former tenants,The Freemasons, in which used it as the Scottish Rite Masonic Temple.

The moment you arrive at the Marciano Art Foundation, the Freemasons are there. The building itself is covered with symbols that represents various aspects of Freemason thought and beliefs. During the renovation and transformation of the monumental ‪Scottish Rite Masonic Temple, a rich array of material culture was discovered—furniture, stage sets, robes backdrops, costumes, wigs and regalia—left behind by the building’s original owners, Freemasons, a worldwide fraternal order dating back to the eighteenth century. So it is fitting that Jim Shaw uses the artifacts and the building to explore both the traditions of the Freemasons and mine the American psyche. The exhibition is divided in two parts. The first is the actual Wig Museum (on view until September 17, 2017), with Shaw creating wigs that would be used in a ceremony similar to that of the Scottish Rite. Shaw is playing with both persona and ritual. Each wig reflects various elements and symbols that would be used in a ritual.Shaw constructs both the ritualistic and symbolic aspects of Freemasonry and places them in a greater drama. It is as if Shaw wants the viewer to stop at the Wig museum to pick a wig and then go to the larger auditorium where something of a grander scale is about to happen.

Stepping outside of the Wig Museum, the viewer witnesses a theater set and as you enter the sign reads "The International House of Pain" and below "good/evil." Shaw constructs a drama where the forces of good and evil play. It is set in contemporary America. By creating a stage set with images of Hell, Superman, God, snakes and images of suburbia, Shaw depicts a spiritual crisis set in today's America. By using the performative, Surrealism, and Conceptualism, Shaw invokes an American maelstrom. Most of the American founders, including George Washington, and Thomas Jefferson were Freemasons. Thus the storm created by Jim Shaw connects America's founding, Freemasonry with a specific emphasis on the site of the Marciano Foundation, and a contemporary angst. Shaw uses the American dream and creates a nightmare that inhabits today's American psyche.

In the mezzanine, lobby and the second floor, the Marciano Foundation's permanent collection is on display. "Unpacking the Collection," curated by Philipp Kaiser (on view until December 24, 2017), introduces the foundation collection to the visitor. Unlike the Broad Collection which surveys art from the last 60 years, the Marciano collection is definitely a 21st century collection with works with the oldest work dating to about 1992, and the rest made within the last 20 years. The best works displayed in the collections are by Analia Saban, Albert Oehlen, Jonas Wood, Wade Guyton, and Goshka Macuga. Ryan Trecartin's video installation in the mezzanine brings horror film set in the very building. The collection's emphasis on the 21st century is a definite positive. One has the true sense of the art of today, which addresses the issues of race, class, representation, and the current political condition. However, the weakness of the collection display is the lack of taking risks. With the exception of Huma Bhabha and Damian Ortega, much of the work is your standard artwork found in a Sotheby's or Phillips auction houses. The collection needs more emerging artists mixed with established artists. This would make the collection more exciting. Such risks diversifies the collection and adds depth. Otherwise the display of the permanent collection is a collection of the 21st century. It often asked what defines art in this time. The Marciano collection "Unpacking the Collection" does an excellent job at addressing that question.

The Marciano Foundation is worth a visit. It is a strange place to show contemporary art. With Jim Shaw's Wig Museum and "Unpacking the Collection" there is a range in which one can be engaged. It also feels as if the Masons are still present and secrets are still prevalent within the building. With symbols of Freemasonry all around, the atmosphere is heavy with ritual and secrecy.    


Entrance Facade of Marciano Foundation


Jim Shaw "The Wig Museum" 



































Unpacking the Collection

Thomas Houseago

Franz West

Carol Bove

Louise Lawler

Cindy Sherman

Charles Ray

Analia Saban

Albert Oehlen

Christopher Wool

Albert Oehlen

Christopher Wool

Albert Oehlen

Albert Oehlen

Mike Kelley

Takashi Murakami

Takashi Murakami


Paul McCarthy

Takashi Murakami

Takashi Murakami

Takashi Murakami

Huma Bhabha

Wade Guyton

Wade Guyton

Wade Guyton

Damian Ortega

Analia Saban

Jonas Wood

Jonas Wood

Jonas Wood

Goshka Macuga

Goshka Macuga

Mary Weatherford


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