After hours and behind the scenes
At LACMA’s College Night, students were granted free access to ticketed exhibitions late into the evening. | Anna Warner/THE CHIMES
LACMA College Night was a unique opportunity for college students to enjoy high culture without the price tag. Provided with food, including a buffet-style mashed potato bar, coffee and tea, students could explore exhibits in a whole new way. The museum opened the main exhibits, normally ticketed, for students to view at their leisure without paying the $25 price tag.
stars of the night
The stars of the night were the exhibitions of Robert Mapplethorpe: the Perfect Medium and Reigning Men: Fashion in Menswear. 1715-2015. Other significant mentions were Art of the Pacific and Metropolis II, a large sculpture of a miniature city. Unlike normal hours, for College Night the sculpture came to life — cars and trains zoomed through the maze-like streets at dizzying speeds. At the Art of the Pacific exhibit, students were provided paper and pencil to use the ancient Pacific figurines and tools for figure-drawing practice.
exquisite to the bizarre
Reigning Men ranged from the exquisite to the bizarre. Upon entering the wing, I expected to travel chronologically through the annals of fashion history. I expected to begin with frock coats and white wigs in glass cases, and end with some approximation of sweatpants and Nikes enshrined on the far wall. Instead the eras were mixed together like patchwork and some pieces seemed to be modern interpretations of old world style. Each ensemble was ornate — I entered a maze of glamorous mannequins, posed like peacocks showing off their tail feathers. The exhibit used the male figure to portray such opulence, extravagance and absurdity I could almost imagine each piece to be from the wardrobe of some alien prince of sci-fi acclaim.
not afraid to break the rules
The Robert Mapplethorpe exhibit encompassed the life and pursuits of the tragic artist. A word of warning: this exhibit is not for everyone, and does contain explicit material. Part of what makes Mapplethorpe such a seminal artist is that he was not afraid to break the rules when it came to creating beauty – and at one point this meant completely trampling on the socially acceptable. Since the original show’s opening in 1988, The Perfect Moment has caused an uproar over the definition of true art. Frank yet delicate, Mapplethorpe’s avant garde work spans subjects such as detailed flower paintings, celebrity portraits, sculpture and his most controversial work, vignettes of homosexuality. His work questions the preconceptions of the aesthetic form; he engages the viewer to ponder beauty, femininity, masculinity, even the line between intimacy and indelicacy. He expertly uses the human form to make statements about beauty and identity. To the discerning viewer, Mapplethorpe’s work asks what it means to relate well to another person.
In general, I enjoyed the exhibits on show that night. Each display inspired me to think about beauty differently and creatively. I really appreciate that the LACMA allows students this opportunity. Although I found parts of the exhibits excessive or distasteful, all the art on display did what good art is supposed to do — it made me think.