LACMA recently hosted its fifth Mellon Summer Academy, a one-week, immersive experience in the museum that is a component of the Andrew W. Mellon Undergraduate Curatorial Fellowship Program, which is generously supported by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
Each Summer Academy includes workshops with LACMA staff, tours, field trips, and networking events with museum professionals, as well as the opportunity for participants to work on their own curatorial projects based on photographs from LACMA’s Marjorie and Leonard Vernon Collection. In addition to considering the photographs for their show and organizing them around a theme or story, each group researched the artists and photos they picked and wrote gallery text for their exhibition. The culmination of the program resulted in each group identifying two key images for promotional purposes to market their show, producing object labels for those photographs, installing scaled images of their selected works in a model of a gallery space, and presenting their exhibition and programming ideas to the museum’s director, the donor’s family, and staff.
The 15 students in the 2019 Mellon Summer Academy were divided into three groups of five to co-curate their own virtual exhibitions. This is the second of three blogs taking a closer look at each group’s final presentation.
Challenging Intent: Selected Images from the Vernon Collection
“The camera should be used for a recording of life, for rendering the very substance and quintessence of the thing itself…”—Edward Weston
In the early 20th century, photography underwent an ideological shift in style, departing from the then-popular mode of Pictorialism and into a new age of Modernist photography. In this emerging genre, images for the sake of beauty were abandoned for literal documentation of reality. This shift was particularly important to the Group f/64, a collective of West Coast photographers whose manifesto proclaimed, “...the Group will show no work at any time that does not conform to its standards of pure photography. Pure photography is defined as possessing no qualities of technique, composition or idea, derivative of any other art form.”
Key American artists whose work represents this theoretical shift—such as Man Ray and Berenice Abbott, along with Group f/64—are prominently featured in this exhibition. Challenging Intent questions their strictly literal images by exploring the mystery and intrigue therein. Human nature prompts us to explore this otherworldliness in a range of spaces—including natural, urban, and domestic environments. This intimate selection of photos provokes a human desire for answers, missing narratives, and the unknown.
Proposed Public Programming for this Exhibition
Challenging Artmakers: A conversation between Peter Tush, Education Curator and professor at the University of South Florida and Lisa Hostetler, Curator of Photography at the George Eastman Museum. This event would feature the works on view and how they either contradict or agree with the ideals held by the collective. The big question: Is it appropriate to question art? Is it important?
Art Class: Gelatin print demonstration for young adults ages 15 to 25. The class would encourage a stronger foundation and appreciation for photographic prints.
Elementary School Tour: Tour of the exhibition for children ages 8 to 12. The tour would focus on light and shape, and question how those elements change how you look at and interpret an image. Students will be encouraged to draw their own images inspired by the works on view.
Teen Tour: Tour of the exhibition geared toward high-schoolers. A more direct survey of the concepts brought up by the main gallery text, participants will discuss how image making differs from other forms of artistic expression. The tour will also address the deeper concepts and sub-concepts that emerge from comparing and contrasting the works on view.
Visit LACMA’s website for more information about the Andrew W. Mellon Undergraduate Curatorial Fellowship Program. Stay tuned for a look at the final exhibition idea presented during the 2019 Mellon Summer Academy.