That scornful sound you heard emanating from the east last week was art fans who realized that Tilda Swinton’s current Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) performance piece — she naps in a glass box while you watch — was more of an art prank than anything gutsy or original. The star of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe at first neglected to mention that these seven-hour public snooze stints will take place only when she feels like it: Color us unimpressed. It’s particularly more absurd if you attend UCSB Arts & Lecture’s upcoming Art | Architecture on Film series, which kicks off this Sunday, April 21 at UCSB’s Campbell Hall. Wanna know why? Read on below.
1. Marina Abramović: The Artist Is Present: Marina chronicles a MoMA offering similar to Swinton’s, though one of epic art courage. Abramović, 63, calls herself the “grandmother of performance art” and is chiefly famed for many self-inflicting and self-baring pieces from the 1970s, the heyday of the artist as thought-provoking object. The film provides a compelling chronicle of Abramović’s flagellations, which builds up into a recent retrospective of her work in which younger artists performed her “historical” pieces, while she sat in a large MoMA room for three months of seven-hour shifts, locking eyes with anyone who would lock eyes with her. Over 750,000 did, and the show became something more like a pilgrimage to Lourdes than a chance to see a sexy movie star sawing logs. Shows April 21.
2. Portrait of Wally: A slightly different view of MoMA is afforded by the documentary Portrait of Wally, a complicated argument about a painting by Egon Schiele, seized by Nazis in 1939 from a Jewish gallery owner. Seventy years later the painting became cause for a great legal battle, all the while underscoring the sometimes tainted nature of museum board politics. It’s a good primer, at very least, of the ways big money confounds principles. Shows April 28.
3. Gerhard Richter Painting: This film follows Richter, now nearing 80, as he mixes, scrapes, and daubs: a very watchable activity, and not for artists only. Shows May 5.
4. Infinite Space: The Architecture of John Lautner: Last but not least, Infinite Space profiles the former Frank Lloyd Wright acolyte who made his own visionary way through Southern California, creating homes and apartment houses of poetic grace and spawning an entire school of hip SoCal style that immediately makes us think of “Our Friend the Atom” and beatnik chic. Shows May 19.
For tickets and info, call (805) 893-3535 or visit artsandlectures.sa.ucsb.edu.