Behind the Scenes, Exhibitions and Installations, Getty Research Institute

Al’s Wall

Allen Ruppersberg is known for creating artworks that masquerade as ordinary objects, such as a diner, a hotel, a novel—and now, a wall.

The artist spent a Thursday in September at the Getty Research Institute creating L.A. in the 70s, a site-specific installation for the title wall of Greetings from L.A.: Artists and Publics, 1950–1980. The show, which opened October 1, borrows its title from Ruppersberg’s 1972 book, a Tinseltown exposé that boasts hilarious back-cover copy—and rises above the competition by being almost entirely blank inside.

The wall centers around a vinyl blow-up of Al’s handwritten cover for Greetings, in bright green and yellow inspired by his print L.A. in the 70s. (It was slightly weird, Al admitted, to see his own youthful handwriting—more legible than today’s—at some 25 times actual size.) Enhancing the time-machine vibe are repros of city maps he scored at a flea market in the early seventies. Best “how times have changed” moment: a point on the map marking L.A.’s only Art Museum at Wilshire and Fairfax.

The handwriting and maps form the backdrop for a massive collage of 40 asphalt-jungle photos of L.A., placed by the artist one by one. Four decades have passed, but this is still our city: cars, taco stands, signs for beer and parking.

An artwork in itself, the wall also cannily preps you for the cacophony of L.A. moments to come right around the corner in the exhibition, which features hundreds of treasures from the Getty Research Institute’s archives of L.A. art—including other pieces by Ruppersberg, such as Al’s Grand Hotel (1971), 24 Pieces (1970), and, of course, Greetings from L.A.

When the show closes on February 5, L.A. in the 70s comes down. Luckily the collage, in true L.A. spirit, is hip with making way for the next thing.

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      All Hail Tiberius, Least Media-Savvy of the Roman Emperors

      Tiberius was proclaimed Roman emperor on September 17 in AD 14, exactly 2,000 years ago.

      He was also a bit idiosyncratic. “He was the least media-savvy emperor you could imagine,” says curator David Saunders, who has been in charge of this bronze portrait of Tiberius which leaves us on September 22. He point to this description found in the writings of Cassius Dio:

      Tiberius was a patrician of good education, but he had a most peculiar nature. He never let what he desired appear in his conversation, and what he said he wanted he usually did not desire at all. On the contrary, his words indicated the exact opposite of his real purpose; he denied all interest in what he longed for, and urged the claims of what he hated. He would exhibit anger over matters that were far from arousing his wrath, and make a show of affability where he was most vexed…In short, he thought it bad policy for the sovereign to reveal his thoughts; this was often the cause, he said, of great failures, whereas by the opposite course, far more and greater successes were attained.

      Moreover, David tells us, “Tiberius’s accession itself was a farrago: Tiberius sort-of feigning reluctance, the Senate bullying him, he being all, ‘Well, if-I-have-to,’ and in the end—according to Suetonius—saying he’ll do it as long as he can retire.”

      Suetonius is full of great, albeit spurious, anecdotes about poor old Tiberius, David reports. “When someone addressed him as ‘My Lord,’ it is said, Tiberius gave warning that no such insult should ever again be thrown at him.”

      Happy accession, My Lord!

      Portrait Head of Tiberius (“The Lansdowne Tiberius”), early 1st century A.D., Roman. The J. Paul Getty Museum

      Statue of Tiberius (detail), Roman, A.D. 37, Soprintendenza Speciale per i Beni Archeologici di Napoli e Pompei – Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli, Laboratorio di Conservazione e Restauro. Currently on view at the Getty Villa following conservation and study.

      09/17/14

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