Exhibitions and Installations

Pacific Standard Time Is for Kids!

Exploring De Wain Valentine’s Gray Column. Photo: Damon Cason Reiser. From J. Is a Bird

Exploring reflections in De Wain Valentine’s 1975–76 sculpture Gray Column. Artwork © De Wain Valentine. Photo © Damon Cason Reiser. Courtesy of Julianne Reiser, from her blog J. Is a Bird

If you’re a parent, you might be wondering whether Pacific Standard Time is safe for tender eyes. It’s true that several PSTinLA shows tear into grown-up themes, from feminist protest to LGBTQ aesethetics, but there are also plenty of ways for pint-sized Baldessaris and Saars to get in on the action.

Here at the Getty, for example, Crosscurrents in L.A. Painting and Sculpture 1950–1970 is full of works with a sense of humor that kids totally dig. How did clouds get trapped in a box, and why is the Los Angeles County Museum on fire? Try hunting for the world’s tiniest banana and the sculpture that’s so happy to see you it breaks into dance.

Heading downstairs from the Exhibitions Pavilion, you can star on video monitors in Bruce Nauman’s Four Corner Piece or test out your reflections in De Wain Valentine’s Gray Column. Julianne Reiser, who visited Gray Column with her kids and wrote about it on her blog J. Is A Bird, told me that both her children were immediately drawn to Valentine’s sculpture. “The first thing they saw was themselves, which was a great way for them to interact with it,” she explained. Funny faces were made.

Across SoCal are several other Pacific Standard Time shows great for families. LACMA’s California Design show is full of things shiny (an Airstream trailer), wacky (a lobster swimsuit), and playful (an original 1959 Barbie). Several exhibitions and artworks appeal to kids’ sense of wonder, from colored light in at the Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego and a giant tower of Warhol’s Brillo Boxes at the Pacific Asia Museum. And at the Natural History Museum, you can even sneak in a little art between your dinos and mammals.

You can find more suggestions in the Pacific Standard Time family guides, with topics such as design, performance art, and photography.

Lots of museums participating in Pacific Standard Time have been putting on creative programs for families. In October, we hosted a free daylong extravaganza here at the Getty Center, which included mail art making, Chicano art-inspired paper fashion, tie-dye body pillows, and more, all set against the musical backdrop of a toy piano, tubas, a travertine wall played like xylophone, singing, and alphorns. If was full and experimental and fun, and we captured some of the moments here.

The day also included a communal recreation of the Peace Tower to which kids and families contributed political messages such as “More Art, Less War,” “Less Homework,” and my personal favorite, “Try Not to Be Picky.”

Communal recreation of the Peace Tower at the Getty Center Family Festival

There’s lots more coming up, including a winter-themed family day at the Orange County Museum of Art this Saturday. Rounding the corner to 2012, look for a family day at the Chinese American Museum and a “Cool School” workshop at Barnsdall, both on January 21, and California cool workshops on Sundays in February at LACMA. Plus, many museums (including the Getty) invite school visits for students to explore the galleries with their teachers.

There’s one more bonus to bringing the kids to Pacific Standard Time: you get to come, too. As Julianne told me, “The fun of having kids is that you get to relive the fun stuff, but you also get to show them the things you find important and expose them to the things you wish you could have done when you were younger.” Like making funny faces at sculpture.

(Video by Steve Saldivar)

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  1. CS
    Posted December 5, 2011 at 7:16 pm | Permalink

    In what way is feminism and LGBTQ-related art not appropriate for children?

    • Posted December 6, 2011 at 8:46 am | Permalink

      Hi CS, thanks for your comment. I don’t mean to suggest that any particular exhibitions or themes are necessarily inappropriate; I realize that’s for parents to decide. It’s true, however, that some exhibitions treat complex topics or have artworks that may be confusing for small children, or difficult for parents to help interpret without advance preparation; for example, artworks that depict sexuality or allude to issues such as rape or discrimination. But of course it’s a great thing when art can play a role in fostering discussion and understanding, especially for kids who are forming their identities and seeking to understand the world.

  2. Francisco Rosas
    Posted December 6, 2011 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

    I might wager that conceptual art is more challenging to explain to a child then identity politics.

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      A Chat with Photographer Tomoko Sawada

      A conversation about Japanese matchmaking traditions, self-portraiture, clothes, and identity.

      When did you start photographing yourself?
      I began making self-portraits when I was 19. It was an assignment for a photography class. I can’t even explain in Japanese why I liked them so much. It was instinctual. It’s as if I knew that this was going to be my style, that this is what I wanted to do. And I’m still doing it because I love the self-portrait, but I don’t know why. 

      What themes are you exploring in your work?
      I’m interested in the relationship between inside and outside. If you wear a sexy dress or if you wear kids clothes or casual clothes, people treat you differently. Even though you are you no matter what you wear. It’s that relationship that makes me think. 

      My new work is from when I was living in New York. When I was in New York, people didn’t think I was Japanese. Sometimes they thought I was Korean or Chines or Mongolian. Even Singaporean. It was funny, when I would go to the Japanese market, they would speak to me in English. When I went to the Korean market, they would speak to me in English again. I don’t seem to look Japanese outside of Japan. I was surprised because I think I look totally Japanese. It’s funny that people’s points of view are totally different.

      Could you talk a little about OMIAI, the series that represents a traditional Japanese matchmaking technique.
      OMIAI is a tradition that is somehow still working today. Usually, there is a matchmaker and photographs are exchanged before meeting. If both sides are interested, they can meet for lunch or dinner accompanied by their parents and steps for marriage proceed from there. In the old days, some people chose their marriage partner just through photographs, without even meeting each other. 

      When OMIAI was exhibited in Japan I saw people making various comments in from of the work. People would say things like, “she looks like a good cook; surely she would prepare delicious meals every day,” or “ this girl could be a perfect bride for my son,” or “I can tell she would not be a good housewife,” or “she’s such a graceful girl; she must be the daughter of a decent family.” Comments like that. 

      What was the process of making that work?
      I gained 10 pounds before I started taking the pictures, and in six months I lost forty pounds, because I wanted to look different in each photo. I wanted to change the way my legs looked. 

      Every weekend I went to the hair salon and put on a kimono. Then I went to the photo studio on the street in Japan. I would take a picture and then change my clothes to western dress. Then I would go to the studio again the next weekend. 

      Did you tell the photographer how you wanted it done?
      I told him I was an artist and wanted to make photographs with him. I told him to think that each weekend new girls would show up to make the OMIAI. I didn’t want him to think of me as the same girl who came every weekend. He understood the concept. 

      We had fun. While he was taking pictures, his wife would tell me how to lose weight. She gave me many tips.

      Tomoko Sawada’s work is on view at the Getty until February 21, 2016 in “The Younger Generation: Contemporary Japanese Photography”


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