West Hollywood, California

As part of our time in the Los Angeles California area, we made an overnight stop in West Hollywood. Yep, we saw the famous Hollywood sign from our hotel window. But we also visited another great museum.

LACMA aka Los Angeles County Museum of Art

LACMA is the city’s largest and premier art museum. Its eight-building campus provides what amounts to a high-level view of much of the world’s art, from a smattering of prehistoric pieces through a somewhat broader portrayal of contemporary art, including two buildings that are devoted to Asian Art. Although this effort to provide depth certainly has some limitations, it provides a very nice survey and some of its collections can bring rewards to all but the most focused of visitors. And for these, a wide range of specialized and temporary exhibits provide opportunities to focus. And this does not even begin to account for the dozens of the area’s smaller, more specialized museums and galleries that provide more focused coverage of everything from classical sculpture to contemporary expressions and from Jewish art to video art. We, therefore, were happy to, and were amply rewarded by a return visit to LACMA while we were recently in the area.

We began our excursion with one of the museum’s more specialized, temporary exhibits, one that examined the ways in which Marc Chagall’s art was influenced by and played a role in stage performances. In addition to displaying a number of Chagall’s oils, prints and sketches, it explained his history in designing backdrops and costumes for dozens of ballets and operas, beginning with his designing the backdrop screens and costumes for the American Ballet Theater to his extravagant, fantastical (and sometimes downright wild) sets and costumes for productions of important operas such as The Firebird and The Magic Flute.

Chagal CostumesChagall magix flute

Another special exhibit in the same building (the Resnick Pavilion) provided a retrospective of the instrumental role that the Los Angeles and New York branches of one daring gallery (the Dyan Gallery) played in introducing several new genres of avant garde art (including Abstract Expressionism, Pop, Minimalist and Land art to the collectors from the 1950s through the early 1970s.

Chamberlain - Rayyvredd

Other temporary exhibits ranged from traditional Japanese use of cloisonné in producing vivid yet extremely subtle ceramics to contemporary North American artists’ conceptions of “Home”. These images ranging from aerial photos of huge subdivisions, to a full-scale model of Unabomber Theodore Kaczynski’s shack, ironically painted in colors from Martha Stewart’s “approved” color palette to deconstructed of reconstructed versions of home furniture to a model of a jail cell that represents the current “home” for all to many Americans.

homes Kaczynski shack

Among some of the museums’ other particularly noteworthy exhibitions and collections of:

  • Chris Burden’s Metropolis II, a rooms-sized, stylistic, kinetic representation of a modern city, with its high-rises, parks, city neighborhoods and endless streams of traffic looping all around and through.
  • Carlos Almaraz’s “Playing with Fire”, a display consisting of dozens of vividly colored, multi-textural paintings of contemporary urban life consisting of everything from curvaceous towers through pastoral parks and home scenes, to his specialty of ultraviolent, fiery car crashes and one especially poignant close-range murder.

Almaraz playing with fire 01Almaraz playing with fire 02Almaraz murder

  • Abstraction in German Art, which covers the particularly fertile years from 1907 to 1925.

Zeller - The Orator

  • Huge displays of delicately-carved, often whimsical Japanese Netsukes and precisely painted Chinese snuff bottles.

Netsuke 01Netsuke 02

  • The largest display of Korean art in the country, with a particularly interesting display of contemporary glazed pottery.

And all of this is in addition to the museum’s strong permanent collections of everything from Mesoamerican, 17th-century European, Impressionist, Cubist, Abstract Expressionist and Japanese landscape art. And this is not to speak of its galleries dedicated to Cubism (especially Picasso), Fauvism (especially Matisse) and Dada/Surrealism. Nor can one help but to marvel at some of the lustrous two millennia-old blown glass and quasi-abstract (almost contemporary appearing) sculptures from the Near and Middle East.

Overall, an incredibly full day, with barely enough time at the end to literally breeze through much of the early European and Latin American collections.

West Hollywood Restaurants

Angelini Osteria a wonderful, casual Italian restaurant where we began with a very crisp flatbread and complementary pasta salad with onion and red and yellow peppers. Four our main dishes, we had grilled lamb chops (three large ribs) and a huge portion of beautifully seasoned grilled octopus, both served with greens.

Catch is one of the hottest new restaurants in the city. We managed to score reservations the day they became available for the date we were going to be in town. We especially enjoyed one of the signature dishes: Truffle sashimi, consisting of both tuna and Hamachi with chili oil, ponzu, caviar and black truffle. Less so the Alaskan king crab hand roll. Our main dish, another specialty, was somewhere in between: this dish contained the meat equivalent of a 2.5 lb. lobster but, instead of all of the work of dealing with the body, it came as five split tails and three claws. A very civilized way to eat lobster. It was served Cantonese style with sake, oyster sauce, scallions and garlic. While quite nice, we felt the oyster sauce was a bit too pronounced for the delicate lobster. Nice, but not our favorite preparation. We had this with a nice 2014 Chablis from Domaine Vocoret.

Hollywood Hotel

We  love Kimpton Hotels. As they are not everywhere we travel, when we can, we try to stay in one. This time we stayed at the Kimpton Everly Hotel in Hollywood. The first surprise was that parking was $42 and the valets could not identify any alternative. Great! Usually there are options around, but apparently not here. We reluctantly parked with the valet as it is late and we were tired. In our room, we found the normal comfortable bed, yoga mat and bathrobes (thank goodness they no longer do those god-awful tiger robes). We discovered the next morning that we had to request to have a coffee maker in the room. Seriously? $375 a night for a room and we had to request a coffee maker? Whatever. The best part was that we could see the Hollywood sign from our window. Bottom line: way overpriced even if it was competitive. Next time, we stay in another area.

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