L.A. … the rain … and the raving Jesus


Alexei von Jawlensky "Young Christ" (1919-1920)

Alexei von Jawlensky
“Young Christ”

In late February I had the chance to be in Los Angeles for a long weekend. It promised to be a sweet respite from the Northeastern winter we had all been going through, a winter that alternated sub-arctic temperatures with crippling snow storms. And when I left the weather reporters were gearing up their apocalyptic terms for yet another storm which was to arrive.

Anyway, Southern California seemed a treat in February.

In 2013, Los Angeles received about 3 inches of rain for the entire year. The Friday I was there, it received a little more than 6—with much more in the San Berandino valley.

But what the rain does do is it forces one inside and we spent an enormous amount of time in the wonderful LACMA (Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

When we arrived we walked into a free exhibit of Diane von Furstenberg’s design. I know little of fashion, but I did recognize the name. The entrance of the exhibit was papered with oversize advertisements, movies, and photos of people wearing von Furstenberg’s dresses–particularly her iconic wrap-around dress.

The next room presented a phalanx of white mannequins clothed in Von Furstenberg’s dresses. In many ways, it resembled a scene from a bad science-fiction film:

The von Furstenberg exhibit at LACMA

The von Furstenberg exhibit at LACMA

The floors and walls were painted in continuous patterns, so that it appeared that one entered the pattern itself. It was all very op-art-ish. (In fact, Von Fustenberg, the LACMA and the Andy Warhol museum had collaborated to create special edition t-shirts–which were way out of my t-shirt budget category!)

The floor of the von Furstenberg exhibit..and my boot.

The floor of the von Furstenberg exhibit…and my boot.

We moved from one gallery to another–running through pouring rain from one building to the next. We entered the Linda and Stewart Resnick pavilion (for whom I once worked) where a small Hockney exhibit was being mounted. We visited the Mexican gallery with its Riveras and Kahlos. We visited an exciting exhibit on soccer–gearing up for the 2014 World Cup. And we delighted in the funky moving sculptures:  Chris Burden’s “Metropolis II, a city of 1,100 Hot-Wheels, and Jesus Rafael Soto’s remarkable “Penetrable,”  kinetic sculpture of yellow plastic ribbons that hangs from ceiling to floor in the hundreds and which one can walk through.

But it was in the modern art gallery, in the early 20th-century Eastern European room, that I discovered a delightful artist and painting that I had never known before. It was Alexei von Jawlenski’s “Young Christ.”  Working boldly apart from the long tradition of Christ portraits, this work was brightly colored and freely drawn, and it popped with excitement.

My daughter said it looked as if Christ had been to a “rave,” so that is what we christened it:  The Raving Jesus.


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