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Letters from America

In this second installment gallery owner Justin Cook shares more tales from LA

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In the second part of our 'Letters from America' Hungerford’s Oil gallery owner Justin Cook talks about the world class art offerings at LA's Broad Museum.


As I walked up to the Broad Museum the queue was much shorter and I waited in line. The Broad is a new contemporary museum built by philanthropists Eli and Edythe Broad. The museum is home to more than 2,000 works of art and holds one of the most prominent collections of postwar and contemporary art worldwide.

The first thing that strikes you about the Broad is the amazing design and architecture with a massive veil that covers the whole building. The Broad is designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro. I could write pages and pages about the art in this place but will cut to the chase.

I made my way immediately to the Jean-Michel Basquiat room and feasted my eyes on the four they had hanging...simply awesome. Basquiat was a NY graffiti street-based artist who managed to break through to the high end gallery scene before his life was tragically cut short by a heroin overdose in 1988.

Other in-depth representations of influential contemporary artists at the Broad such as Barbara Kruger, Cy Twombly, Ed Ruscha, Kara Walker, Christopher Wool, Jeff Koons, Joseph Beuys, Jasper Johns, Cindy Sherman & Robert Rauschenberg were all on show and were simply world class.

The highlights for me however were Kara Walker whose work represents the dark history of slavery through silhouettes of thin black paper attached to the wall showing scenes of brutality of a sexual and violent nature giving a needed reminder of what division and hate can produce. Kara also makes the same imagery in slim laser cut metal sculptures.

I walked into another room and was greeted by a giant triptych of a naked woman painted by our very own Jenny Saville and to say this was awe inspiring and epic would be an understatement, also a beautiful charcoal drawing of three figures on a bed.

By this time my senses were pretty tripped out and in part I think this was the reason for my faux pas on the next work I saw, a giant table and chairs entitled "Under the table" by Robert Therrien. Just standing next this huge installation really played with my spatial awareness and made me think about my dad who is an antique restorer and carver and before I knew what I was doing I started knocking the top of the chair seat with my knuckles, Luigi gave me a humorous and concerned look as I was starting to feel the real desire to climb on the chair and sit on top of the table. At this point some of the Broad staff saw what was happening and walked over to me and quite rightly asked me to cease and desist touching the work. Luigi later commented that he too thought I was going to jump on the table and we both laughed with visions of me becoming part of this magnificent installation piece and causing a real commotion at the Broad, I could almost see the headline...."Brit turns the tables abroad".

The next and probably my favourite artist that I had not heard about before was Leon Golub, an American painter from Chicago who died in 2004. Golub started his career in 1942 as a U.S. Army cartographer stationed in Europe. He then became a vocal opponent against the Vietnam war. This early life experience gave him both horror and inspiration in equal measure and helped create brutal and gritty works that just stop you in your tracks.

His most celebrated work was the series Mercenaries & Interrogation that displayed huge figures engaged in some form of struggle, his technique of applying multi layers of varnish on his work and then scraped the paint and varnish to create a rough, almost three-dimensional effect. The broad were displaying Interrogation I, Interrogation II, Mercenaries I & Mercenaries III.

By this time I was at pretty much information overload so decided to chill out and finish my visit with Yayoi Kusama's "Infinity Mirrored Room" that was a mirror-lined chamber housing a dazzling and seemingly endless LED light display that was so so soothing and needed. As L'or, Luigi and I took a bus back into Hollywood all the images we had seen were so brightly emblazoned and printed in our brains we just all sat there in silence.

We all decided that the next day we would visit Bergamot station gallery complex in Santa Monica.

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