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LACMA Presents an Excellent, New Stanley Kubrick Exhibit


Kubrick Exhibiti“A director is a kind of idea and taste machine; a movie is a series of creative and technical decisions,
and it’s the director’s job to make the right decisions as frequently as possible.”
    – Stanley Kubrick

There’s a moment in the fantastic, new exhibit, Stanley Kubrick, at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art that will likely melt the brains of any bona fide film geeks.  The exhibit is arranged thematically, and as you enter the space dedicated to The Shining, you see it: the Adler typewriter on which Jack Torrance attempts to write his new novel.  Upon closer inspection, you’ll see there’s paper in the carriage with that chilling phrase, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy,” typed over and over again.   It’s thrilling to see.

And, it doesn’t stop there.

The Shining space also includes the blue dresses worn by those creepy Grady twins and the July 4th photograph that creates the film’s iconic final image.  Other pieces of interest on display are the ape and astronaut suits from 2001, masks from the orgy scenes in Eyes Wide Shut, and truly sumptuous costumes created for Barry Lyndon.

For people who self-identify as film geeks, The Shining is probably their favorite of Kubrick’s films.  It must be the horror element that geeks respond to.  But, people who are all-around film fans will recognize Kubrick as one of the truly great masters of the medium.  Not only was Kubrick a meticulous technical master of his craft, but he also infused his films with his tremendous wit and intellect.  These are films that are great to watch, but they also have so much to say.  What’s even more impressive to consider is Kubrick was able to create his uncompromising body of work within the confines of the studio system and not outside it, like so many independent auteurs must today.  Kubrick made most of his films at Warner Bros.

If you live in the greater Los Angeles area, you owe it to yourself to make it to the LACMA campus and check out this exceptional exhibit, which is co-presented by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.  With the Academy’s film museum in the advanced planning stages and scheduled to open in 2016, the quality of the Kubrick exhibit gives us a good idea what to expect from them in the future.  It’s a very exciting prospect.

Kubrick Exhibit girlsCreating an exhibit like this presents many challenges.  For starters, a film director is an artist whose working life is quite different from other artists.  A filmmaker is like the head coach of a sports team who is using his department heads to craft a film.  The art director, cinematographer, costumer designer, and actors are all there to help the director achieve his artistic vision.  The movie director is not like a painter or sculptor who might frequently work alone at their art.  Further complicating things is the finished work itself.  An art museum can’t just screen the films (though LACMA will be screening Kubrick’s movies as part of the exhibit, but more on that later).  

“It’s a challenge,” Jarrett Gregory, the curator of Stanley Kubrick at LACMA, said in a recent interview.  “It’s an interesting challenge.  You can’t show the works themselves.”

Since Kubrick’s films can’t be shown as part of the exhibit itself, Ms. Gregory said the complicated part becomes showing the works without showing the works.  In other words, it would be like showing the lead-up to an artist creating a piece of sculpture and then not actually exhibiting the sculpture itself.  Tricky, no?  

Originally organized at Deutsches Filmmuseum in Frankfort, Germany, this is the first time the exhibit has been on view at an art museum.  Previously, it has only shown at movie museums.  This created another editorial challenge for the curator, as she had to determine which pieces in the collection would be on view (and which wouldn’t) and how they would be arranged in the Art of the Americas Building.  Ms. Gregory chose not to display items like movie ticket stubs or Kubrick’s personal awards, which possess great sentimental value but don’t provide any understanding into Kubrick as an artist.  Instead of just being a memorabilia show, the Kubrick exhibit provides great insight to the auteur’s creative process.  Kubrick’s belief in meticulous research for each of his films is very effectively on display, as is the profound way he was influenced by film noir.  It’s also great to see his early photographs from Look magazine and how his work as a photographer helped to develop his own eye for shot composition.  Viewers will be able to geek out at the Star Child from 2001 or Malcolm McDowell’s costume from A Clockwork Orange, but they’ll also gain greater insight into one of our true masters.

Also beginning this month, the film program at LACMA will be presenting 2012: A Kubrick Odyssey, the first screening series inspired by the exhibit which will present all of Kubrick’s films in chronological order on campus at the Bing Theater.   Highlights include Dr. Strangelove on November 30 and 2001: A Space Odyssey on December 1.  Other film series inspired by the Kubrick exhibit will follow, such as a series presenting science fiction films directly influenced by 2001.  And, in 2013, LACMA will be presenting an all-day symposium on Eyes Wide Shut in cooperation with University of the Arts London.  It’s a massive amount of great stuff for the L.A. community.

Stanley Kubrick will be on view at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art through June 30, 2013.  For more information about dates and tickets, you can check out LACMA’s website.




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