MOCA Geffen showcases bold art

Now that “Pacific Standard Time: Art in L.A. 1945-1980” is in full swing, new exhibitions are popping up left and right as part of the initiative. So it comes as no surprise that choosing from the many exhibitions under the umbrella of this new project might seem overwhelming.

But an easy way to experience this huge undertaking is by visiting one of the most intimate and hip museums near campus, the Geffen Contemporary at MOCA. A stone’s throw away from Little Tokyo, the museum is associated with the MOCA and was once a warehouse for police cars before being remodeled by legendary architect Frank O. Gehry.

The museum has housed a number of exciting and bold exhibitions, such as “Suprasensorial,” which included everything from brightly lit rooms you could walk through to a shallow, lit pool you could swim in; and “Art in the Streets,” an impressive collection of work from street artists, such as Banksy and Mister Cartoon.

The MOCA Geffen, then, is like MOCA’s kid sister — a spunky locale that is always changing its exhibitions.

Currently on display is an ambitious, intriguing exhibition no Angeleno should miss. “Under the Big Black Sun: California Art 1974-1981” might sound like the title for an apocalyptic movie, but it is in fact an adventurous look into the art in California during this time frame.

There’s hardly any connection between the pieces except for the time period, which might make the exhibition seem like a haphazard trip at first. But it’s a little like Disneyland — if you relax and go with it, you end up feeling the magic.

Stand in front of Judy Chicago’s “Rejection Quintet” and you are quickly thrown into the thoughts and personal experiences of this very important artist — important because she tracks the gender struggle within the art world. The pieces are overtly based on the female sex organ, but don’t shy away from them based just on that. Chicago’s shading is exquisite. Though her works form one cohesive whole, they still stand out as individual pieces.

Many of the pieces comment on the major movements and figures of the time. Raymond Pettibon’s posters for the punk rock band Black Flag take up an entire wall, becoming a dizzying flurry of black and white. It’s an authentic punk rock look that any other artist would be hard-pressed to re-create with the same originality.

Explore the exhibition more and you come across everything from a small room filled with a bright purple light to a video with a television showing bees on a man’s face while the sound of insects buzzing plays loudly over the speakers.

At first the sleek white walls and glass doors of the Geffen might make it somewhat daunting, but each art piece has a way of sucking you into its respective world, making you crave more.

“Under the Big Black Sun” manages to encompass what feels like the very spirit of the MOCA Geffen — a volition to create exhibitions that call for the viewer to truly interact. Even “Art in the Streets” was interactive; the graffiti artists Os Gemeos’ exhibition featured instruments for everyone to play.

Even in showcasing works from decades ago, the MOCA Geffen furthers the curatorial practices of today, challenging and exploring the ways in which art is exhibited. Though the MOCA also has new exhibitions at its location, it houses permanent exhibitions as well. It’s the Geffen that changes completely every time a new exhibition is put on display.

This means you might miss a show you really want to see, but it might also prove that, save for the adventurous spirit of the museum, nothing really remains the same for too long. It’s impressive when museums can showcase important and classic works they’ve acquired through collections, but the Geffen’s ability to change so frequently and radically makes it even more addictive.

Downtown Los Angeles has plenty to offer in terms of food, entertainment and art and the MOCA Geffen, along with “Under the Big Black Sun,” is another gem you shouldn’t leave unexplored.


Eva Recinos is a junior majoring in creative writing. Her column “Art Box” runs Thursdays.