Lichtenstein, Warhol, and Water…The Broad Museum

First off, The Broad is pronounced like “Road” with a B in the front, not broad…the tasteless label for women which is all too common to the female ear. I am not an art buff, nor do I pretend to be; However, I am a lover of most things new, exciting and different. While I would never choose to live in LA, I do enjoy a weekend jaunt down south to the City of Angels. LA, being what it is, there is definitely a “scene”. A friend of mine, who is by the very definition and look a hipster, used to live in the hipster Mecca neighborhoods of Echo Park/Silver Lake and Downtown Los Angeles. So, I was confident that she would manage to navigate us successfully through the chaotic Downtown streets that instantaneously bring back the traumatic memories of learning to how to drive for the first time.

The Broad is LA’s newest hot spot that is a free contemporary art museum. While at The Broad, one will experience many wonderful installations and engage with a variety of challenging and thought provoking art pieces. Although, I’ve taken a few introductory art classes, and have extended family members who are successful artists, not much of it has rubbed off on me. Luckily, thanks to being in the midst of the information age, I knew just enough to make it through the floors of the museum to make it interesting. I appreciated how this museum does not assume that you are an art history major or have any idea what you’re looking at. I used my Sociology degree to deduce what story each artist was attempting to convey. Most of the time, I felt I had a pretty good grasp and other pieces, I was left questioning. Admittedly, thanks to a little friend called ADD, I have a history of attempting to see how fast I can make it through an art museum. This time, I found myself actually savoring and being still with a majority of the collection.

As you enter the museum, you are immediately overcome with awe with the architectural design of the building. The rounded cave like stone walls that surround you, along with the two whimsical art pieces that greet you, immediately evoke feelings of being somewhere special and unique much like an amusement park. Prior to entering the museums first floor of art displays, my friend and LA tour guide, insisted that we put in our names into the electronic queue so we could be notified by text message when it was our turn to enter the ever popular Infinity Mirror Room by Yayoi Kusama. The Broad’s collection is quite impressive. I was surprised to see many works of Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol. Up until this point, I had only seen their works on greeting cards, coffee mugs and uta bags. The brilliant colors bursting from the canvases are exactly why they are successful graphic design choices for consumers. The next memorable stop was the large-scaled work by Robert Therrien. His over-sized table and chairs display, Under the Table, allows visitors to revert back to childhood when they could move about under the table with the feeling of ample room and seeking a special space. My temptation to climb the chairs and table was overridden by my desire to complete my rounds at the museum without being asked to leave. After all, I was still 105 in the queue (about an hour and a half wait) until it was my turn to step into the very popular Infinity Mirror Room. 

Jeff Koons’ metallic structures of balloon animals, was another pause in my journey. Again, my urge to touch the structures was curbed by the ever-present museum staff and my friend who gave me the raised eyebrow look of death as I leaned a little too close to the balloon dog. One of the more ear opening, jaw dropping moments for me was Ragnar Kjartansson’s film, The Visitors. As you walk into this dark room, you are met with 360 degrees of nine different screens. Each screen captures video of various musicians located in different rooms of one Victorian home. Incredibly, each artist is playing/singing simultaneously and in harmony to a simple, but catchy chorus. We eventually found a cozy corner in the pitch black room so that we could catch the video from beginning to end. The music lover that I am, I was caught up in the melodious hook of the harmony longer than the average visitor. This audio visual work is worth the trip to the museum alone. 

In the meantime, I checked my iPhone and saw that we were only 33 in the line to see Kusama’s work. It got a little chilly for me in the building; I’m assuming they must keep this crisp temperature to offset the body heat of the onlookers and preserve the mediums chosen for each work. Conveniently, right outside the museum there are a few places to get a cafe latte to warm up and rejuvenate for the remainder of the tour. By the time I finished my latte, my phone was alerted that we needed to report to the installation. I could not wait. 

I began asking my friend as many questions as I could think of. She explained, “it’s as big as a small office and lined with mirrors and LED lights.” While patiently waiting in line, there were two people in front of us that I overheard mention “water.” I asked my friend, “Is there water?” “Yes, I didn’t tell you; there’s a swimming pool in there.” She said with a smirk and the most smart ass yet funny tone. I didn’t know what to expect. When it was finally our turn to enter, the last thing I heard my friend say was, “make sure you walk to the end of the mat.” This rubber walkway was the only thing I could see which was something I was sure was not an optical illusion. My eyes had not yet adjusted and my balance was a little off. I was following what I thought were her instructions, and suddenly felt myself drop into a pond of ankle deep water whilst wearing my huarache sandals. I grabbed for what I thought might be an anchored object, but nope I ended up clinging to one of the LED light chords, which I hit on my way into the pool. By the way, the whole floor of the room is a shallow pool except that rubber walkway. I began yelling, “What the hell?! I’m in water; there’s water in here. Why didn’t you tell me there was water?” She quipped back while laughing hysterically, “I told you to stay on the walkway; don’t go to the end of the walkway. I didn’t know there was water.” Meanwhile, our 45 second visit to this room had dwindled down to about 15 seconds. I regained my balance and could see the mirrors, the dark mirror of water below me, the glass mirrors encasing the room, and the black strings of LED lights hanging from the ceiling…some of which were still swaying from my fall. 5 seconds remaining and I was able to take in a short breath of all the wonder that this instillation bestows. Time was up, the staff opened the door, and I attempted to stomp the water off my feet before exiting in order to cover up the evidence of the incident. The surprise of how much I enjoyed myself made me want to plan my next museum adventure. 

*Photos provided by ©Felicia E. Rueff
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