Most of my excursions to Westwood take place at an indecent hour, due to Diddy Riese’s completely accessible hours. Fortunately for my waistline, this adventure had nothing to do with cheap and delicious ice cream sandwiches.
The Hammer museum, a public arts unit of UCLA, was founded by Armand Hammer, CEO of the Occidental Petroleum Corporation. Originally, his personal collection was going to be housed at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. After a disagreement of how it was going to be displayed, he purchased a site to construct his own museum. Armand passed away less than a month after his namesake opened, in November of 1990. Today, the Hammer is not only known for his personal collection, it’s one of the most groundbreaking and contemporary museums in the Los Angeles area. It has hosted a rotating selection of programs throughout the year, from lectures, symposia, and readings to concerts and film screenings. Their mission statement is simple:
The Hammer Museum at UCLA
believes in the promise of art and ideas
to illuminate our lives and
build a more just world.
With this in mind, I headed over to see the newest exhibit that is on display is one by the Mexican artist, Pedro Reyes. His project, pUN: the People’s United Nations, is a combined event and exhibition that places the diplomatic and global problem-solving missions that the United Nations face, onto non-political participants from all over the globe. The representatives are instructed to use social psychology, theater, and art to solve the world’s most unyielding problems: from the current violence in his home country of Mexico, to food shortages, pay equality for women, and even the downward spiral of bees.
One of the sculptures in particular, Disarm/Clock, is comprised of weapons that the Mexican police collected, then broke down and melted. Reyes then took these instruments of hate, and re-constructed them into actual instruments. He thought that they could help provide life and music, rather than take it away. For “Disarm,” Reyes, with his team assisting, used programs like Ableton Live, MIDI, and Max MSP to transform guns into pianola-esque musical instruments. For the “Clock” portion, every half hour or quarter of the hour, the mechanical clock utters a sound.
Another exhibit I stumbled on, rather literally, was choreographer Maria Hassabi’s, Plastic. Her live installation includes sloth-like performers, that slither throughout the museum. The enlisted dancers consistently enact a form of live installation in the gallery and the museum’s outdoor spaces.
If you’re full on performance art, but running low on caloric intake, there’s a cafe in the courtyard that caters to your metabolism. There, you can let each exhibit mull in your mind, as you sip a cold pressed juice, and realize you mistakenly ordered a gluten-free muffin.
Once you’ve tossed your juice bottle in the recycling bin, collect your belongings, and go upstairs to the top floor. There’s a ping-pong table that is also part of a project. The sound of visitors attempting to “Forrest Gump” it up is the exhibit. The two paddles, and cluster of bouncy balls invite any curious folk to lob a few over, as they attempt a fancy back-handed serve. I left my Roger Federer impersonation at home, so I ended up doing fairly decent.
The Hammer Museum is free, and always will be, so you don’t need to run down to a Coinstar to cover your admission costs. The gift shop is worth a gander, as I thought it was one of the best museum shops I’ve encountered. I almost added “dancer/performance artist” to my resume, as I was blinded by the bounty, and had a very close encounter with the artists of Plastic. The first item that nabbed my heart, was a shaggy reproduction of Touc, by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, on a slab of carpet.
Need I say more?
Tuesday – Friday: 11AM—8PM
Saturday – Sunday: 11AM—5PM
10899 Wilshire Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90024
Phone: (310) 443-7000