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  • Writer's pictureEmily Brantley

A Jaunt to the Ahmanson Museum

"The Sheaf" by Henri Matisse, 1953

The Ahmanson Museum at LACMA

There are days you need to break the routine and venture out, finding something to awaken a new interest in your work. I was looking to learn, expand my mind, and find some inspiration. Happily, I live in a city where great art and culture is at my fingertips, and so my roommate and I headed off to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art for the day. If you are looking for a museum with a wide variety of art throughout the eras, the LACMA is your one-stop shop. With six different gallery buildings and an ever-changing selection of featured exhibitions, you are sure to find something that strikes a chord with your senses.

We spent most of our time at the Ahmanson Building. This building alone houses an incredible array of art throughout the ages with some of the most famous historical artists' work kept here in their modern art collection. Among the most recognizable names are Matisse, Richter, Kandinsky, Chagall, Degas, Picasso, Rothko, and Pollock. I particularly enjoyed the collection of Pablo Picasso's work, a collection which spanned his creative lifetime. Viewing his work and how it changed through the years is fascinating. His sketches started with a decent amount of realism and quickly evolved into the fractal, abstract style with which we are now so familiar. Two sketches, “Swineherd” from 1906 and “Woman with Hat in Armchair” from 1915, the Ahmanson chose to display side-by-side, showing the drastic change and development of Picasso’s style in just nine years.

"Bust of a Seated Woman" by Pablo Picasso, 1938

The Ahmanson also holds a treasure trove of German Expressionist pieces. If this is an era in art that interests you, you will not leave disappointed. Richter, Behrens, Bloch, Pechstein, Kirchner and more--Their highly politically-charged and social commentaries wrest your attention with their harsh and powerful colors and shapes. The Swiss and German Dada movement, too, is given ample space. In this display, we gallery-goers can raise eyebrows at the madness of this art movement as artists pushed the limits of their viewers and questioned what defined art. Dada artists often painted to describe music, reflecting rhythm and pulse in a way both erratic and ordered that can only be explained by how a carefully arranged musical composition can sound like a cacophony and yet be intentionally structured.

A favorite collection of mine is that of Giacometti's sculptures. Rightfully, these sculptures are given their own room and stand there in solemn solitude. Made of bronze, his sculptures depict a shocking emaciation that reflects Giacometti's reaction to the Second World War. His sculpted people are faceless, unrecognizable, and hopelessly thin. They are holocaust victims, starved and broken and yet somehow still upright. They are a world left in tatters, isolated, barely clinging to life after a war that took millions of lives depleted a generation of young men and shattered nations.

"Large Standing Woman" by Alberto Giacometti, 1960

Changing the vibe, just around the corner is a spectacular collection of Abstract Expressionism. Here is Rothko, Pollock, and Warhol. This room is a treat, full of mid-century famous artists and larger-than-life pieces. Sit on the couch and ponder Rothko's "White Center" (1957), a roughly 5x6' oil painting of brick red with a crimson "plus sign" and white paint in between. Next to "White Center" are Jackson Pollock's "Black and White Number 20" (1951) and "Number 15" (1950). His splatters are known throughout the world. The standard thought,"I could do that" always goes through my mind, yet he was the first to become known for this, and the method to his seemingly erratic splattered style starts to become apparent the longer you examine his work.

"Campbell's Soup Can" by Andy Warhol, 1964

This is just a taste of what can be seen at the Ahmanson, let alone the LACMA in general. We also made brief jaunts into the Broad Contemporary Museum where you can see the work of current artists and artists of recent years. (My favorite piece was a piece by Robert Gober--a large wedge of Swiss cheese made of wax with a sparse head of human hair aptly named “Long Haired Cheese.”) The Pavilion of Japanese Art also merits a visit. The architecture of the building alone is a work of art, and inside it are housed treasures of Japanese culture, from beautifully painted paper screens to pottery dating from 3000-2000 B.C.E.

Here it is, folks, the cheese! "Long Haired Cheese" by Robert Gober

I hope this whet your appetite! Take the time to visit LACMA sometime soon. Grow your mind. Ask WHY these painters were great and learn about their historical context and significance.

5905 Wilshire Boulevard Los Angeles, CA 90036



  • Monday 11 am–5 pm

  • Tuesday 11 am–5 pm

  • Wednesday Closed

  • Thursday 11 am–5 pm

  • Friday 11 am–8 pm

  • Saturday 10 am–7 pm

  • Sunday 10 am–7 pm

To Art!


P.S. This installation look familiar? An instant favorite, this installation of lampposts at LACMA is catnip for photographers!

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