In an increasingly small world that spans politics, culture and commerce, The Broad will present an interpretation of the elusive globalizing forces at work in contemporary society in Oracle, a free collection installation this spring that will fill the museum’s first-floor galleries with more than 30 works from the Broad collection.
Opening April 29, 2017, the four-month installation will feature works by over 20 artists including El Anatsui, Mark Bradford, Peter Halley, William Kentridge, Julie Mehretu, Shirin Neshat, Albert Oehlen, Jeff Wall and Terry Winters, plus recent acquisitions by Ericka Beckman, Sterling Ruby, Oscar Murillo, Tauba Auerbach and Andreas Gursky. Four artworks in the installation will make their debut in Los Angeles, including one work completed this year.
From everyday experiences to protest movements as monumental as the Arab Spring uprisings across the Middle East, to themes that probe systems of social control or examine global commerce, artworks in Oracle tackle the effects of organizational frameworks on global events and private individuals. Some works in the installation symbolize marketplace machinations, both official and unofficial, while others are meditations on games, surveillance, vast data sets, mathematical and biological patterns, and even the logic of art itself. Just under the surface of the works in Oracle is an air of anxiety, as if individuals’ freedoms within these manmade phenomena are illusory or beyond reach.
Oracle will feature a solo presentation of paintings by Albert Oehlen, abstract paintings so thoroughly and cleverly steeped in an aesthetic of excess and indulgence that the artist persuasively communicates a visual picture of breakdown. Oehlen’s works portray a world on the brink of collapse, delicately navigating an overwhelming and anxious complexity.
Julie Mehretu’s monumental painting Cairo, 2013, presents the ancient Egyptian city caught in a furious wind blowing off the Sahara, its structures and history extending into black and white vectors. Simultaneously, the work portrays Cairo as the contemporary, revolutionary city in the political spotlight of the Arab Spring, which raised the world’s consciousness about government suppression and citizen-led change. Cairo embodies dichotomies: ancient and contemporary, social and political, mass and individual, while expressing a city’s life and the complexity of its continued existence.
Like Mehretu, Mark Bradford’s mixed media collages Across 110th Street, 2008, and Boreas, 2007, combine abstraction and mapping. Bradford’s work also speaks to the two works by Terry Winters in the installation—–Branching Structures, 1996, and Untitled , 2001. Whereas Bradford and Mehretu’s map-based works often look at social and geographic systems, Winters’ work is inspired by his exploration into equally complex biological and mathematical systems.
Ericka Beckman’s You The Better, 1983/2015, was acquired by the Broad collection in 2016 and includes a digitized 16 millimeter film and set pieces with synchronized lighting that comprise the installation. The 32-minute film examines games of chance and the powerlessness of players to affect the outcome, drawing the viewer into the action with a life-size projection.
Iranian-born, United States-based artist Shirin Neshat creates films and photographs that investigate the rigors of Islamic law’s effect on gender politics and daily life. The artist’s immersive installation Rapture, 1999, will be on view in Oracle . Shot in Morocco and featuring two black-and-white projections shown on opposite walls, the work depicts a divided world where architecture and landscape stand as metaphors for entrenched cultural beliefs about men and women.
One of the installation’s most recently acquired works, Tauba Auerbach’s Shadow Weave – Chiral Fret Wave, 2015, will be on view for the first time in Los Angeles. The black-and-white strips of canvas create a pattern at once engaged in ancient technologies of weaving and redolent of digital imagery, specifically pixelation. Combining science, mathematics and aesthetics, Auerbach’s painting invites viewers to engage in its layered effect—– both its mesmerizing patterns that create contemporary trompe-l’oeil and its literal layers of woven canvas that make up multiple oscillating planes while simultaneously approaching flatness.
In Thomas Ruff’s jpeg series, the artist enlarges images to a scale where they become extremely pixelated. In a time when the constant bombardment of images leads to desensitization, Ruff uses abstraction as a tool to re-sensitize. Like Ruff who examines the dissemination of images in the digital age, Colombian-born, London-based artist Oscar Murillo explores modes of contemporary distribution. Another recent acquisition, Murillo’s trade today, 2014–15 will make its L.A. debut. Consisting of eight flag-like canvases hanging from steel bars, the work examines today’s borderless economies.
One of the most recently completed and acquired works, Andreas Gursky’s Amazon, 2016, will be on view in Oracle. The photograph, spanning more than 13 feet, captures a rare moment of calm in an Amazon.com warehouse, devoid of the workers who usually occupy the space. The image is in crisp focus, filled with row after row of miscellaneous goods in no discernible order. In this timely work, Gursky masterfully illustrates a mass distribution system built from algorithms, its patterns so complicated as to appear odd or even random. Amazon inspires an archaeological approach, uncovering a moment in time—– a strata of the contemporary cultural landscape—–through a plethora of artifacts produced for consumption.
Los Angeles artist Sterling Ruby’s recently acquired work, SP272 (1), SP272 (2), 2014, a large scale diptych, will be on view for the first time in L.A. The spray painted canvases contain fluorescent pinks and greens in dystopic landscapes.
Oracle will be on view in The Broad’s first-floor galleries from April 29 through Sept. 3, 2017 and is accessible with free general admission tickets. The Broad’s third-floor galleries will continue to show a robust and changing selection of postwar and contemporary works from the Broad collection.
The Broad is located at 221 S. Grand Ave., LA, 90012; For more information on The Broad and to sign up for updates, please visit thebroad.org