For their newest first-floor exhibit, the curatorial team at the Broad decided to craft a show that wasn’t limited to any single artist, era, or style. Instead, the art on display in A Journey That Wasn’t is held together by a concept. Every piece in the exhibit finds its creator thinking about the passing of time.
How they tackle that question is different for each of the artists in the show. A massive Ed Ruscha diptych at the exhibit’s entrance sets visitors up for the experience. The pair of nearly 28-foot-long panels shows Ruscha recalling a mural he spotted in Mexico City. The first, “Azteca,” is him recreating it as it was when he saw it; the second, “Azteca In Decline,” reimagines it as it would look some time later, weathered, peeling, and almost melting away.
“We start this exhibition about time with this, because it gives a literal sense of before and after,” curator Sarah Loyer says. “Then some of the other works become more conceptual.”
Those conceptual interpretations of time take a variety of forms. Two arresting video pieces on display immerse the viewer in an visceral experience of duration and process. “A Journey That Wasn’t,” the Pierre Huyghe piece from which the exhibit borrows its name, is a single large screen, which plays a recording of a performance from 2006, which creatively recreated an actual trip Huyghe took to Antarctica in search of a rare albino penguin. The piece puts the viewer in the perspective of a member of the expedition, moving through a vast, icy landscape.
A gallery over, “The Visitors,” a 2012 video piece by Ragner Kjartansson is a highlight of the show. The piece was installed as part of the very first exhibition at the Broad when the museum opened in 2015, and despite being tucked into a slightly hidden location, it became one of the most popular pieces with visitors. For A Journey That Wasn’t, it’s been brought back out and installed in a large, immersive viewing space
In the piece, Kjartansson took nine musicians to the historic Rokeby farm in upstate New York. Each musician was filmed in a different room of the farmhouse, playing the same piece of music for just over an hour. They were all filmed simultaneously, in a single take. Nine screens each show one loop of footage, blown up larger than life, each with its own audio track. If you stay for a while, you’ll start to notice the musicians’ performances subtlety decaying and changing as they repeat the short composition over and over.
Elsewhere, photographs from Bernd and Hilla Becher’s iconic “Water Towers” series document the last standing remains of outdated industrial infrastructure in post-war Germany. In Sherrie Levine’s 1981 work “After Russell Lee: 1 – 60,” a recent acquisition by the Broad on display in L.A. for the first time ever, Levine re-stages 60 images documented by Depression-era photographer Russell Lee, commenting on how the decades have changed rural American life, and how context and authorship can change how we understand an image.
Since this is 2018, every museum exhibit tends to have a piece that will continually be captured for Instagram—and for A Journey That Wasn’t, the piece that seems to be the favorite photo-op is an eye-catching sculpture by Ron Mueck, “Seated Woman.” Created in 1999-2000, the small mixed media work shows an elderly woman sitting, bent forward, hands clasped. It has an uncanny feeling, and falls somewhere in between hyper-realistic and lifelike; despite being a physical object, it seems almost digitally animated. Even though the piece is barely over two feet tall, it draws the viewer immediately.
The exhibit, which will occupy the first-level galleries of the museum until early 2019, is made up entirely of works from the Broad’s permanent collection, although many of the 55 pieces are being shown for the first time. Unlike recent temporary shows at the museum, admission to this exhibit is free and included with general admission tickets–though if you want to see it, you might still want to plan ahead. Even now, Broad officials say they’re still at or near capacity every hour the museum is open to the public, every single day.
Accompanying the exhibition is a series of special live events. Two of this year’s Summer Happenings events are inspired directly by the show, The first one fell on June 30, the same day as the public opening of the exhibit, featuring performances by Gang Gang Dance, Terry Riley, Jean Grae, and more. The last event in the series, on September 29, also draws from the show, with performances evoking time, repetition, and memory by Kim Gordon, YoshimiO, DJ Michael “5000” Watts, and others. The Summer Happenings series, which also includes events on July 28 and August 25, turns the entire museum into what founding director and chief curator Joanne Heyler describes as a “bustling hive of performance and activity.”
Stay on top of the latest in L.A. food and culture. Sign up for our newsletters today.