The Broad, a new contemporary art museum located on Grand Avenue and 2nd street in downtown Los Angeles, is home to a collection of 2,000 works of art owned by philanthropists, Eli and Edythe Broad. It is situated directly across from Frank Gehry's Walt Disney Concert Hall. Admission is free. However, due to popular demand, advance tickets are sold out until the end of May.
On April 15, USC's Visions & Voices made it possible for students, faculty, staff and many to visit The Broad. The museum includes works by Jeff Koons, Roy Lichtenstein, Kara Walker, Barbara Kruger, Andy Warhol and many other contemporary and post-modern artists.
The stunning honey-comb like architecture of the 120,000 square foot building designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfo allows flattering natural light to pour in and accentuate the art on the top floor which is accessed by an escalator that penetrates the building's core from the ground level. The escalator disappears into a concrete tunnel, bypassing the second floor where the art not displayed is stored, just before placing its passengers on the third floor, the area with the most art on display. The gleaming white walls are spotless, giving the museum a futuristic and surreal feel.
Barbara Kruger's "Untitled (Your Body is a Battleground)" commands attention in third floor gallery. Though created in 1989, this piece supporting the pro-choice movement as a poster for the Women's March on Washington remains intriguing and relevant. The subject of the photo is a perfectly symmetrical, anonymous woman who embodies society's representation of femininity with her plump lips, long eyelashes and doe eyes. Her face takes up the whole frame and is halved down the middle, into two equally-sized segments, which seems to represent the two sides of the debate on abortion. Both sides are black and white, one shown in negative coloring, and the other normal. The woman stares forward, making it difficult for the viewer to look elsewhere. The words "Your Body is a Battle Ground" are plastered across her image in red with white lettering. The text pops due to the contrast of the white lettering against the red box that surrounds it. The red box works almost as a highlighter, which makes it stand out and catch the viewer's attention. The juxtaposition of the black and white background and the red-boxed white text emboldens the statement even more. Kruger forces the viewer to stop and think about the conflict of abortion as fight over a woman's rights to her own body.
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Another thought-provoking painting, Marlene Dumas's "Wall of Weeping" is based on a photograph of Israeli soldiers searching Palestinian men against a wall; however, Dumas omitted the soldiers in her recreation and "cropped" the photo to focus only on the men against the wall. This change in perspective completely alters the meaning and interpretation of the image. From this perspective, the men look as though they might be praying instead of being searched. It looks as if they could even be Jews, praying at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem. It seems as if Dumas is trying to display that, despite all of their conflict, Palestinians and Jews share many similarities involving struggle and discrimination not often portrayed in media. Her genius play on the original picture forces viewers to look at the Israeli/Palestinian conflict through a different lens, and realize that these two cultures have a lot more in common they might think. This piece gives hope to the idea that maybe one day, these nations will be able to recognize their similarities in struggle and somehow make peace with each other.
The Broad is not only incredible due to its fascinating architecture, incredible art, and free admission, but also because of the vast selection of works that address social and ethical issues. I found that while roaming the museum, I was encouraged by many pieces to question certain topics, including the ones portrayed by Barbara Kruger and Marlene Dumas. I was able to look at controversial problems from different perspectives because of the artists' unique portrayal, and I left feeling that I truly learned more about the world around me.
The Broad Museum is located at 221 S. Grand Ave., Los Angeles. For more information, please visit www.thebroad.org.