My husband and I visited our two grown children in LA recently. It was a very short visit, lasting barely 26 hours, but we had a great time together first at a Japanese restaurant famous for its “omakase” dinner and at the Getty Center.
The Getty Center is one of my favorite museums in the US since my family visited the place in 1997 when it just opened. I remembered its beautiful architecture and location, with its white lime stone columns with a panoramic view of Los Angeles, reminiscent of the Parthenon in Athens. When we visited the museum in 1997 it required visitors to make a timed reservation and to wait in a long line of cars on the serpentine road. But, this time it was much simpler: all we had to do was get there to park the car in the visitors’ parking garage at the bottom of the hill in order to catch a cable-operated tram (which did not exist when we visited the place in 1997) to the top of the hill.
The Getty Center was as beautiful and spectacular as I remembered it. However, what interested me most at the Getty Center this year (2016) was its special exhibit titled “London Calling: Bacon, Freud, Kossoff, Andrews, Auerback, and Kitaj.” I was slightly familiar with Bacon and Freud but not with Kossoff, Andrews, Auerback, or Kitaj: thus through this visit I learned a great deal more about the mid-20th-century British artists as well as Bacon and Freud. It was interesting to detect these artists’ fascination with the physical reality of post-WWII London ravaged by a ferocious war, expressed in different styles and forms, such as the mixture of the figurative and the abstract, and paints piled-up on flat canvases. Perhaps, the war was much more physically damaging to their sense of existence than others. These six artists were connected by their friendship with each other as well as their identities as the oppressed, Bacon as gay while four others as Jewish: every one of them except for Andrews and Kitaji, who was born in the US, was outlawed from their respective original society during the WWII.
Among many interesting and disquieting paintings, it was Francis Bacon’s huge triptych (Triptych August, 1972). It gave me the most unnerving impression. Two putrefying seated figures/flesh on the right (Bacon) and the left (his lover) enclosed the central panel of two grappling lumps of flesh. I interpreted this triptych to reveal Bacon’s psyche: his attitude to his own identifying homosexuality as his crucifix (the source of his hatred of himself and humanity) as well as his weapon for underhanded transgression against authority and society (I believe homosexuality was still “illegal” in 1972 UK).
I really enjoyed the beauty of the Getty Center’s awe-inspiring structure and garden, as well as the thought-provoking moment afforded by “London Calling.” The exhibit was certainly worth visiting.