In L.A., With Your Feet in the Clouds

Sunday, November 19, 2006

WHAT: "Magritte and Contemporary Art: The Treachery of Images" at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

WHEN: Through March 4.

HOW MUCH: $17 weekdays, $20 weekends.

WHY GO: There are clouds on the floor and highways on the ceiling at the new René Magritte retrospective in Los Angeles, an appropriate way to dress up the venue displaying the works of the Belgian surrealist.

"What we've done is to pay attention to a lot of the witty or sly and sometimes playful aspects of Magritte and create a space in this exhibition where literally the world is turned upside down," says Stephanie Barron, the museum's senior curator of modern art.

The exhibition features 68 paintings and drawings by Magritte, chronicling his abrupt change in the 1940s from a flat painting style to the Renoir-inspired "sunlit surrealism" and, later, to loud, clashing colors and darker themes. The show also aims to explore Magritte's impact on other artists by showcasing 68 works by 31 contemporary artists, such as Richard Artschwager, Robert Gober, Jasper Johns and Andy Warhol. Also featured is conceptual artist John Baldessari, who designed the exhibition, with its cloud carpeting and wallpapered ceiling freeways.

"There are a number of works in the exhibition where there's a direct connection between the world of Magritte and the work of another artist," Barron said. "But for many of the works in the show, it's more the spirit of Magritte."

DON'T MISS: The iconic "The Treachery of Images" (1929), a simple painting of a pipe with the words "Ceci n'est pas une pipe" ("This is not a pipe") underneath it. "Of course, it's not a pipe. It's a picture of a pipe," Barron explains. "It spawned . . . an entire generation of artists who were interested in the relationship between the original and the words that signify and say what it is." . . . "Time Transfixed" (1938), which shows a train zooming out of a fireplace; artist Gober echoes Magritte with his 1991 sculpture of a hairy leg emerging from a wall . . . "The Listening Room" (1952), a small painting of an enormous bright green apple filling an entire room, which illustrates Magritte's bizarre interpretation of scale. The painting also inspired the Charles Ray sculpture "Fall '91" (1992) of an eight-foot-tall woman in a bright pink suit.

EXTRAS: On Jan. 18 at 8 p.m. in the plaza level of the Modern & Contemporary Art Building, artist Baldessari speaks with curator Barron about his vision for the exhibition space. Admission is free, but tickets are required and can be obtained at the museum box office (323-857-6010). . . . The museum's "Art & Music: Concerts at 8" series, featuring music inspired by the museum's permanent collections and special exhibitions, will riff on Magritte Jan. 31 at 8 p.m. in the museum's Bing Theater. The new music ensemble eighth blackbird performs while slides of the works by Magritte and the artists he inspired are displayed in the concert hall. Tickets are $25 and can be purchased at or from the box office. . . . LACMA chief executive Michael Govan chats with artist Jeff Koons on Feb. 1 about the exhibition and the influence of 20th-century art on contemporary artists. Admission is free, but tickets are required and can be obtained at the museum box office.

EATS: The museum's own Pentimento (323-857-4761) features indoor and outdoor dining, plus a full bar. Its signature warm chicken salad costs $13.50; dinner options include veal short ribs for $19. The restaurant offers tea service at $16 per person from 2 to 5 p.m. with 24-hour notice required. . . . Grace Restaurant (7360 Beverly Blvd., 323-934-4400) prepares such appetizers as wild Burgundy snails and entrees that include tenderloin of wild boar. Dinner runs about $60. . . . In the more affordable category, there's BLD (7450 Beverly Blvd., 323-930-9744), shorthand for "breakfast, lunch and dinner." Specialties include blueberry ricotta pancakes ($8) and a braised short rib sandwich ($15).

SLEEPS: The Millennium Biltmore Hotel (506 S. Grand Ave., 800-245-8673, offers a "LACMA Package" Thursday through Sunday for $119 a night, a discounted rate. . . . The Avalon Hotel (9400 W. Olympic Blvd., 310-277-5221,, about 20 minutes by cab to the museum, offers 68 apartment-size rooms with retro-chic sensibilities. The hotel boasts an hourglass pool and adjacent dining cabanas served by the hotel's restaurant, Blue on Blue. Standard rooms start at $219 a night (weekend rate); during the week, prices run $259 to $309.

INFO: Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 5905 Wilshire Blvd., 323-857-6000,

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