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Space Available: Annenberg Space for Photography Opens

March 29, 2009

annenberg-1This weekend I had the opportunity to visit the new Annenberg Space for Photography – “space” being the halfway point between a gallery and a museum. The space was created by the powerful Annenberg Foundation, and is the first museum – er, museum-like “space” – in Los Angeles dedicated exclusively to photography . It is located in Century City, near the infamous CAA “death star” building, on the site of the old Shubert Theater. Admission is free, and in addition, the space offers a discount on parking in nearby parking lots.

Being the hardcore downtowner that I am, I decided to ride in on the bus instead of paying for parking (FYI, Metro’s lines 28 and rapid 728 let you off right next to the space on Century Park East). From the bus stop, it’s a short but interesting walk across an office park to the space; Century City’s office buildings function as an oversized geometry lesson. I stopped to take a picture of the surrounding area, but a security guard inside one of the buildings indicated that photography wasn’t allowed near the Space for Photography. I put my camera away, stopped for a moment to relish the irony, then walked around a corner and took the picture.

The space is perched on top of a concrete plaza overlooking a small park-like open space with benches. As I walked up, two shirtless men did yoga in the park, and a waif-like woman grinned at me as I walked by, perhaps mistaking me for an agent. Ah, the Westside.

Once inside, I asked the attendants at the front desk whether the space was in fact free. They assured me it was, which made me wonder why there were even desk attendants in the first place. The space’s inaugural exhibit is “L8s Ang3les“, an LA themed series of photographs perfect for loyalists like me. The 8 and 3 in “L8s Ang3les” are not some curator’s attempt at l33t but rather a reference to the fact that the exhibit features 11 LA photographers, and as we all know, 8+3=11. I personally would have gone with Lo5 An6eles.

annenberg-2The space itself is rather small, and some critics have already taken issue with its odd lighting. It features a mixture of glossy prints and high-tech photo touch screens, which allow you to “turn” and enlarge images of photos, like an iphone but with a bigger screen. They seemed kinda cool, until I realized that I could look at photos on a screen on any laptop with an internet connection. However, there were plenty of actual prints to look at as well. The exhibit opened with a handsome array of photos of case study houses from Julius Schulman and Tim Street-Porter, then continued with a few celeb photos from Douglas Kirkland and Greg Gorman in elegant black-and-white prints. Next was Catherine Opie, whose work encompassed photo-portrayals of her lesbian friends and humble snaps of homes in West Adams.

Next was a giant room with two large projection screens displaying more images. I didn’t really feel like watching all these images, but I did stop to take a look at the John Baldessari photo-based artworks as well as some of the pullitzer-winning photos by LA Times photographers, including Lawrence Ho, Kirk McKoy, and Genaro Molina. Looking up, I noticed the ceiling was engraved with the outline of a giant camera aperture. The next room contained a series of historical Times photos and the restrooms, while off to the side another room held a screening of a short documentary profiling the exhibit’s photographers. Beyond this room was the exit.

While the Annenberg Space for Photography is relatively small and in some cases overly reliant on high tech gizmos, it was still enjoyable to visit, and its role as a photography-specific institution is certainly welcome. Its presence in an area that is otherwise composed of stale office buildings and a bland shopping mall may also bode well for the cultural future of Century City. I’m looking forward to many more thoughtful exhibits at the space, which hopefully won’t rely too heavily on the museum’s screens and projectors and feature an ample supply of prints. I’m also hoping they don’t start charging admission.

One Comment leave one →
  1. March 30, 2009 3:25 pm

    This blog’s great!! Thanks :).

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