LOS ANGELES The art world is used to transforming industrial materials into art. The Museum of Contemporary Art took that aesthetic one step further when it transformed a stretch of road beneath its Grand Avenue home into an elegant chamber for its annual gala.
Jane Nathanson, event chairwoman for MOCA's board of directors, envisioned the setting as a contemporary version of a jazz nightclub from the 1940's, when the 80-year-old art icon and honoree, Robert Rauschenberg, was young and frisky. Also providing input was Vanessa Gonzalez, MOCA's development events manager.
Event Eleven president Tony Schubert used a dramatic black-and-red palette to create the one-night club. At the entrance to the black tent, he piled the kind of found objects Rauschenberg used in his artwork—chicken coops painted red and yellow, stuffed chickens, and old tires. The floor was covered with black carpeting with Rauschenberg's name spelled out in stark white letters 50 feet long. The pattern was repeated inside the banquet area where a 100-foot-long line of letters was woven vertically into the carpeting.
“We were just finding unique ways to brand his name to give him recognition,” Schubert said. “I didn't want to do projections everywhere.”
Inside the tent, black-framed photos of Rauschenberg in his youth lined the walls, and music by Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald played softly in the background. Six five-foot-high lampshades lit from within by red bulbs hung over the black bar, which was decorated at each end with red roses in tall, clear vases covered with red film. Atop the bar's center shelves stood an ice replica of Rauschenberg's famous artwork of a long-haired goat with a tire around its middle.
“Jane Nathanson really wanted us to fabricate a large Angora goat because that was one of his main pieces in the combines,” Schubert said. “We couldn't afford it so we opted for the next best thing.”
Nearly 600 guests continued on to the adjacent banquet area enclosed at the top with black tenting. Rauschenberg's name and work were projected on the concrete walls that formed the underbelly of the museum and supported the street above. Following museum officials' remarks, the concrete morphed into a striking backdrop for a short film about the artist created for the event by Walt Louie of Cutting Edge Editorial.
Photos: Nadine Froger Photography (wall, table); Berliner Photography (ice sculpture, entrance)
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