I have never seen “The Nightmare Before Christmas.”
Yet, despite this glaring flaw in my “˜90s childhood, I felt I had walked through the film’s landscape and a few others after seeing the Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s retrospective exhibition dedicated to the work of the man behind the ghastly and ghoulish.
As it turns out, Tim Burton has quite a lot of skeletons (and sketchbooks) in his closet.
Ever since excited whispers of Burbank-native Burton’s exhibition arose months before its Los Angeles opening, I wanted to get a glimpse of the hype. And while I’ve been to LACMA quite a few times, I’d never ventured into the museum’s Resnick Pavilion, current home to the retrospective.
Spindly legged brains, grotesque children and toothy other-worldly creatures of every limb count and facial configuration make up the more than 700 object display spanning as far back as Burton’s early high school doodles and short stories. In fact, the show is more of an indoctrination into Burton’s fantasies ““ some plainly quirky, others downright disturbing (photographs of tortured baby dolls, for instance).
The work is loosely chronologically ordered, featuring Burton’s first public acknowledgement as an artist (a 1975 Burbank “Crush Litter” campaign sign contest), Cal Arts college assignments, as well as an extensive collection of work from before he hit the big screen.
The show is less of a traditional exhibition than a monstrous carnival of oddities painted in bold reds, blacks and blues, complete with a red-carpet tongued monster mouth entrance beckoning Burton’s faithful fans. Movie costumes from Edward Scissorhands’ trademark utilitarian hands to Catwoman’s polyurethane jumpsuit have their place among the vast assortment of whimsically macabre sculpture, installations, rare video clips, sketches, paintings and photographs from just about every moment of Burton’s career.
And while tickets for “Tim Burton” cost $10 more than general student admission price, it’s an entertainingly bizarre venture with enough objects, film clips and nostalgia to keep your eyes extensively occupied.
General student admission to main galleries includes access to LACMA’s permanent treasures, which are well worth wandering through. The museum is home to modernist staples from Pablo Picasso, Alberto Giacometti, surrealist Rene Magritte and a host of other contemporary artistic giants.
Outdoor installations offer more tangible interaction with art pieces, if not photo-op gold. Jesus Rafael Soto’s neon hanging plastic hose piece “Penetrable” is part playground, part free-standing sculpture, while Chris Burden’s “Urban Light” lamp post sculpture configuration is arguably LACMA’s architectural signature.
For the museum-shy, LACMA offers a different perspective and successfully integrates traditional and contemporary notions of art history. Quite plainly, LACMA is fun.
It’s time you pay the Getty’s rebellious sister a visit. She’s just down Wilshire.