May 2nd, 2012:


Yesterday was my own private Art Appreciation Day. My friend Barbara and I decided on a visit to the lovely Getty Museum complex, which, in all its white Travertine marble splendor (a million square feet of it), is perched on two hilltop ridges in the Santa Monica Mountains. It overlooks the 405 Freeway, now in the midst of a construction project; Beverly Hills and Wilshire Boulevard to the east and Santa Monica and the Pacific Ocean to the west. Even without the art, it’s an ideal place to visit, especially when you only live about 20 minutes away.

Actor Djimon H. with an octopus by Herb Ritts

Southern California has its own unique weather style: summer comes late. Until then it’s May Gray and June Gloom, known for the humidity, morning clouds, reluctant sun and cool weather as low as the 60s. We learn not to count on good beach days until July and those who live in the beach cities may go for weeks without seeing that warm yellow orb. That was yesterday and so far today: sweaters or jackets are a must.

A tram takes visitors up to the museum complex (3/4 of a mile) so it feels like you’re really going someplace. It’s an excursion and doesn’t even require a visit to any of the art galleries (5 buildings). One could walk around the multi-level patios with pools and fountains, visit the extensive gardens (one has a circular maze), eat in one of the three restaurants or get snacks from the food carts. A few months back I saw actress Diane Keaton talking to a male friend at an outside table near one of the food carts.

It wasn’t crowded on this Tuesday, but there were plenty of visitors, including school groups and tourists from around the world. I overheard a German family and almost tried out some of my rusty German. I like to talk to people and joked with a mother, who had brought her two young toddlers in a stroller, that she was getting her children started on art appreciation early in life.

Neither Barbara or I had checked on the latest exhibitions and were pleasantly surprised by a new show of Los Angeles native Herb Ritts’ photography. He was known around the world for his black and white portraits, magazine covers (Vanity Fair, Vogue, etc.), music videos and commercials. He died at age 50 but accomplished an amazing amount of work, which filled up several exhibition rooms. One room was curtained so they could show some commercials he made for Calvin Klein and Lancome, for instance, and videos: Madonna singing “Cherish,” and Janet Jackson singing on the beach.  His portraits are too numerous to mention but Elton John, Cindy Crawford, Richard Gere, Mel Gibson and Magic Johnson are among them. The contrasts of lighting, the statuesque poses, and Ritts’ love for the human body were very evident in all of the work on display.

In Southern California, museums and gardens mix well together. The Getty Center is the perfect place to see Nature displayed along with human works of art.

Madonna photo by Herb Ritts

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