Critics’ Picks

View of “Agnès Varda in Californialand,” 2013–14.

Los Angeles

Agnès Varda

Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)
5905 Wilshire Boulevard
November 3, 2013–June 22, 2014

Perhaps best known as a beacon of French New Wave cinema, Agnès Varda has since 2003 cultivated an engaging visual art practice as well, which has come to LACMA in the debut US museum presentation of her photography, collage, sculpture, and installation. The centerpiece of the exhibition, commissioned by the museum, is a large structure titled My Shack of Cinema, 1968–2013, whose walls and roof are made entirely of 35-mm filmstrips from Varda’s 1969 film LIONS LOVE (…AND LIES), which she admits was a total “flop” at the time of its original release.

As viewers enter the exhibition, the shack appears simply as a structure (with windows and film canister “seats”) whose walls gleam burnt orange and tan, and tint the gallery’s floor. But once inside the shack, visitors are able to inspect up-close individual frames depicting the sun-bleached streets and homes of 1960s Los Angeles and the film’s stars: Viva, Jerry Ragni, and Jim Rado. LIONS LOVE plays on a monitor adorned with a feather boa and American flag, and sprawled across a lengthy wall nearby is a colorful collage, which acts like an oversize scrapbook, juxtaposing Varda’s photos, memorabilia, and hand-scrawled commentary from the set of film.

More photography, which has remained the backbone of Varda’s multifarious practice, is also featured in the show, including a series of images taken during filming as well as intimate snapshots of Varda and her family on the beach and in their convertible. Throughout the exhibition, Varda’s presence can be felt, as the range of media, her jovial artist’s statement on a wall, and the layering of perspectives achieved within the film shack all combine to celebrate her singularly sensitive and peripatetic vision.