All the World’s A Stage:
William Leavitt’s Theater Objects at MOCA
By Leticia Marie Sanchez
All photography© MOCA
All the world’s a stage, all the men and women merely players. Nowhere does Shakespeare’s expression hold more true than at William Leavitt’s Theater Objects at MOCA.
Walking into the exhibition one hears the constant chirping of birds and the flow of cool air. Are we in a jungle? A theme park? On the set of a play?
Leavitt’s engaging exhibition interacts with its audience, causing the museumgoer to constantly question where he or she stands.
Co-curated by MOCA Curator Bennett Simpson and Ann Goldstein, former MOCA senior curator and director of the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, William Leavitt: Theater Objects represents the first solo museum exhibition and retrospective of the artist’s 40-year career. The exhibit showcases approximately 90 works from 1969 to the present, including: sculptural tableaux, paintings, works on paper, and photographs.
Leavitt’s background in stagecraft, narrative, and theater, informs his work, which gives audiences a behind-the scenes peek at theatrical installations. An inscription in the exhibit gives a “nod to Raymond Chandler,” an apt allusion as Leavitt’s work veers into noir, into what is lurking behind the shadows, behind the patio, behind the façade.
William Leavitt, Theme Restaurant, 1986, oil on canvas 46 x 72 in., collection of Carolina Bilbao and Richard Massey, Miami
Leavitt employs satire in his painting of the landmark Encounter Restaurant at LAX by titling it Theme Restaurant. His title links the iconic airport restaurant to a theme park like Disneyland. The visual context of the painting, cleverly hung by MOCA next to Roller Coaster (1984) and Brown Derby (1987) underscores this motif. Leavitt’s satire highlights Los Angeles’ identity as an entertainment hub. Are people flying into the city simply to be entertained? (Ironically, the interior of the LAX restaurant, was in fact designed byWDI, Walt Disney Imagineering)
William Leavitt, California Patio, 1972, mixed media(artificial plants, Malibu lights, flagstone, slider, curtains, wooden wall, and text), 96x144x 96 in.,collection Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam,courtesy of Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam
William Leavitt, The Tropics,1974, gelatin silver prints and text, edition of 3 with 2 Artist proofs, each: 11 x 8 1/2 in., collection of Edward Israel, Los Angeles
In addition to being an artist, Leavitt is also a playwright.
MOCA will stage two of his performance works in conjunction with the exhibition. Spectral Analysis (1977) will be performed in the galleries; Pyramid, Lens, Delta (2003) will be premiered as a table reading in the Ahmanson Auditorium at MOCA Grand Avenue.
William Leavitt: Theater Objects
March 13- July 3
MOCA Grand Avenue
250 South Grand Avenue, LA, CA 90012