Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Is It Art Or A Mess?

Artist, Michael C. McMillen inside his "Garage" installation

One of my husband, Larry's favorite installation pieces resides at the nearby L.A. County Museum of Art. It is "Central Meridian, The Garage" by Michael C. McMillen (1981). This installation is an actual interior of a garage with all the contents, sounds and smells of a real garage.

Workbench, "Central Meridian" by Michael C. McMillen, 1981

Here's a description of McMillen's work and this piece:

Using cast-offs from everyday life as his primary material resource, Michael C. McMillen has been making large-scale constructed environments, mixed-media sculptures and installations since the early 1970s (he earned his MFA from the University of California, Los Angeles). Born in Los Angeles in 1946, McMillen began his career in the film industry, building props and creating special effects for movies such as "Blade Runner" and "Close Encounters of the Third Kind.: Like films, McMillen's fastidiously constructed works function as portals into other worlds, allowing us to self-consciously explore our relationship to time, place and narrative.

One of McMillen's most beloved and best-known works is "The Central Meridian" (1981), (also known as "The Garage"), which is on view at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. This life-sized simulacrum of a cluttered 1960s era garage functions something like a time machine or a time capsule, transporting viewers to another era replete with musty odors, dusty surfaces and an idiosyncratic collection of objects. More recently, McMillen has been concerned with the relationship between time, change and illusion. In the tradition of California assemblage, he combines objects in surrealistic ways that invite associative, metaphorical reads rather than specific histories or narratives.

I understand why Larry likes this environment. It reminds him of his Dad's garage and work bench in Sherman Oaks when he was growing up. I'm sure he spent many long hours in that garage, working on cars, tinkering with small appliances and building things out of wood with his Dad. Those were simpler times for Larry when he had fewer responsbilities. How lovely to spend a Saturday just tinkering away in the dusty, garage, learning all about tools, gears and such.
Wouldn't it be nice if Mr. Larry could re-create the garage of his youth right in his own backyard?
Garage from Hell by Larry Underhill
Me? Bitter? Oh no.....

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At 5:09 PM PDT, Anonymous Ricky FRy said...

McMillen's Garage is one of the most amazing pieces I have ever seen...It has to be seen (stood in) to be believed.

LArry could do it if he took everything out of the GFH, and put it back in the exact right place...could take years!!

At 7:49 PM PDT, Anonymous Cousin Jan said...

Ellen is that your garage? time for a sale I think. Or is that the ART installation? I can't tell.

At 6:55 PM PDT, Blogger woolanthropy said...

My garage looks like your garage. And not like McMillen's arty garage. We are going to have a garage sale in Spet. OY! Let the sorting begin.

At 3:32 PM PDT, Blogger House Of Eschler Frystak said...

This is the most hilarious post I've ever read!!!! Rick Fry aspires to the McMillen garage but ours sometimes really resembles the Underhill.

At 3:35 PM PDT, Blogger Ellen Bloom said...

Hey there, House of Eschler Frystak! At least your garage has some cool neon letter on TOP...."Beers 'n Such"!!!

At 8:43 AM PDT, Blogger Leah said...

The garage is no longer on display at Lacma. I have no idea how they 'store' such and installation piece.

At 7:56 PM PST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I remember seeing this around 1981 when I lived in LA. I just found it again by googling. It REALLY struck me at the time and I still tell people about it.

I remember that many people passed it by (not knowing what it was beyond the old door) and I had it all to myself. Experiencing it in that way really added to it. Using the olfactory senses was a really interesting concept. I seem to recall there were jars on shelves in one area that had some sort of oddities in them.

At 9:28 AM PST, Blogger Jim Klingenfus said...

One element of this piece that is rarely described is what appears to be a scale model of the solar system, which extended beyond the boundaries of the "garage" itself into the surrounding exhibit space. One of the first hints that the installation existed, in a corner of the gallery, was a little ball suspended very high with a little note attached that said, "Pluto." I'm beyond words for the inexplicable feelings this entire piece gave me.

-Jim Klingenfus


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