The Art History Newsletter

Tourism and Culture at CAA

by | 4 March 2012 | CAA2012, Conferences

So, this missive is a bit late, I know, but this was by far the busiest CAA I have been to in years. It was also the friendliest. Perhaps everyone was feeling the celebratory spirit of the CAA Centennial. Nowhere did I see the heckling or browbeating of scholars or artists by those who consider themselves superior, which is often thought of as de rigueur for the conference and a rite of passage for first-time attendees. Instead there was an overwhelming sense of ease and relaxation.

The lack of Internet at the hotel was not so great, however. The only WiFi was in the Student and Emerging Professionals Lounge, which almost always had a fresh urn of hot coffee, colleagues from across the fields, and easily accessed Internet. I miss the printed-paper abstracts. I know CAA puts them online now, but that doesn’t help when you’re choosing sessions on the fly, with only paper titles. It was like trying to judge a book by its cover – and I wonder what nuggets of scholarly gold I missed.

In my experience, the best panels by far were the two official ones devoted to “Tourism (and) Culture” and the mini-symposium on this topic held at the University of Southern California. Convened by Laurie Beth Clark, from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, the panels and symposium discussed the role that culture plays in defining tourism and the role that tourism plays in defining culture. Clark did an amazing job organizing this group of over 20 scholars, which I had the privilege of joining. The presenters were a lively mix of art historians and visual artists, but all presented thoughtful research in an engaging way that also stirred great conversations, which extended into the concourse of the Staples Center. The three panels looked at artworks made for sale to tourists, artworks that represent tourists, and artworks that derive from the experiences tourists have. Papers analyzed various existing tourist venues, creative works derived from tourist experiences, and new paradigms for the production of tourist culture.

Every time slot held at least one session of interest. Adam Lerner’s and Steven Wolf’s Thursday morning session Punk Rock and Contemporary Art on the West Coast took a fresh look at California Punk visuals and performance as art. Historicizing the “the Local” in Contemporary Art likewise presented an old topic in contemporary terms. Everywhere I went the focus seemed to be on the modern and the contemporary, lending in large part to the liveliness pervasive throughout the conference.

The Centennial Reception at LACMA on Wednesday evening was not to be missed, although I could have done without the twenty-minute coach ride listening to the two older female art historians sitting next to me discuss how they pamper their cats with homemade food. This was a fitting prelude to In Wonderland: Surrealist Adventures of Women Artists, LACMA’s current exhibition. This show is the best I’ve seen in years. Frida Kahlo and Leonora Carrington held their own, without overpowering the lyrically disturbing work of Dorothea Tanning and Remedios Varo. The installation was quietly beautiful, allowing viewers the luxury of winding through a maze of extraordinary work, without forcing a chronological reading. The only flaw was the copious didactic text. The art spoke for itself.

The scheduled trip to Venice Beach and Santa Monica was lackluster in terms of execution and art. At the Santa Monica Museum we were treated to an excellent exhibition of the ceramic sculptures and vessels of Beatrice Wood, but had less than 45 minutes to view the exhibition and make our way around the entirety of Bergamont Station’s numerous other private galleries, most of which were hosting opening receptions that evening.

I am curious to know why the conference convened right after the majority of the “Pacific Standard Time” exhibitions closed. With nine or more sessions devoted to the art, architecture, and material culture of California, several focused specifically on “Pacific Standard Time,” it was disappointing to not be able to see the relevant shows. Such exhibitions (and CAA conferences) are planned years in advance. The “Pacific Standard Time” installations at The Getty Center, the Watts Towers Art Center, Redcat, the Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery, LA MOCA, the Hammer Museum, and the California Museum of Photography, to name a few, were all closed and being de-installed.

That said, this year’s CAA brought new life to the conference. Let’s hope that New York maintains that momentum.


  1. Steven Nelson said on 4 Mar 2012 at 11:09 pm:

    It’s unfortunate that most of the major (and best) Pacific Standard Time shows did not coincide with CAA. Not to disparage CAA and its conference attendees interested in postwar art, but this constituency would have been an extremely minor addition to the attendance numbers for these venues. Also, with 68 participating institutions stretching from Santa Barbara to San Diego, coordinating schedules would have been close to impossible.

    I’m currently teaching a class based on PST, and even being locally based, coordinating visits and exhibition schedules vis-a-vis our academic calendar was simply not possible.

  2. L. R. Emerson II said on 13 Mar 2012 at 6:48 pm:

    Your site is important to the preservation of American Artists and also to Upside-Down Art known as Masg.

    Thank you for providing it!

    Painting has transformed and transisted across timelines to arrive today where we find Hard-edged, graphic work holding as strongly as neo-expressive strokes such as those by the world’s best selling, living artist Georg Baselitz.

    PLease allow me to introduce myslef as I am L. R. Emnerson a hard-edged painter with broad roots in the 21st century art and design community at large.

    I am the lead artist of the Upside-Down Art Movement which included notable renowned aritists such as Georg Baselitz and Anish Kapoor whco have both exhibited recently at the Tate Museum in London, England.

    To me patterns take on a life of their own, like living entities existing within the mind and I cannot help but to give them their due in the spotlight.

    Though we’ve involved museums around the globe in my work I am simply content working alone, researching and developing more patterns.

    The L. R. Emerson II collection totaled over 100,000 works by 2010 and by 2011 comprised of my depicting critically acclaimed musician Leon Russell as its’ Mona Lisa – making Leon Russell the “poster child” or first celebrity ever featured in an Upside-Down Artwork. In 2012 the official L. R. Emerson II brand was announced to major design communities.

    Like Emerson knives, L. R. Emerson II’s uncle Ernest Emerson knows the meaning of Brand reliance and delivery.
    For me there are patterns in everything ad they are constantly communicating to me – calling me to draw them and manipulate or engage them somehow or another.

    In 2006 and again in 2007, I established a world record and subsequently broke that same record for “The Most Works created in an Hour”. The record stand to this day at 87 works created in one hour.

    Again, it is an obsession with patterns and also shapes and forms that pulses though my “art heart”. As a child my passion was creating, drawing, painting and coloring patterns over and over again.
    Upside-Down Art is certainly related to Ambigrams and I have spent the past thirty years striving to develop the ultimate Upside-Down Artwork – working as an upside-down artist.
    Three decades later I am pleased to say I have been called the Thomas Edison of artmaking and my discoveries have been compared to Giotto’s attempts at drawing in Perspective using an algebraic method to determine the placement of distant lines.
    It is correct that Peter Newell honed Amigrams to an early high point but even the radial of the ancient Maya proves inverted, upside-down thinking has actually existed for eons.
    Ambigrams are a fallout of artists work in geometry and linear perspective as all graphic arts may ultimately attribute their roots.
    Being at the current forefront of Upside-Down Art I am often credited with inventing it but I quickly explain that while I have set world records and invented dozens of new methods the compositional variant itself has a longer history than I can claim.
    In my own time, however I have moved the media position to focus more centrally on Upside-Down Art so that the rest of the works will one day embrace the fact that other forms of compositional balance do indeed exist.
    Coming from a time when art education did not offer my generation the compulsions toward “the new” I set out to create my own “new”. I invented Masg – a form of Upside-Down composition which has landed me in the Famous Artist category. Though I was successful in the mid 1980′s I kept “Masg” or Upside-Down Art a secret for 20 years until my own styles and methods has been documented and numbered in excess of 37 forms.
    Whereas my works had numbered in excess of 10,000 by 2005 and there were over 10 awards in my resume I was finally confident my decades of research in Upside-Down thinking was relevant and worth sharing.
    Today I am called upon to lead the movement and am certainly spearheading the evolution of Upside-Down Art but am most pleased when I see so many artists now mimicking my ideas as so many predicted would happen.
    Major British sculptor Anish Kapor has joined the Upside-Down Art Movement and Georg Baselitz has been a central figure in his own ways since the 70′s. Others have also begun to trend their style toward upside-down thinking such as Dana Helms who does not make actual Upside-Down art but at least works upside-down! Another person who has begun to follow my work is Dai Giang who also does not exactly make ambigrams but at minimum is creating upright works , that he calls ‘Upsidedownism’ in which at least the compositions have some parts within that are shown upside-down.
    As we finally see artists across the globe continue to accept the evidence that art texts, world-wide are wrong I shall be then be pleased to rest. I’ll rest knowing then Upside-Down Art or as I termed it Masg from Gaelic meaning to mix or infuse has finally left it’s mark on art history.
    2012 marks the 29th Anniversary of my published, multi-directional artistic style named Masg, from Gaelic meaning to mix; or infuse. Masg is better known as Upside-Down Art.
    Using key segments of my research, I published the Purple Tree: Art in a Boundless Age, 2009 which documents the evolutionary process and changes my artmaking has undergone since 1984.
    In reflection, I see whereby I survived the chaotic art transitions many of us experienced in the 1980’s to later realize my own pioneering exploration has since changed the very way other artists and photographers compose their work.
    For thirty years, I have strived to revolutionize the art world by compelling artists, historians, critics and conservators to embrace changes the trident compositional “norm” that dominates artmaking today. Enduring decades of artistic experimentation, I have set a mark which today compels others to challenge compositional truisms. Simply put, I have provided a firm rationale to insist that art education texts worldwide need revision!
    Recently internationally acclaimed artist Georg Baselitz commented he found my work Upside-Down Art “…inspiring” which is encouraging noting Baselitz’ own art has sold for as much as $4.2 million dollars at auction and is equally unusual.
    Since 2005, my work has been exposed to a world audience. In 2011, I produced Upside-Down Art for Leon Russell who was inducted with support from musical collaborator Sir Elton John into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
    Working in the in the mid 1980’s as an advertising designer connected me with performers and entrepreneurs. Initially, I attended Platt College in 1985 and five years later delighted in seeing my artwork presented on stage to Grammy Winning singer/songwriter Leon Russell who later invited me to work for him.
    Keeping active in the arts, I have functioned in many varied design environments including printing and publishing, fashion design, advertising sales and design, photography, fine arts exhibition and art education.
    Historically, we hold that three primary balances exist for arranging subjects within the picture plane; Symmetrical Balance, Asymmetrical Balance and Radial balance.
    This is fine, but as a student artist living in the early 1980’s the limited choices of compositional balance left me feeling artistically confined. Contrarily, against my teacher’s advice I elected to design my compositions by solving the subjects from multiple directions. Determined to find my own road, I literally turned my artwork upside-down at a time when averting the compositional truism was neither taught nor accepted.
    Despite rejection, I began to simply devise my subsequent visual riddles from multiple directions.
    I continued into the mid 1980’s making hundreds and later thousands of works – continuing to experiment with compositional variants. This pioneering exploration of the compositional realm subsequently lead me to cultivate 37, new documented artmaking methods which overall are my primary contribution to art in the 20th and 21st Century.
    In 2005, after having been kept secret for over two decades, Masg or Upside-Down Art was introduced to more than 500 galleries and in excess of 50 renowned museums worldwide including:
    National Gallery
    Tate Museum, London
    Smithsonian American Art Museum
    Musée du Louvre, Paris
    The Museum of Modern Art, NYC
    Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation
    San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
    The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
    Since 2005, my family and I have seen other artists and photographers navigate toward designing from multi-directional vantages. Things were different however when I started. The art world and the web was completely void of any evidence of any artist working upside-down other than Georg Baselitz who was featured in 1984 in the Los Angeles Times with his neo-expressionist paintings, 1880’s cartoonist Peter Newell and early 20th century cartoonist Gustave Verbeek.
    Since graduation, my studio and pedagogical practices challenge me to centralize my artistic effort; thus I am refining my 30 year artistic journey and focusing on definitive research involving art education and composition.
    Transversely, whereas real world experiences have enhanced my teaching practices it has been through my VCU study where I’ve realized the best skill I possess is the ability to confidently and effectively imbue my passion for artmaking. It is all about being able to pass along my passion in the end.
    My quest has simply been striving to carve out new avenues of expression through experimentation, innovation and invention.
    Most respectfully,
    L. R. Emerson II
    One image, Two Views ™ The World’s Largest Solo Artist Site™

    Find L. R. Emerson II on the web at