This Wednesday, Blues for Smoke curator Bennett Simpson discusses the vitality and innovation at the core of the blues tradition as a major catalyst for experimentation within modern and contemporary art. Get your tickets now.

Jack Whitten (b. 1939), Black Table Setting (Homage to Duke Ellington), 1974. Acrylic on canvas, 72 × 60 inches. Collection of the Art Fund, Inc. at the Birmingham Museum of Art; Purchase with funds provided by Jack Drake and Joel and Karen Piassick

How might an artist evade culture’s demand for marketable identity in her person, products, style, and career? ..If the ‘90s were about infinite territorializations of freedom and expression, the times found no better icon than the artist, in whose figure traditional romantic ideologies of unboundedness were sutured to New Economy shibboleths. After the convulsions of Empire lately witnessed around the world, we ought to be suspicious of culture’s parade of subjectivities–especially in art, one of the few homes refusal has ever known.

Bob Mizer & Tom of Finland’s Revolutionary Photography and Drawings Heads to MOCA at the Museum of Contemporary Art’s Pacific Design Center, November 2nd - January 26th, 2014

Bob Mizer & Tom of Finland

November 2, 2013-January 26, 2014

MOCA Pacific Design Center, 8687…

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Mathias Poledna discussed his 2014-15 exhibition with Bennett Simpson of MOCA Los Angeles, Feb 23, 2015

Live-Tweets from MOCA Conversation between William Leavitt, Ann Goldstein, and Bennett Simpson

March 13, 2011

On the occasion of the opening day of William Leavitt: Theater Objects, the exhibition co-curators, MOCA Curator Bennett Simpson and Stedelijk Museum Director Ann Goldstein, will discuss the artist’s work and the exhibition.


Artist Bill Leavitt in conversation with curators Ann Goldstein and Bennett Simpson (@ MOCA w/ 2 others) [pic]:


Leavitt had the idea for a set before he actually wrote his first play, so it seemed like the logical next step to him. (@mocalosangeles)


Goldstein on Leavitt: the props are what tell the story…they are really the narrative while the dialogue is very segmented and atmospheric


Simpson to Leavitt: Your work feels very familiar to people…You deal with the fabric of the everyday. (@mocalosangeles)


Leavitt: it’s difficult to present things without particulars–nothing is really stripped of where it comes from and its cultural setting.


Goldstein to Leavitt: it’s impossible to talk about your work w/out talking about LA, but I’m interested in thinking about it beyond that.


Goldstein says tension in Leavitt’s work is “The edge between the allusion & the fact that it is built.” (@mocalosangeles)


Listening to her now, I’m counting my blessings that I worked with the great Ann Goldstein @MOCAlosangeles. (having @stedelijk envy!)


Goldstein to Leavitt: You focused on a certain vocabulary of images coming out of your experiences. (@mocalosangeles)


Simpson on Leavitt: They’re all kind of in-between spaces. Pathways…segues from the built environment into nature. (@mocalosangeles)


Goldstein: There’s always that feeling in your work that something has happened before…

Leavitt: You just missed it. [everybody laughs]


Leavitt: you’re looking for what happens next. You’re not paying attention to the space; you’re following the character through that space.


Simpson says the space becomes a (nameless) character in Leavitt’s plays.


Leavitt’s talking about the influence of Kaprow’s happenings – realized the gallery or cultural space as something that could be active


Leavitt: Raymond Chandler informed my history of LA. Identifying places from his novel made me more conscious of specific things in the city


Simpson talking about newcomers to LA being overwhelmed & afraid it’s all fake – the tension between the natural and the artificial


Leavitt says he found LA peculiar when he got here, but then he adjusted and became peculiar too. (laughter resounds)


Leavitt says he found the architectural diversity of LA especially “jarring”


Leavitt: I’m not of the TV generation, bit when I did watch it I was fascinated (especially by soap operas)


Leavitt: early 70s film in LA was really pretty good. That felt like another world to mw even though some of my work is cinematic.


Simpson: there’s a literary overlay on your work…some of them feel like a sentence from a novel.


Goldstein on Leavitt: It’s the recapturing of the ordinary in a world where we expect everything to be extraordinary. (@mocalosangeles)


Audience member suggests Leavitt has a protean practice – that he creates structureless polarities (absence/presence, indoor/outdoor)


Leavitt says that even when he has a conscious intention when he begins, the results/consequences are not.


Leavitt: My interest in theatrically is like watching people in an airport – something you don’t even really look at.


Leavitt doesn’t think the term ‘conceptual art’ contains his work but he doesn’t mind being included in that category


Leavitt: As an ex-sculptor, I like the forms of molecules…I like the way they connect. They have all sorts of associative possibilities.


Leavitt thinks of the molecules as being positive – indicators of our faith in science and scientific progress.


FIN. Thanks for tuning in!


On February 10, 2014, The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles installed Barry Le Va’s Shatterscatter (Within the Series of Layered/Pattern Acts) (1968-1971) under the guidance of MOCA Curator Bennett Simpson with a sledgehammer.  

Born in Long Beach, California in 1941, Le Va gained prominence when his felt “distribution” works appeared on the cover of Artforum in November 1968. Scattered across large expanses of floor, these works appeared at first to be random in their execution and were grouped with the art of emerging sculptors such as Robert Morris and Richard Serra. But unlike those artists, whose main concerns involved the reliance on chance, Le Va’s distribution pieces were the result of carefully planned and choreographed activities. 

In Shatterscatter, six sheets of glass are stacked on top of one another, and as each new layer is added, it is struck with a sledgehammer at its center, causing it to shatter. A final layer of glass is placed over the stack of shards and left untouched. The resulting sculpture is cut off from other works within the exhibition space; its pristine glass top encases the raw energy of the work’s creation into what Le Va called an “isolated contained act.”

Barry Le Va - Shatterscatter (Within the Series of Layered/Pattern Acts) - MOCA U - MOCAtv 

Bennett Simpson on William Pope.L: Trinket - MOCA U - MOCAtv

MOCA Senior Curator Bennett Simpson discusses William Pope.L: Trinket, an exhibition of new and recent work by the Chicago-based artist, an essential figure in the development of performance and installation art since the 1970s. Installed in the soaring spaces of the Geffen, the exhibition explores the impact of American history and politics on the social and psychological body, in an ensemble grouping of large-scale installations, videos, paintings, photography, and performance works.

Its centerpiece and title-work (2008/2015) is a monumental installation of a custom-made American flag that is blown continuously by industrial-grade fans during the museum’s public hours. Over time, the forced air causes the whipping flag to fray, and transforms its stripes into an unpredictable hydra. “You feel this work, you sense this work all over the building. I think [Pope.L is] saying that one should feel it one’s body rather than just as an abstraction, or as a symbol. Democracy is not a passive thing, it’s an active thing.”—Bennett Simpson

For more information on William Pope: Trinket, March 20–June 28, 2015, The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA, visit

#BennettSimpson, #Democracy, #MOCA, #Time, #WilliamPopeTrinket

Doctor Who Inspired ‘Concussion’ Movie is Willing to “Bet his License” That O.J. Simpson Has CTE Brain Disease

Doctor Who Inspired ‘Concussion’ Movie is Willing to “Bet his License” That O.J. Simpson Has CTE Brain Disease

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LAS VEGAS, NV – MAY 17: O.J. Simpson walks back into the courtroom after a break in an evidentiary hearing in Clark County District Court on May 17, 2013 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Simpson, who is currently serving a nine-to-33-year sentence in state prison as a result of his October 2008 conviction for armed robbery and kidnapping charges, is using a writ of habeas corpus to seek a new trial,…

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In conjunction with the publication of her highly anticipated memoir Girl in a Band, Kim Gordon will appear in conversation with MOCA Senior Curator Bennett Simpson. Gordon, who spent her youth in suburban California, is known not only as co-founder, bassist, and vocalist of the band Sonic Youth, but also as a fashion designer, actress, record producer, video director, and visual artist. Her book is a deeply personal and honest narrative that charts her course in the company of some of the most influential musicians, artists, and fashion designers of recent decades.

Limited discount tickets are available for museum members. Enter your membership number as a discount code. As a member you will also receive priority seating at the event. Please note that we are limiting purchases to two tickets per membership.


Modeled after a wishing well in L.A.’s Chinatown neighborhood, Mike Kelley's Framed and Frame (1999) consists of a life-sized reconstruction and an adjacent area with barbed-wire fencing, flood lights, and Chinese-themed decorations. These two elements—the wishing well and the enclosure—are the framed object and framing device alluded to in the title.

The installation also includes a mattress, pillow, and condoms—objects associated with adolescent sexual activity that also relate to the location of the wishing-well near two venues that were at the center of L.A.’s punk scene in the late 1970s and early 1980s, Madame Wong’s and Hong Kong Café.

“Beneath this symbol of transcendence and hope there is also a place of physical and bodily and sexual exchange,” says MOCA Curator Bennett Simpson. “It’s a packed piece, it’s a loaded piece, it’s a showstopper, and it’s great to have it here.”

Despite its rich connections, Framed and Frame has never been exhibited locally. MOCA is proud to show the work for the first time in Los Angeles as part of Mike Kelley, the largest exhibition of the late artist’s work to date.

Bennett Simpson - Mike Kelley - MOCA U - MOCAtv


Last week we held a leadership circle reception at Bob Mizer & Tom of Finland, an exhibition celebrating two of the most significant figures of twentieth century erotic art and their profound cultural and social impact, at MOCA Pacific Design Center in West Hollywood.

Both were working during a time when images of homosexuality and gay sex were banned and grounds for prosecution, and the threat of criminality fueled their work and gave it urgency. For many in the gay community, Tom’s pencil drawings and the photographs in Mizer's Physique Pictorial were the first time they had ever seen depictions of their own desires. For lack of a better term, it was liberating.

“They both seemed to thrive on the idea that sex is not only worth portraying but also worth pursuing and stimulating and advocating—no matter its contemporary criminality. Surely, they seemed to believe something as important and fun would one day be legal,” Hawkins told Cool Hunting.  And as he noted in his opening remarks, in light of the terrible suppressions in Russia, their work continues to resonate.

Guests included Hawkins, MOCAtv collaborator and “Live Nude Dancing” director Daniel Trese, and celebrated designer Raf Simons, whose personal art collection includes works by Tom acolyte Mike Kelley.

From top: S.R. Sharp (center) from Tom of Finland Foundation with Tom fans; Trese and Alberto Marani; MOCA Curator Bennett Simpson and co-curator Richard Hawkins; Brian Phillips and Michael Bullock; actor Ethan Cohn and Nicolas Klam; LaPorscha Wynne (right) and friend; Mikael Schiller from Acne; Raf Simons; porn star and gay icon Peter Berlin. Photos by

Bob Mizer & Tom of Finland is at MOCA Pacific Design Center through January 2014.

Tom of Finland Foundation co-founder Durk Dehne speaks on Tom’s impact on the lives of individual men and the history of masculine representation on MOCAtv.


MOCA Senior Curator Bennett Simpson and artist Catherine Opie discuss MOCA’s Parsons collection, which consists of numerous works from post-war photographers Helen Levitt, Robert Frank, Diane Arbus, Gary Winogrand, Danny Lyon, and Lee Friedlander. The photographs in the collection collectively trace the maturation of photography from journalistic tool into an artistic medium of its own.

MOCA Curator Bennett Simpson engaged Mike Kelley visitors in conversation at a recent public Art Talk, which he introduced by reading a brief meditation he wrote. His text, exploring the range of forms, themes, readings, and misreadings of Kelley’s work, is posted in full on The Curve as “Numbers for Mike Kelley.”

24. We may be dealing with subject matter that Mike Kelley has brought to our attention, that Mike Kelley is thinking about, that Mike Kelley has a point of view on, feelings for, etc.  But we cannot say unproblematically that Kelley’s art reflects his psyche, or that the trauma and repression to which it points is his trauma and repression.

25. People have tried to say this about Kelley’s work at least since the mid-1980s.

26. Have we heard of novels? Have we heard of fiction? Have we heard of art? Is [Mike] Kelley so good at what he’s doing that we immediately believe it is real, natural, and true? His pain?

Is Contemporary Art for You?

MOCA is committed to the collection, presentation, and interpretation of contemporary art, but how do artists, viewers, and scholars come to a shared understanding of art produced during our lifetime? Join artists Gary Baseman and Amanda Ross-Ho, and MOCA Curator Bennett Simpson for a conversation about how their work functions in different cultural contexts and what role the audience plays in the production and presentation of art. Moderated by Bret Nicely, MOCA Associate Director of Digital Media.

Join the conversation on Google+ and ask questions to the speakers using the hashtag #arttalks

Installation view of David Hammonds’ Chasing the Blue Train , 1989, at Blues for Smoke. Photo by Brian Forrest.

The works featured in Blues for Smoke touched upon themes of domestic life, self-performance, politics, society, and relationships between race, gender, and sexuality.

Hear from curator Bennett Simpson:

LISTEN: Bennett Simpson, “Why Contemporary Art Gives Me the Blues.”

LISTEN: Bennett Simpson, “Archive and Anticipation.”