The director Stanley Kubrick created lush visual worlds that stayed with viewers long after the closing credits of his films. From the eerie futurism of “2001: A Space Odyssey” (1968) and “A Clockwork Orange” (1971) to the 18th-century splendor of “Barry Lyndon” (1975) and the desolation of the Overlook Hotel in “The Shining” (1980), Kubrick attended personally to every detail of his films, creating a body of work that is remarkable for its powerful relationship between content and mise-en-scène.
“Stanley Kubrick,” a sprawling exhibition devoted to the director’s oeuvre, opens at theLos Angeles County Museum of Art on Nov. 1. The museum’s director, Michael Govan, explained that “While it’s impossible to screen a filmmaker’s career all at once in an exhibition, the nature of a museum’s gallery spaces gives the viewer the unique opportunity to wander through the filmmaker’s mind, his creative process and the meaning of his work, and to make comparisons and contrasts between the works.”
“Kubrick” was originally organized (in collaboration with the director’s estate) by theDeutsches Filmmuseum in Frankfurt, Germany, but when Govan decided to bring it to L.A., he asked the production designer Patti Podesta to reframe the show for LACMA. Podesta (a trained artist who has worked in the film industry for many years, on films including “Memento,” “Recount,” “Bobby” and “Love and Other Drugs”) has designed a stunning installation for the more than 600 objects (scripts, sketches, costumes, cameras, props, still photos, posters and film clips) that make up the exhibition. Podesta created a series of striking visual tableaus, pulling together the various physical artifacts surrounding each film and putting them together in a new and meaningful way. “I wanted to represent all parts of filmmaking in the exhibition,” she says. “Kubrick controlled everything. He thought everything through. With each of his films, he reworked the material so that each one is a whole, a complete environment. For the exhibition, it was important to create an atmosphere for his work, something that people would feel like a sensation.”
Massive backlit transparencies are like signposts in the exhibition, leading viewers through the director’s films. Kubrick’s many camera lenses — he was obsessed with technology — are displayed like jewels in cases near the beginning of the exhibition. To tell the story of the range and depth of his vision, each of the films is connected to a theme. In the “Noir” section, Podesta commissioned the scenic painter Gary Lloyd to paint gradated gray-to-black walls, and in the gallery devoted to “Barry Lyndon,” Lloyd painted a bucolic background of blue sky and clouds. Podesta also included works by a number of artists to reinforce the connection between art and film. Kubrick was a voracious consumer of all things visual and constantly looked at art and art books. A black plank sculpture by the artist John McCracken alludes to the omnipresent monolith in “2001,” while the wall-size blow up of the twins from “The Shining” twins conjures Diane Arbus’s famous photograph, and a prop table holds art books opened to the pages from which Kubrick quoted, literally, in “Barry Lyndon.”
Govan says that “Stanley Kubrick,” which is presented in L.A. with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, is a taste of things to come for a city where art and film are powerful forces, but which have long occupied separate arenas. In 2016, the Academy will open its own museum in the historic May Company building next door to LACMA. A series of screenings offered by both LACMA (this fall) and the Academy (next spring) will give viewers another opportunity to immerse themselves in the haunting, compelling worlds of Stanley Kubrick.
“Stanley Kubrick” is on view at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art through June 30, 2013.