Monday, January 30, 2012

On Pacific Standard Time: MOCA Gets "Naked" With Weegee


Weegee -- real name Arthur Fellig -- first made his name in the 1930s and 1940s as a New York photojournalist covering the city's seedy underbelly. His book of photos, "Naked City," was released in 1945 and later became the inspiration for the motion picture "The Naked City." In 1947, he moved to Los Angeles to try his hand at Hollywood.

Instead of crime, Weegee began poking holes into the Hollywood fairy tale -- juxtaposing the glitz and glamour of the movie biz with the harder realities of life among regular folks in L.A. He also chronicled the fans who worshipped celebrity and used a special distortion lens to play around with how Hollywood stars looked. His 1953 book "Naked Hollywood," a sequel of sorts to "Naked City," collected those photos. A minor celebrity thanks to his successful photography work, Weegee also made small appearances in several films and worked as a photographer for Kubrick's "Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb."

As part of the Pacific Standard Time exposition, the Museum of Contemporary Art is showcasing what it says is the first exhibit dedicated to Weegee's Hollywood photos (including many never before seen). "Naked Hollywood: Weegee in Los Angeles" continues at MOCA through the end of February.

We visited MOCA this weekend (yes, we took advantage of the free admission, as part of this weekend's Museum Free-for-All) and I could have spent hours combing through all of the Weegee pics. For fans of old L.A. like myself, it's a must. (One quibble, of course: There's some irony that photography was forbidden in an exhibit about photography.)

More pics:

Shot of Weegee and collaborator Mel Harris combing through hundreds of photos for "Naked Hollywood."

Weegee's suitcase

Elsewhere inside MOCA: Strings overhead spell out "PICKLE."

Also on display: "Kenneth Anger ICONS," which explores the experimental filmmaker's work and collection.

From one of the walls devoted to "Kenneth Anger ICONS."

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