Los Angeles LACMA exhibition “Eternal Medium: Seeing the World in Stone“ through February 11, 2024

Painting on onyx: Jacques Stella’s Jacob’s Ladder (c. 1650). The rich vein in the marble becomes an element of the composition; Stella uses it to represent the ladder, and certain elements of the background landscape.

The show brings together art pieces that utilize the colors, veins and other natural features of stones

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) presents “Eternal Medium: Seeing the World in Stone“, an exhibition that focuses on the role of the imagination in perceiving images in the natural markings of stones. The show this brings together objects that utilize the natural features of stones and places them alongside similar works in other mediums for context and comparisons. Eternal Medium ranges from historical to contemporary with the earliest work from c. 2200–1800 BCE to recent pieces by Analia Saban, Alma Allen, and Ben Gaskell.

Portrait of Pope Clement VII made with marble, lapis lazuli, mother-of-pearl, limestone, and calcite (some covering painted paper or fabric cartouches) on and surrounded by a silicate black stone; designed by Jacopo Ligozzi (Italian, 1547 - 1627), produced in the Galleria de'Lavori in pietre dure (Italian, founded 1588), Executed by Tadda (Romolo di Francesco Ferrucci) (Italian, 1544 - 1621); 1600–1601; 97 × 68 cm.

“Making sense of enigmatic visual phenomena such as the moon, clouds, and inkblots is a fundamental human ability that excites curiosity and inspires creativity,” said Rosie Mills, The Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Foundation Associate Curator, Decorative Arts and Design. “Stone, especially vividly colored and richly patterned stone, is an impressive medium because the right stone can be difficult to source and carve. Eternal Medium: Seeing the World in Stone invites visitors to look for themselves as well as consider the works in their cultural and historical contexts.”

Dagger of Emperor Aurangzeb, India, Mughal empire, 1660–61, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, from the Nasli and Alice Heeramaneck Collection, Museum Associates purchase, photo © Museum Associates/LACMA.

The exhibition comprises nine interrelated sections: “Hard” Stones; Sourcing Specimens; Manipulating Multicolored Stones; Seeing Images in Stones; Fooling the Eye; Flora and Fauna; Heaven and Earth; Stone for Stone; and Transcending Stone.

Each section considers where the materials came from, demonstrates how their innate characteristics were translated into illusionistic stone pictures and coloristic stone sculptures, and encourages visitors to understand the works in relation to similar images in other media as well as use their own imaginations to complete the imagery suggested by the stones and their markings.

The exhibition is the product of a collaboration between LACMA, the Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Collection, and the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) in London.

Source: Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)

Snuffbox in the shape of a dog, Germany, c. 1740–50, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, gift of The Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Foundation and the 2022 Decorative Arts and Design Acquisitions Committee (DA²), photo © Museum Associates/LACMA.Analia Saban: installation.Ben Gaskell, Breakbox with Split Crystal, 2016, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, gift of the 2020 Decorative Arts and Design Acquisitions Committee (DA²) in memory of Peter Loughrey, photo © Museum Associates/LACMA.Exhibition view.

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(24.10.2023, USA: 10.24.2023)