I recently had the pleasure of visiting the Marciano Foundation, a new museum which opened at the end of May. It is located in what used to be an old Masonic temple in Hancock Park. I attended high school nearby and remember driving past the Masonic building on Wilshire so it was fun to finally get the chance to go inside after all these years.
I was pleased to see that the Foundation had kept a dedicated room to Masonic artifacts and traditions. The Masons have considerable roots in California history. The first Masonic lodge opened up in Sacramento, the same year as California became a state in 1850. During the transformation of the temple into a museum, furniture, stage sets, robes backdrops, costumes, wigs and regalia were unearthed and used by Shaw in the creation and inspiration for his exhibit. I didn't know much about the Masons except that it was a secretive fraternal organization that met in lodges all over the world. I wasn't aware that the Masons had a flair for the dramatic and loved to wear wigs, costumes and use stage sets in their meetings. Shaw often re purposes found objects and artifacts into his pieces, so this was a match made in art heaven because there was plenty of material to draw upon.
The first part of the Wig Museum is indeed a wig show of various wigs both recovered from the previous temple, historically accurate wigs, and fantastic creations of Shaw's imagination.
I was there to view the PST: LA collection but ended up really falling in love with the ground floor exhibit: Jim Shaw: the Wig Museum I wasn't familiar with Jim Shaw but was impressed with what I saw. He has called LA home for the past 30 years, and created this exhibition especially for the inauguration of the Marciano Foundation. This is also his first large scale solo exhibition in Los Angeles, from what I saw it seems long overdue.
We meandered around stand up props in the dark while flashing colorful lights illuminated the vast space. It was a completely immersive experience, wandering on our own through the massive fun house with every corner beckoning for closer inspection. The entrance's old timey script sign read "International House of Pain" and Good/Evil leading to a coiled serpent and armageddon like imagery. Past this macabre scene were gargantuan cutouts towering above you and off to the side, a hidden shrouded room of enlarged scale gnomes and crystals. There's imagery everywhere, it's a bit like sensory overload but in the best possible way.
I was there on a day the museum was closed to the public so Raf and I were able to wander around alone undisturbed. The silence and vast emptiness made it seem like we were wandering around backstage and seeing things that we shouldn't have. It made it all seem that much more surreal as if a sorcerer was going to jump out of the shadows any moment. There was so much to look at and process, it was definitely a more is more experience and I've thought about it many times since my visit.
Last day to see Jim Shaw's Wig Museum is December 24. Free admission with online tickets.