Human nature exposed through contemporary art


            The term human nature provides the masses with an excuse to act a certain way and blame it on the simple fact that they are human and therefore entitled to certain privileges. To feel pain, to experience jealousy, to love another with unabashed passion, and even to feel sorrow in times of trouble are all aspects of human nature.

Human Nature: Contemporary Art from the Collection, on display at the Los Angeles County Museum of Contemporary Art (LACMA) until July 4, consists of approximately 75 works of art in the form of paintings, drawings, videos, photography, and even audio, that aim to explore these innate human characteristics. The exhibit displays works created from 1968 to the present, and while many of the pieces have been on display at the museum before, several are making their grand debut for the first time to the public.

Met with the words "human nature" in a psychedelic font upon entering the exhibit, visitors are transported into a world in which their very core is the subject at large. The exhibit as a whole highlights "certain themes to include the importance of the human body, text and documentation, minimalist strategies, assemblage, and shifting global economics".

Throughout the exhibit, various works consist of video clips displaying images such as a woman slowly walking to the camera allowing the viewer to examine every movement of her body as its works to propel her forward, to another in which a man is dancing quickly without a care in the world. The human body, something we see everyday, has become a work of art.

            It has been said that a photograph is a window to the soul. In the work 48 Portraits by Gerhard Richter, viewers are given the opportunity to sit, examine, and get to know the men in the photos before them. The black and white photos consist of men of European or North American descent, providing an evident lack of diversity. As viewers stare into the eyes of those they will never know, it is apparent that every face tells a story in itself captivating onlookers by the simple faces in front of them.

Prayer Mat, created by Mona Hatoum in 1995, appears to be a simple floor mat at first glance, however upon further inspection the mat is composed of numerous pins sticking with their points up to form a surface. The piece is intended to examine the tumultuous Islamic fundamentalism, invoking the question of whether faith could be enough to avoid the physical pain of the pins.

Bigger is better was not the case among the works of art, as one of the smallest pieces seemed to attract the largest amount of attention. Visitors rapidly snapped photos in front of an untitled work created by Maurizio Cattelan, consisting of two miniature replicas of commercial elevators demonstrating "the magic of a world barely visible to the naked eye".  While the elevator doors open and close, the elevator itself does not go up and down, leaving many attendees in a state of disbelief.

"Where does it go?" asked one museum-goer as the doors slowly closed, provoking a sight similar to a scene from Alice and Wonderland and blurring the line between reality and fantasy.

            The piece Human Nature, from which the exhibit derives its name, was created by Bruce Nauman in 1983 as a commercial beer sign he could see from his apartment inspired him. While most art attempts to provoke an underlying message, Human Nature lays everything on the table. Composed of neon signs of different colors displaying words such as pain, death, love, pleasure, life, and animal, it evokes a kind of emotional rollercoaster as the words light up in different combinations and sequences, much like life on a day-to-day basis.