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Director Guillermo del Toro is bringing the creepy contents of his personal Los Angeles Bleak House to LACMA in a new exhibition: At Home With Monsters. The collection, which opened to the public today, features an array of ghoulish costumes, props and concept art from some of Del Toro’s signature horror and fantasy films, including the Oscar-nominated Pan’s Labyrinth.
Heat Vision was on the scene Monday as a long line of visitors were welcomed to the exhibit with life-sized models of that film’s two most central monsters: The Faun and The Pale Man. These immediately recognizable figures impose their weight on the entire show, an expansive study of the ambitious director’s filmography.
The exhibition is partitioned thematically, with specialized sections ranging from childhood to monsters to death in Del Toro’s work. Maroon colored walls, black rafters and a ceiling projection of stormy clouds are the dark visual complements to a gloomy score specially made for the exhibit by Gustavo Santaolalla, the Academy Award winning composer of Brokeback Mountain and Babel. Thunder cracked to the delight and surprise of many in Del Toro’s “rain room,” a space of artificially induced weather taken from the Bleak House.
Some of the most popular displays (measured by phone cameras present) included a replica of the ghost of Santi from The Devil’s Backbone, complete with blood (red smoke) streaming from a head wound, an immense head of Frankenstein’s monster looming over a walkway and the comic books that inspired del Toro’s Hellboy films. A “Victoriana” section, named such for the Victorian period, showed the power of luminaries like Charles Dickens on Del Toro’s work.
LACMA drew upon its own collections for items to complement del Toro’s work. Etchings of mutilated figures from Francisco de Goya — who del Toro says in the exhibit’s brochure he connects with “most viscerally” — figure into an overall glum, gothic vibe. But concept art from James Cameron’s Avatar and a bug specimen from anime powerhouse Studio Ghibli seem as much of a fixture for an exhibition ultimately rooted in film.
There are few wall-to-wall paintings or images, but rather wall-to-wall bookcases containing multitudes of trinkets like heads in jars, insect paraphernalia, weapons designed for the supernatural and, relegated to bottom shelves, actual books. “This is disgusting,” said one young museum-goer, summarizing the experience for many of the other visitors. Fans of Del Toro pored over digital copies of his notebooks, written dually in Spanish and English, and complete with colored drawings that give a glimpse at del Toro’s creative process.
Del Toro is not the first filmmaker to receive a special exhibition at LACMA. As part of an ongoing effort by the museum to cater to Hollywood, such directors as Stanley Kubrick and Tim Burton have been featured.
At Home With Monsters will run at LACMA through Nov. 27 before moving to the Minneapolis Museum of Art.
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