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The Contorted Faces of Messerschmidt Now On Display At The Getty

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The Getty is one of L.A.'s most visited sites, and now residents and tourists alike have another reason to brave the 405 and head up the mountain. The new Messerschmidt and Modernity exhibit opens today and displays through October 14.

The exhibit centers around a collection of sculpted craniums, also called "character heads," created by German artist Franz Xaver Messerschmidt during the European Enlightenment in the 1700s. These aren't your ordinary busts or sculpted portraits, though. Each of the heads captures a unique and emotional facial expression -- some grin, others stick out tongues, and some show ridged and furrowed brows or deeply curved frowns.

According to the Getty, these carved and cast faces are closely linked to earlier studies of physiognomy (using a person's outward appearance to determine personality or character) and pathognomy (the study of emotion). The expressive character heads are also are thought to have inspired the work of many Austrian, British, and American artists, some of whose pieces are also on view in the exhibit.

For those especially intrigued by the collection, consider attending a special talk about both the above and the Gustav Klimt collection on August 30.

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Need more reason to visit? Go on specific summer Saturdays and you can wander Messerschmidt's heads and catch an outdoor musical performance in the Getty's Saturday's Off the 405 concert series. We do, however, suggest that you avoid visiting the weekend so adoringly known to Los Angelenos as Carmaggedon 2.

Admission to the museum is free, and museum hours are as follows:
Tuesday-Thursday, Sunday: 10am-5:30pm.
Friday & Saturday: 10am-9pm.
*The museum will be open on Fridays until 9pm through September 21.