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More on Pacific Standard Time

PST encompasses over 60 venues, so my coverage from just a week in Los Angeles is limited. Here is an overview of other PST exhibits worth highlighting (as well as a few others thrown in for good measure):

Now Dig This! Art and Black Los Angeles 1960-1980
Hammer Museum

Breaking down the profile of Southern California art even further, the Hammer has assembled work by African-American artists who in many ways were operating in their own unique swirling thermal during those years. Many of the works in this show are visceral, textured and taut, relying on an arte povera aesethetic which predate the current embrace of outsider art. The physicality of assemblage was not a common form back in the 1960s and 70s. So many of these works speak timelessly to a subsequent generation of artists, in LA and otherwise.


David Hammons, Bag Lady in Flight


John Outterbridge, No Time for Jivin’, from the Containment Series


Betye Saar, Black Girl’s Window


Noah Purifoy, Untitled (Assemblage)


John Riddle, Ghetto Merchant

Asco: Elite of the Obscure, A Retrospective, 1972–1987
LACMA

Yet another glimpse into a subculture within the LA art scene, this show highlights the performance art of a group of Latino artists. Named for the Spanish word for nausea, Asco was primarily “four style-conscious art jesters — three men, one woman — cavorting in outrageous outfits around the streets and empty lots of East L.A., making a scene, actions sprinkled with cutting social commentary, then disappearing. A Dada daydream in Chicanoville, USA” (from LA Weekly.) The sophistication and extent of their oeuvre astounded me.


From Asco documentation, LACMA

Glenn Ligon: AMERICA
LACMA

This show by Glenn Ligon (which was on view earlier at the Whitney Museum) is so far ranging in scope and mastery—it features a hundred works including paintings, prints, photography, drawings, and sculptural installations and neon reliefs—that it is astounding to me that the work was made by one person. There are moments for everyone, from the exquisite coal dust surfaced paintings to his conceptual installations to his take on Robert Mapplethorpe‘s black men portraits. Political and also a visual feast. Extraordinary.


Close up of the coal dust surface on a Ligon piece

Pre-Columbian art at LACMA
Jose Pardo display design

LA artist Jorge Pardo was asked to design LACMA’s new Pre-Columbian art collection. Stunning. The space has been transformed.

From Christopher Knight‘s review in the LA Times:

Conceptually sophisticated and visually smashing, the installation design that artist Jorge Pardo conceived and executed for the impressive Pre-Columbian collection at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art was unveiled to the public Sunday. Unlike anything you’ve seen in an art museum before, it’s built on a deep understanding of the potential power of smart decoration.

To decorate is not just to embellish but to valorize. LACMA’s often exceptional collection of ancient art deserves nothing less — especially the fine ceramic vessels and sculptures from West Mexico, Central America and Colombia. Pardo’s eccentric, unexpected scheme delivers.

It accomplishes two feats. Obscure works of ancient art are elucidated, and so is our contemporary experience of them. This decorative installation design is a meaningful honorific, not an empty flourish.


Installation views of the Pre-Columbian galleries at LACMA, designed by Jorge Pardo

Edward Kienholz: Five Car Stud 1969–1972, Revisited
LACMA

Edward Kienholz was a highly visible and influential artist for me during the 60s and 70s, and his installations used effrontery and truth speaking as a powerful tool. This exhibit is one of his most harsh and disturbing. It is on view for the first time in the US after having been purchased by a Japanese collector who warehoused it for over 40 years. The artist’s widow Nancy Kienholz reassembled this brutal reminder of the brutal castrations of the pre-Civil Rights era. Not for everyone but quintessential Kienholz.


Julius Shulman’s iconic archictectural photographs capture California’s new sense of architecture, space and lifestyle.

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Returning to my coverage of the Pacific Standard Time art exhibit/extravaganza in Los Angeles:

LACMA’s sprawling multi-building expanse is a stop I make every time I am in LA. Their flagship PST show, California Design, 1930–1965: “Living in a Modern Way”, fills the new Resnick Pavilion with artifacts from an extraordinary era—architecture, furniture, ceramics, fashion and textiles, industrial and graphic design and accoutrements of a new style of living.

The scope of the show is broad and the ramifications over time of these designers are very clear in hindsight. California represented something quite different from the cultural epicenter on the east coast. In David Weinstein‘s review of a smaller and less ambitious show, Birth of the Cool: California Art, Design, and Culture at Midcentury at Philips Andover’s Addison Gallery in 2008, some of that essence is described:

‘Cool’ meant art that, unlike the earth-shaking solos of bebop or the splatters of paint that seemed to burst from Jackson Pollock’s very soul, was rational and restrained, but deeply emotional nonetheless. In “the ethos of cool,” the show’s curator Elizabeth Armstrong says, can be found “a cerebral mix of seeming detachment and effortlessness.”

That streamlined detachment and effortlessness is what I remember from my California childhood in the 1950s. Everything was cool, not heated and overworked. Engaged and yet not. When I moved from California to New York City in the early 1970s, it was like landing in a place with a completely different set of cultural coordinates—intense, cerebral, serious, driven, etched into, worn through. At that time that was just what I needed.

Meanwhile California followed its own trajectory, and that legacy is so evident in this show. Hovering over all of these artifacts is the presence of Ray and Charles Eames, the husband and wife team whose designs became icons in the American mid-century landscape. One of the highlights of the LACMA show is the recreation of the living space from the Eames’ 1949 Pacific Palisades house. Named a National Historic Landmark in 2006, the house is currently in the process of being restored.

A few highlights from the show:


Installation view


Installation view


The Eames House Living Room, Charles and Ray Eames. © 2011 Eames Office, LLC (eamesoffice.com). Courtesy Antonia Mulas


Glen Lukens, Bowl. Photograph © 2011 Museum Associates/LACMA


Gertrud Natzler; Otto Natzler, Bowl. Photograph © 2010 Museum Associates/LACMA


Margit Fellegi for Cole of California. Photograph © 2011 Museum Associates/LACMA


Dan Johnson, desk. Photograph © 2011 Museum Associates/LACMA

Additional note to readers close to Boston: The last viewing of the film, Eames: The Architect and Painter, is showing at the MFA this coming Wednesday at 3pm.


Ray and Charles Eames at the Aspen Design Conference. © 2011 Eames Office, LLC

Back from California, visiting with both the Northern and Southern tribes. As always, the eye gets fed, and sometimes the finds are a surprise and unexpected.

San Francisco

Richard Diebenkorn: A gallery show at Paul Thiebaud Gallery consists of works that belongs to the late artist’s son Christopher. (In strange symmetry: Paul Thiebaud is artist Wayne Thiebaud’s son.) Fabulous range of paintings and works on paper. I was particularly enchanted by the small works (at the top, below) on cigar box lids.

Helen Frankenthaler: John Berggruen Gallery, one of San Francisco’s largest and most prestigious contemporary art galleries, is showing two floors of paintings by Frankenthaler. Her work played an important part in my development as a young artist (as did Diebenkorn’s Ocean Park series in particular) so my interest in her work tends more towards sentimental homage. The best Frankenthaler I’ve seen in a long time is actually hanging at LACMA (see below.)

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Los Angeles

The Culver City galleries are full of lively, spunky, compelling work. Here’s a random sampling:

LACMA has great hours (open til 8pm, with “pay what you will” starting at 5), and is open on Monday. Unlike New York City where museums stagger their closed days, most of LA’s museums are closed on Mondays.

It’s a sprawling campus—becoming more so with each massive building addition—and the experience doesn’t lend itself to just wandering organically from pavilion to pavilion. But treasure abound nonetheless. There’s green space nearby when you need some nature for counterbalance, and the play of light throughout the day makes the space enchanting in its own eclectic, aggregated way.

Looking west over the soon to be open Resnick Pavilion; late day light on the whiteness of the Bing; The Resnick at sunset



Calligraphy from the Japanese Pavilion; Cambodian statue; Koran calligraphy

Big discovery for me was the work of Thomas Wilfred (1889-1968). Trained as a musician and fascinated by the concept of synesthesia that was very popular in artistic circles at the end of the 19th century, Wilfred created devices that could merge light, music and visual form. On display is one of only 18 existing Lumia devices (lent by Carol and Eugene Epstein) that plays a stream of moving images. Wilfred’s work was included at the 1952 show at the Museum of Modern Art that also featured Pollock, Still and Rothko. Intriguing and seductive, I sat through the full cycle of few times, felt my vibrational level drop into meditative ease.



Still image from Wilfred’s Luccata, Opus 162 (1967-68)