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PST, A to Z: “California Art” at the Frederick R. Weisman Museum of Art

September 19, 2011 |  9:00 am

Pacific Standard Time will explore the origins of the Los Angeles art world through museum exhibitions throughout Southern California over the next six months. Times art reviewer Sharon Mizota has set the goal of seeing all of them. This is her latest report.

Arnoldi-5141-lowres 
If “California Art: Selections from the Frederick R. Weisman Art Foundation” at the Frederick R. Weisman Museum of Art sounds like a vanity show, it is. At least it’s upfront about it.

Culled from the collection of the titular produce and Toyota distributor turned art collector, the exhibition attempts to provide a snapshot of the emergence of contemporary art in L.A., but ends up being a bit of a mess.

Billed in the exhibition description as a “pioneering collector,” Weisman acquired a sampling of works by greatest-hits types of the 60s and 70s—Ed Ruscha, Robert Irwin, Craig Kauffman, John McCracken—if not always their most iconic efforts. Some, like John Baldessari, Sam Francis and Ed Moses, are represented only by pieces from the 1980s and beyond. There are also some works that date from the 2000s to the present, clearly acquired by the foundation after Weisman’s death in 1994. While some of these look like they were made in the 60s, others, like wall pieces by Tim Hawkinson and Kaz Oshiro, just feel out of place.

I hate to be a stickler for details, but as part of Pacific Standard Time, the exhibition is supposed to focus on the period from 1945 to 1980. It could be argued that the show traces the influence of 60s and 70s movements— Minimalism, Light and Space, Finish Fetish—but the paltry text for the exhibition makes no such case. By inexplicably extending its scope into the present, “California Art” becomes far too diffuse.

 Kauffman-low-res It’s also way too big for the museum’s modest, two-story space—some works are even jammed amateurishly into the elevator vestibule. Sure, it’s a small museum on the campus of a small university (Pepperdine), but the show would’ve benefited from more careful selection and historical context.

The collection does contain some gems: A massive 1973 painting on rice paper by Tom Wudl depicts hard-edged geometric forms, but is perforated throughout like modernist lace, wavering between toughness and fragility. Robert Arneson’s “Rose Plate” from 1966—a large ceramic rose emerging from the center of a dish—is a sensuous and deadpan play on decorative tableware. And, if you happen to make it over to the elevator, there’s a lovely David Hockney lithograph from 1979 of a woman brushing her hair in front of a mirror. Black and white and executed in the artist’s breezy hand, it balances intimate detail with an appreciation for the play of vision. Too bad you can’t take it in fully without backing into a wall.

RELATED:

PST, A to Z: Beatrice Wood at Santa Monica Museum of Art

PST, A to Z: John Outterbridge at LA><Art

PST, A to Z: One person's quest to see it all

--Sharon Mizota

Frederick R. Weisman Museum of Art, Pepperdine University, 24255 Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu, (310) 506-4851, through Dec. 4. Closed Mondays. www.arts.pepperdine.edu/museum

Photos: Top, Charles Arnoldi, "American Standard."Credit: Collection of Frederick R. Weisman Art Foundation, Los Angeles.

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