Category: Pacific Standard Time

It's not too late to catch many Pacific Standard Time shows

April 4, 2012 |  2:58 pm

Last Saturday, several local museums offered free admission as a way to mark the end of the sprawling six-month-long exhibition festival Pacific Standard Time. But don't throw away your little red guide to the PST shows quite yet.

As could be expected from such an unwieldy event involving many different institutional schedules, several exhibitions are spilling beyond the official six-month mark, giving people a little more time to fill in gaps in their knowledge of Southern California art history.

Here's a list of shows that run beyond this week: 

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PST, A to Z: ‘Cruising’ at ONE National Gay and Lesbian Archives

March 28, 2012 |  4:46 pm

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.

"Lesbian Couple, Hollywood"

To see “Cruising the Archive: Queer Art and Culture in Los Angeles, 1945-1980,” you have to do some cruising yourself — not necessarily in a libidinal sense, but between three small venues: two in Exposition Park and one in West Hollywood. Consequently, the exhibition feels a bit fragmented, with a single artist’s work often spread across multiple spaces, but it’s very much in keeping with the sprawling structure of Pacific Standard Time and the diversity of the queer community itself.

Drawn from the collections of the ONE National Gay and Lesbian Archives, the materials on view are a mix of art and documentation from a spectrum of artists, from relatively well-known names — Don Bachardy, Gronk, Sister Mary Corita Kent — to those who remain completely anonymous. The show also encompasses a wide array of sexual identities and movements whose aims and attitudes weren’t always aligned. The result is an unruly history of queer culture in Los Angeles that is inspiring in its depth and vibrancy.

The ONE Archives began as ONE Magazine, founded in 1953, and the display at USC's Doheny Library is largely devoted to the history of queer publications including PRIDE (Personal Rights in Defense and Education, which later became The Advocate), The Ladder, The Lesbian Tide, and more obscure titles like Edith Eyde’s Vice Versa: America’s Gayest Magazine, hand-typed in editions of 10 from 1947-48, and Transvestia, dedicated to straight-identified male cross-dressers, published by Virginia Prince (born Arnold Lowman) starting in 1960. There’s also some fascinating early 20th century sheet music from the collection of Ralph W. Judd with titles like, “My Regular Girl is a Feller,” and “I Only Want a Buddy…Not a Sweetheart.”

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PST, A to Z: ‘Perpetual Conceptual’ at Los Angeles Nomadic Division

March 28, 2012 |  4:45 pm

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.

Setting out to see “Perpetual Conceptual: Echoes of Eugenia Butler,” I almost drove right past it. The exhibition is organized by Los Angeles Nomadic Division, a non-profit arts organization whose name reflects their lack of a permanent gallery space, and the show takes place in three storefronts in a nondescript strip mall in West Hollywood.

Having never set foot in Eugenia Butler Gallery, the late 60s-era space to which “Perpetual Conceptual” pays homage, I’m not sure whether these cold, roughly finished retail spots do it justice. However, they do seem a fitting place to show work that for many still stretches the boundaries of art.

Although it only operated from 1968 to 1971, the Eugenia Butler Gallery exhibited the work of a number of influential artists, including John Baldessari, Ed Kienholz, and Joseph Kosuth. Yet, like other women gallerists, Butler’s legacy has often been overshadowed by the attention paid to her male contemporaries over at the Ferus Gallery. The larger context female gallerists operated within was explored in the PST exhibition, “She Accepts the Proposition,” on view last fall at Crossroads School. It looked at the impact of five women gallery owners, including Butler.

The main part of “Perpetual Conceptual” is a group show of works by artists whom Butler championed. It’s up until April 21, but the works in the two adjoining spaces will change over the course of the exhibition, each one given over to a particular artist. When I visited, there were installations by Adam II, The Late Paul Cotton, and Butler’s daughter, Eugenia P. Butler.

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Southern California museums end PST with a day of free admission

March 22, 2012 |  9:00 am

The end of Pacific Standard Time -- the Getty's region-wide survey on the history of art in Southern California -- will be celebrated with free admission at 19 local museums on Saturday, March 31
This post has been updated. See details below.

The end of Pacific Standard Time -- the Getty's region-wide survey on the history of art in Southern California -- will be celebrated with free admission at 19 local museums on Saturday, March 31.

Among the participating institutions will be the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Pasadena Museum of California Art, the Fisher Museum of Art and the American Museum of Ceramic Art.

Pacific Standard Time explored the history of art in Southern California through a series of exhibitions and events held at museums, galleries and other cultural institutions in the area. The survey was an initiative by the Getty, which always has no admission fee.

Here's the list of museums offering free admission on March 31:

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PST, A to Z: ‘Sight Specific’ and ‘In Focus’

March 19, 2012 |  9:05 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.

Pacific Standard Time has included medium-specific exhibitions devoted to film, ceramics, music, and printmaking, so it’s only fitting that photography—nearly ubiquitous in contemporary art—should have its turn in the spotlight. Two exhibitions, “In Focus: Los Angeles, 1945-1980” at the Getty Center, and “Sight Specific: LACPS and the Politics of Community” at the University of Southern California’s Fisher Museum of Art paint somewhat different portraits of the medium’s role in the region. While the former is a small, tightly focused sampling of images created in L.A., the latter is a sprawling chronicle of an organization, the Los Angeles Center for Photographic Studies, which operated from 1974 to 1985.

Although the Getty is the flagship institution for Pacific Standard Time, its own PST exhibitions have been relatively modest. This holds especially true for “In Focus,” which includes just 31 images, all drawn from the Getty’s permanent collection. Organized into four rather conventional categories—experimental images, street photography, architecture, and the entertainment industry—they are pretty much the pictures you expect to see of Los Angeles: Judy Fiskin’s tiny, cameo-like portraits of stucco houses, miles of tract housing documented from the air by William A. Garnett, and a fabulous image by Garry Winogrand of two women, dressed to the nines, walking towards the swooping lines of the Encounter restaurant at LAX. The images are exceptional, but the show is a bit flat-footed.

Gm_05384201_webThere are a few pleasant surprises, however. Jo Ann Callis’ poetic, 1974 nudes, lying in the water like Ophelia, are partially obscured by mysterious layers of reflections—smoke, floral patterns, and other indeterminate shapes—making it hard to tell whether they’re “straight” photographs or composite images. And Robert Cumming’s 1977 photos of the awkward, behind-the-scenes spaces of Hollywood stage sets are simple but cogent exposés of the mechanics behind the illusion.

Anthony Friedkin, represented in both exhibitions, presents a similar, albeit more humorous image in “Sight Specific.” It’s a shot of a man who looks like he’s being swallowed as he works on the mechanical shark from “Jaws.” The image was featured in “L.A. Issue,” an exhibition organized by LACPS in 1979, one of its many wide-ranging shows.

“Sight Specific” presents groups of selected works from these exhibitions, which encompassed not only thematic shows of contemporary work, but historical ones featuring such luminaries as Edward Weston, James Van Der Zee, and Paul Outerbridge, Jr. Perhaps the most certifiably “L.A.” endeavor in this regard was 1981’s “Photoflexion: Photographs about Body Building,” It included images of the shiny, muscled bodies the world has come to associate with Southern California, as well as some curious older works, such as a turn of the century image by George Steckel that depicts a somewhat less emphatically muscled man sporting roman sandals and a pert fig leaf.

LACPS’s exhibitions of contemporary work were organized according to the artistic concerns of the day, only some of which were strictly photographic. There were shows on multiculturalism, theatricality, the relationship between word and image, expressions of time and duration, and “constructed” images, or scenes set up expressly to be photographed. In other words, LACPS artists were engaged with the same broad issues as their peers in other media.

As a consequence, “Sight Specific” feels a great deal more freewheeling than the buttoned up “In Focus.” As it turns out, post-war photography in L.A. was a much messier business than can be summed up with a handful of cool, black and whites.

Nettles Pack up“Sight Specific” does feature some stunning “straight” images, like Mark Klett’s dramatic shot from inside a snow tunnel—a vertigo-inducing swirl of textured light and shadow. But LACPS members, at least as sampled here, tended toward experimental and conceptual approaches, many of which did not necessarily involve traditional photographic skills. Bea Nettles used a pinhole camera to try to see everyday objects from the wonderous perspective of her small children. Bruce Yonemoto’s “Suspected Japanese Houses” from 1976 looks like a photocopy (it’s actually a diazo print, like a blueprint). With its whited-out ornamental shrubbery (many Japanese Americans worked as gardeners), it’s a subtle, darkly funny comment on stereotypes and racial profiling. And in “Construct XV” from 1982, Barbara Kasten photographed an arrangement of mirrors and colored plastic to create a geometric abstraction more commonly associated with painting.

To its credit, LACPS seems to have had no aesthetic agenda beyond the love and promotion of photography, in whatever form it appeared. And it filled a void in local support for such adventurous work between the demise of the forward-thinking Pasadena Art Museum in 1974, and the creation of a photography department at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in the mid 1980s. In this regard, its greatest impact may have been in fostering a sense of community.

Indeed, the first thing one sees upon entering “Sight Specific” is a wall papered with images of smiling people posing for pictures at art openings. In 1978, artist Daryl Curran began his series “L.A. Art Openings: 1978-79,” which evolved into “A Moment in Photo History,” in which he documented not just openings, but the lectures, parties and other events around which the L.A. photographic community coalesced. In each image he had someone hold a clipboard, like a Hollywood film clapper, detailing the name of the event, the location and the date. Sprinkled throughout the exhibition, these photos are a quiet undercurrent in this boisterous show, but in photographing the people behind the cameras, Curran was perhaps acknowledging LACPS’s greatest work of art.

--Sharon Mizota

Getty Center, 1200 Getty Center Dr., (310) 440-7330, through May 6. Closed Mondays.

Fisher Museum of Art, University of Southern California, 823 Exposition Blvd., (213) 740-4561, through April 7. Closed Sundays and Mondays.

Photos, from top: Darryl Curran, "Untitled," 1980, from the "Moment in Photo History" series. Credit: Collection of the artist. 

Garry Winogrand, "Los Angeles International Airport," 1964. Credit: The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles © 1984 The Estate of Garry Winogrand.

Bea Nettles, "Pack up your Troubles," 1981. Credit: Courtesy of the artist.


PST, A to Z: ''Round the Clock' at Vincent Price Art Museum

March 16, 2012 |  4:05 pm

Pacific Standard Time is exploring the origins of the Los Angeles art world with museum exhibitions throughout Southern California. Times art reviewer Sharon Mizota has set the goal of seeing all of them. This is her latest report.

"'Round the Clock: Chinese American Artists Working in Los Angeles" at the Vincent Price Art Museum is a thoroughly enjoyable, enlightening addition to the Pacific Standard Time project
A friend recently expressed frustration with Pacific Standard Time -- too big, too diffuse, too messy. The payoff, she felt, for driving all over the Southland was often underwhelming, with no "summing up" in sight. It's true, even if you have boundless amounts of time and energy (or, ahem, a blog project), you are bound to get only bits and pieces of the story.

Yet, this is also one of the virtues of PST. The scale, scope and rambling nature of the initiative allow for the exploration of corners of the Los Angeles art scene unlikely to surface in yet another grand survey.

All of this is a long way of saying that "'Round the Clock: Chinese American Artists Working in Los Angeles" at the Vincent Price Art Museum is a thoroughly enjoyable, enlightening addition to the PST constellation. Showcasing the works of five Chinese American artists who studied and worked in L.A. from the 1940s to the present, it might be seen as an unofficial companion to "Art Along the Hyphen: The Mexican American Generation," which features similarly under-known artists.

"'Round the Clock: Chinese American Artists Working in Los Angeles" at the Vincent Price Art Museum is a thoroughly enjoyable, enlightening addition to the Pacific Standard Time projectBesides bringing worthy figures to light, the two shows suggest that a segment of artists of color in L.A. were less concerned with avant-garde experimentation than with expressing themselves in established art media. When you have been shut out of the dominant culture, one response is to shore up your credentials (another is to buck them entirely, but that's another story). "'Round the Clock" complicates this narrative by focusing on artists (alas, all men), who balanced personal artistic projects with commercial work in the film, publishing and advertising industries. In this sense, the show disputes the primacy of traditional art media, not by eschewing them altogether, but by looking at works for hire (design, illustration, animation, etc.) as integral parts of artistic practice.

This mingling of art and commerce is most salient in the mid-century watercolor paintings of Jake Lee. Colorful, picturesque and chock-full of staccato details, they provide an unfailingly optimistic vision of downtown L.A., Chinatown and Chinese American history. It's no wonder Lee found work as an illustrator for the American Automobile Assn.'s "Westways" magazine and for the Air Force, documenting activities on military bases in the 1960s. His celebratory aesthetic dovetailed perfectly with post-World War II ebullience.

Milton Quon has also had a successful commercial career, with stints as an animator at Walt Disney Studios and as the first Chinese American art director at a national advertising firm (Batten, Barton, Durstine and Osborn, now known as BBDO). His watercolor street scenes and landscapes from the 1950s are stylistically similar to Lee's, although works from the 1980s and '90s reveal a looser hand and the subtle use of collage elements that provide some punch among otherwise conventional floral and leisure scenes. More interesting are his elegant, 1940's designs for Chinese restaurant menus that fuse calligraphic brushwork with clean, mid-century modernism.

Calligraphy also figures prominently in the work of George Chann, who followed a more traditional artistic path, exhibiting widely in the U.S. and internationally before eventually opening his own gallery in L.A. In abstract paintings of the 1960s and '70s, he mined the similarities between calligraphic strokes and gestural abstraction, citing Jackson Pollock and Mark Tobey as influences. The path between Asian artistic and philosophical traditions and modern art is well trod, but for Asian American artists such as Chann, it had a slightly different resonance. His "American Calligraphy" from the 1970s is densely packed with brushy flourishes in sumi ink and oil, but the letters are all in English.

"'Round the Clock: Chinese American Artists Working in Los Angeles" at the Vincent Price Art Museum is a thoroughly enjoyable, enlightening addition to the Pacific Standard Time projectJohn Kwok worked as a freelance designer and portrait painter, but his abstract gouaches are easily the highlight of the show. Effortless and bold, in clear, high-keyed colors, they exude an astute feel for balance and gesture, infused with a sense of whimsy. An untitled work from the 1970s is a jumble of horseshoe shapes outlined against a clear blue field. Repeated, yet irregular, they create an unexpectedly complex space. In similar fashion, "Fugue," from 1968 features the intersection of two circles, rather like a Venn diagram, except that the collision has given birth, not only to a third, differently toned space in between, but to a burst of brushy black on one side and a series of hotly colored stripes on the other. The composition is at once inexplicable and immensely appealing, not unlike the interlocking layers of a piece of music.

Finally, there is Tyrus Wong, the best-known artist of the bunch, primarily for his concept work on Disney's "Bambi." Several of those early drawings are on view; they are surprisingly intimate (less than six inches wide) and achingly beautiful, as yet uncluttered with cloying, wide-eyed characters. In creating the mysterious, atmospheric scenes, Wong drew on his fascination with the ethereal landscapes of Sung dynasty painting. Like Quon and Chann, he injected Chinese aesthetics right into the heart of American pop culture. Wong went on to become a concept artist at Warner Bros., creating production designs and storyboards for movies such as "Rebel Without a Cause" and "The Wild Bunch." But his early work from the 1930s and '40s blends a really exquisite use of calligraphic line with the heft and chiaroscuro effects of Western painting. Since the 1970s, he has been designing and building snappy, elaborate animal kites, some of which are on view in the museum's atrium.

"'Round the Clock: Chinese American Artists Working in Los Angeles" at the Vincent Price Art Museum is a thoroughly enjoyable, enlightening addition to the Pacific Standard Time project"'Round the Clock" suggests that for Chinese American artists at mid-century, the artistic path was a negotiated one, a wavering line between personal interest and practicality. Of course, this is true for many artists -- it's the rare superstar who makes a living making art from the get-go. But the show's conceit -- that these artists made valuable contributions regardless of the venue in which their work appeared -- prompts us to look at the line between art and commerce more skeptically. After all, what we commonly think of as art is often just a pricier version of an everyday aesthetic experience: a magazine illustration, a menu, a movie. There's no reason such quotidian things can't be just as uplifting, edifying, inspiring or beautiful.

-- Sharon Mizota

Vincent Price Art Museum, East Los Angeles College, 1301 Avenida Cesar Chavez, Monterey Park, (323) 265-8841, through May 25. Closed Sundays and Mondays.

Photos, from top: Jake Lee, "Olvera Street Gift Store Front," not dated, watercolor on paper, 19 x 26 inches. Courtesy of Chinese American Museum at El Pueblo Historical Monument, gift of Judy Deppman. © Jake Lee. Credit: Chinese American Museum at El Pueblo Historical Monument

George Chann, "Abstract in Green Field," early 1960s, oil and sumi ink on canvas, 72 x 49 1/2 inches. Courtesy of Janet Chann. © George Chann. Credit: Janet Chann

John Kwok, "Untitled," not dated, gouache on paperboard, 40 x 30 inches. Courtesy of the John Kwok family. © John Kwok. Credit: Vincent Price Art Museum at East Los Angeles College

Tyrus Wong, "Bambi (At the Edge of the Meadow)," c. 1939, concept art, watercolor on paper, 3 3/4 x 5 inches. Courtesy of the artist. © Disney. Credit: Pamela Tom

PST, A to Z: ‘Common Ground’ at AMOCA, ‘Clay’s Tectonic Shift,” at Scripps

March 16, 2012 |  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.

Two PST shows on the rich history of ceramic art in Southern California together form a single narrative. “Common Ground: Ceramics in Southern California 1945-1975” at the American Museum of Ceramic Art in Pomona, and “Clay’s Tectonic Shift: John Mason, Ken Price, and Peter Voulkos, 1956-1968” at Scripps College in Claremont overlap in time period but are actually more like bookends, charting “before” and “after” states. The pivotal moment they bracket is the “tectonic shift” referred to in the title of the Scripps show, when ceramics expanded beyond the realm of craft and became a full-fledged fine art medium.

“Common Ground” is obviously the “before” show, whose narrative leads from Bauhaus-influenced potters to the early Abstract Expressionist leanings of artists like Voulkos, Paul Soldner, and even Billy Al Bengston (who seems to have made work in just about every medium). The exhibition is organized around the central figure of Millard Sheets, an important artist, but also an influential administrator who founded the ceramics departments at Scripps and later at the Los Angeles County Art Institute (now Otis College of Art and Design). All of the 53 artists in the AMOCA show had some connection to Sheets; many of them were hired by him as instructors, or as artists for the manufacturer Interpace Ceramics, where he served as corporate design advisor.

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Pacific Standard Time travels from L.A. to Berlin

March 15, 2012 |  7:31 am

"Red Concave Sculpture"

Berlin is getting a taste of Los Angeles art history starting this week with the European debut of Pacific Standard Time, the massive survey organized by the Getty that kicked off last year in museums and galleries around Southern California.

The version of PST opening Thursday in Berlin is taking place at the Martin-Gropius-Bau, an art complex located near the city's Potsdamer Platz. And a "taste" is the operative word: the show features just two of the original PST exhibitions -- "Crosscurrents in L.A." and "Greetings from L.A.," both of which ran at the Getty.

"Pacific Standard Time: Art in Los Angeles 1950 to 1980" is set to run in Berlin through June 10.

Peter-Klaus Schuster, a former director of Berlin's city museums who helped secure the exhibition, told the Associated Press that Tokyo and London had been considered for the show, but Berlin was chosen partly because Germany took notice of L.A. art early on.

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Art review: 'Breaking in Two,' visions of motherhood at Arena 1

March 1, 2012 |  3:15 pm

Why is it that the opening chapter of life has never received as much attention in art as the concluding pages? Why are elegy and memorial such established art forms (not just in visual art but in music, poetry) yet no equivalent form addresses birth, much less the ongoing process of raising children?

These aren’t trick questions, nor even difficult ones to answer, given the female-centric nature of these underrecognized subjects. Sexism reigned just as oppressively in the realms of art (creation, distribution and scholarship) as it had in the culture at large until the feminist surge a scant half-century ago helped redefine legitimate aesthetic territory. Now, women artists enjoy at least nominal equality with their male counterparts, though issues of the maternal, if no longer taboo in art, remain largely on the periphery.

“Breaking in Two: Provocative Visions of Motherhood,” at Arena 1,  puts those themes front and center. Organized by artist Bruria Finkel, and graced with the Pacific Standard Time imprimatur, the show features work from the 1960s to the present by some 40 Southern California artists (including a few collectives), among them Eleanor Antin, Kim Abeles, Alison, Lezley and Betye Saar, Jo Ann Callis, Channa Horwitz, Renee Petropoulos, Astrid Preston, Linda Vallejo, Ruth Weisberg, Lita Albuquerque and June Wayne.

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Book review: 'The Swimming Pool in Southern California Photography'

February 13, 2012 |  9:54 am

"Backyard Oasis: The Swimming Pool in Southern California Photography"
Backyard Oasis: The Swimming Pool in Southern California Photography, 1945-1982

Daniell Cornell, ed.; Prestel pp.256; $60

A splashy picture book makes sense for a large-format volume on post-World War II photographs that include swimming pools.

With more than 200 images by nearly 50 artists, starting in the 1940s with Ruth Bernhard and ending with David Hockney's early 1980s multi-Polaroids, this handsomely printed catalog to a large Pacific Standard Time show at the Palm Springs Art Museum accomplishes that.

It fudges a bit by including a few seashore pictures; but together with the photographs' pleasurable indulgences, the five essays also have larger, smarter points to make.

Along with the artificial Eden represented by the swimming pool construction-boom and the emerging gay sub-theme in the arc from Bernhard's babes to Hockney's boys, camera-work underwent a simultaneous shift.

Sharp-focused Modernist purity gave way to postmodern multiplicity, and America's narrow domestic environment changed along with it.


More art reviews from the Los Angeles Times

Art review: 'The History of Bruce' at Stephen Cohen Gallery

Art review: 'In Wonderland: The Adventures of Surrealist Women Artists' at LACMA

-- Christopher Knight


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