Category: Pacific Standard Time

Art reviews: 'Common Ground,' AMOCA; 'Clay's Tectonic Shift,' Scripps

February 8, 2012 |  3:00 pm

Ken Price, "S.L. Green"
The soul-shattering shock of World War II rattled American art to its core. From the ashes of Auschwitz and Hiroshima, humanity's wartime collapse into barbarism propelled a roiling wave of artistic urges aimed at starting over. Two absorbing museum shows lay out a critical part of the story.

One is a sprawling survey that beautifully articulates the breadth and diversity of postwar studio ceramics, charting how they came to be. The other is more closely focused, homing in on the potent artistic revolution that grew from the larger context. Together they unfold one of the most distinctive tributaries of American art being chronicled in the raft of postwar Southern California exhibitions presented under the Getty-sponsored umbrella of Pacific Standard Time.

Perhaps nothing better expresses the prescient yearning for renewal than a 1944 Surrealist painting by Russian immigrant Mark Rothko. "Slow Swirl By the Edge of the Sea" is a hallucinatory vision of spindly, archaic forms rising up from the vapors of the primordial ooze. Painting was powerful, a sophisticated visual language in which those fundamental urges could be spoken. Yet it had its limitations. Painting wasn't omnipresent at human society's inception.

Pottery, on the other hand, was. Pottery was global in its origins, the material of the earth shaped by prehistoric humankind from the Red Sea to the Yellow River to the Rio Grande. And pottery as a primary postwar vehicle flourished nowhere more than in Los Angeles.

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PST, A to Z: ‘It Happened at Pomona Part 2: Helene Winer at Pomona’

February 8, 2012 |  8:30 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.

The Pomona College Museum of Art has another contribution to Pacific Standard Time: "Part 2: Helene Winer at Pomona," which looks at the two short but influential years that the adventurous curator helmed the museum, from 1970 to 1972

If there were an award for stamina in the marathon that is Pacific Standard Time, it would have to go to the Pomona College Museum of Art. The first of its three-part "It Happened at Pomona" exhibition was among the first to open in late August; the third will be nearly the last to close in May. In between is "Part 2: Helene Winer at Pomona," which looks at the two short but influential years that the adventurous curator helmed the museum, from 1970 to 1972.

After stints at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Whitechapel Gallery in London, Winer arrived at Pomona with an interest in then-cutting-edge work in performance, video, and photography. Much of this art centered around the body of the artist, fleeting experiences and the vagaries of narrative -- it sought to jolt audiences out of their preconceptions about art and, indeed, reality itself. Winer's exhibitions attracted the interest of at least one key L.A. conceptualist: John Baldessari regularly took his CalArts students all the way from Valencia to Pomona to see her shows.

In fact, "Part 2" opens with a sort of collaboration between the artist and Winer. "Evidence: Bowl Handed to Helene Winer Dec. 1, 70" is a black-and-white photograph of a plain white bowl that Baldessari handed to Winer at a dinner party and then had dusted for fingerprints. Marred with incriminating black smudges, the bowl wryly flips the curator-artist relationship, with the latter "framing" the marks made by the former.

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Should replicas of destroyed sculptures be in a museum show?

February 6, 2012 | 12:14 pm

Jack Goldstein, "Untitled" and "Untitled"
Let's say a sculpture has been destroyed and the artist who made it is no longer alive, but a museum has the capacity to make a reasonable replica. Should the copy be included in an exhibition?

That knotty question arises in the case of Jack Goldstein, an admired artist whose sculptures are currently included in "It Happened at Pomona: Art at the Edge of Los Angeles, 1969-1973." The show is on view through Feb. 19 at the Pomona College Museum of Art. Goldstein, who died in 2003, is known today primarily as a painter, although he made films, photographs, sound pieces and other works as well. But as a graduate student at CalArts he also made a few sculptures, some of which were shown at Pomona 40 years ago. None survive.

That posed a dilemma for the current show, an excellent Pacific Standard Time accounting of the ambitious program of new art advanced by the college museum between 1969 and 1973. (My reviews of its first two parts are here and here.) Back then, Goldstein had a solo exhibition that consisted of eight sculptures, all long-gone. How could he be represented now?

The museum decided to make two sculpture replicas.

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Art review: Lita Albuquerque at Craig Krull

February 2, 2012 |  6:30 pm

Lita Albuquerque, "Wind-Painting-01.05.12"
Lita Albuquerque has long trafficked in the elements, in the patterns of the cosmos and the promise of alchemy. Hints of both the earthly and the lofty emerge in her recent paintings and sculptures at Craig Krull. The show complements an ephemeral piece that Albuquerque staged during last month’s Pacific Standard Time Performance and Public Art Festival. Albuquerque’s work feels most resonant when in dialogue with the profundity of the earth itself, and matching its scale — in the Mojave desert, among the pyramids of Egypt, in the icy expanse of Antarctica. The works here in the gallery feel slight and static in comparison.

A cast of her body enrobed in brilliant, blue powdered pigment balances on a small aluminum block atop a larger pedestal.The form has a stiffness and heaviness to it that defy its levitating pose. A trio of gold-leafed jumpsuits hangs freely in front of a wall painted that same intense cobalt blue, but the piece feels amateurish and inert, offering little beyond the chromatic juxtaposition’s optical buzz. The simplest and most affecting of the works are a group of “Wind Paintings” that Albuquerque made by letting the earth’s own breath scatter red pigment across wet blue canvas, shaping dense plumes and wispy films. Titled by date and precise time of their enactment, the paintings are physical records of transient performances, true (and beautiful) collaborations between natural forces and aesthetic intent.

-- Leah Ollman

Craig Krull Gallery, Bergamot Station, 2525 Michigan Ave., Santa Monica, (310) 828-6410, through Feb. 25. Closed Sunday and Monday. www.craigkrullgallery.com

Image: Lita Albuquerque, "Wind Painting 01.05.12 3:33:10pm PST." From the artist and Craig Krull. Photo: Brian Forrest.

Art review: 'Kienholz Before LACMA' at L.A. Louver

February 2, 2012 |  4:30 pm

LeadThe embarrassment of riches that is Pacific Standard Time just keeps getting richer. One of the latest offerings by a participating gallery is the stirring “Kienholz Before LACMA” at L.A. Louver. Its 22 relief paintings and assemblage sculptures were made in the decade leading up to Edward Kienholz’s notorious 1966 survey exhibition at the county museum, then just a year old as a freestanding institution and, thanks to Kienholz, generating some major blow back.

Museum trustees chafed at the exhibition (whose curator, Maurice Tuchman, collaborated with L.A. Louver on the present effort). County supervisors declared it “revolting” and “repugnant,” condemned it as pornography and attempted, unsuccessfully, to shut it down. A lifesize tableau installation depicting a sexual encounter in the back seat of a car may have provoked the greatest ire, but Kienholz’s smaller, wall-mounted, pedestal and freestanding works — like those shown here, some of which did appear in the LACMA show — also possessed ample power to rankle and disturb. They still do.

Consider “Mother Sterling” (1959), a dressmaker’s form whose caged lower portion is packed with the heads and assorted limbs of countless dolls. Whether suggesting a graveyard, junkyard or assembly of vulnerables huddled under protective cover, the whole reeks of anguish. “America My Hometown” (1963), too, strikes a tone of grotesque elegy. Stuffed teddy bears with soiled, matted fur encircle a small cabinet as if giving it a group hug. A bluish flood light glares out at us accusingly from within the furniture, lined inside with an American flag like an inverted military coffin.

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Music review: John Cage in a motel room as part of PST

January 30, 2012 |  4:55 pm

James Tenney Postal Piece
Welcome Inn in Eagle Rock doesn’t look much changed for maybe half a century. Rooms are $49.95 and have that motel smell. There are more modern motels along Colorado Boulevard, and they had vacancies when I drove by Sunday afternoon. Not Welcome Inn. And for a very good reason.

Room 17, on the second floor, was hot and stuffy, but as many people as possible squeezed in, sitting on the double beds or squatting on the floor while they earnestly focused on the “healing power of Sonic Energy.” They were participating in one of Pauline Oliveros’ meaningful “Sonic Meditations.”

Downstairs, Room 3 also was jam-packed. Listeners strained to hear the slight swells of James Tenney’s compulsively fascinating “Postal Pieces.” Unable to elbow my way in, I stood outside the door, where I also heard wafting across the parking lot insistent chords from a violin tuned to the notes D-E-A-D. That idea came from conceptual artist Bruce Nauman.

PHOTOS: PST Performance and Public Arts Festival

“Welcome Inn Time Machine” was the grand finale to Pacific Standard Time’s Performance and Public Art Festival. And welcome it was as an insightful and amusing consideration of the Los Angeles experimental music scene in the decade between 1955 and 1965. The Society for the Activation of Social Space Through Art and Sound (SASSAS), which produced this six-hour open house (open motel?) of micro concerts, very much lived up to its name.

But most importantly with this “Time Machine,”  along with “RE:COMPOSITION,” SCI-Arc’s PST presentation the night before, a major missing link in PST was at long last inserted. That is the significance of John Cage on West Coast art.

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PST: Ceramic arts through the years

January 28, 2012 |  2:00 pm

 

Pteter v

 

Peter Voulkos has been called a hero, a catalyst, an inspiration. Billy Al Bengston referred to him as a "germinator" for the way he planted the seeds of abstraction in postwar L.A. art. Through the force of his raw, muscular ceramic sculpture and intense personal magnetism, he made those seeds flourish.

A new Pacific Standard Time exhibition at Scripps College takes a look at the pioneering work of Voulkos and his peers, John Mason and Ken Price. "Clay's Tectonic Shift" traces a period in the late 1950s and 1960s, when ceramics broke free of its traditional ties to function and craft and entered the mainstream art world.

But yesterday's revolutionaries soon turn into today's historical figures, and Voulkos et al. are no different. Contemporary artists using clay recognize the importance of what that older generation made happen, but they're pursuing recognition for the medium still, trying to enact yet another shift in the perception of clay's viability as a sculptural material.

Here's an Arts & Books article on how clay keeps breaking the mold.

--Leah Ollman

Photo: Peter Voulkos Untitled, 1956. Credit: Scripps College

 

 

PST, A to Z: ‘The House That Sam Built,’ ‘In Words and Wood’

January 27, 2012 |  5:03 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.

Karl Benjamin’s "Abstraction"
Charles and Ray Eames may be the most celebrated PST designers, but two exhibitions centered on midcentury woodworker Sam Maloof give them a run for their money. “The House That Sam Built: Sam Maloof and Art in the Pomona Valley, 1945-1985” at the Huntington, and “In Words and Wood: Sam Maloof, Bob Stocksdale and Ed Moulthrop,” at the Sam and Alfreda Maloof Foundation, both look at Maloof’s work in relation to the remarkable community of artists and craftspeople who gathered around him.

Like the Eameses, Maloof was a magnet for talent and creativity, but unlike them, he never embraced mass production. Instead, a piece of his furniture — always made by hand, to order — could be seen as a highly personal dialogue between its maker and its recipient. This stance might seem too rarefied, even elitist, but it’s also evidence of Maloof’s intense focus on personal relationships.

In the Huntington show, which closes Monday, this value comes across even in relatively early works. The basic shape of a 1952 chair created for the office of industrial designer Henry Dreyfuss was inspired by Danish modern design, but Maloof added an extra bar across the back, which actually made the chair less comfortable. As it turns out, this change came out of discussions with Dreyfuss, who hoped that less accommodating chairs would encourage shorter meetings.

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PST, A to Z: ‘Civic Virtue’ at LA Municipal Art Gallery and Watts Towers Arts Center

January 25, 2012 |  5:00 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.

W202_ProcessionEdited_web
When Josine Ianco Starrels became the director of the Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery (LAMAG) in 1975, she had a clear vision for the space: “It’s City money. City money comes from L.A. citizens. And I think it should support L.A. artists…where are local artists going to cut their teeth? And who is going to show them?”  

Although Pacific Standard Time has told us much about who was indeed showing local artists, Starrels’ point about the city’s money supporting the city’s artists is a key idea behind “Civic Virtue: The Impact of the Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery and the Watts Towers Arts Center.” Split between the two venues, with each institution emphasizing its own history, this sweeping exhibition provides a much-needed vision of art created and presented, not for art’s sake or for profit, but for the public good.

Commercial galleries, no matter how adventurous, are still businesses, and non-profit museums and art spaces, with few exceptions, are beholden to wealthy donors and benefactors. It’s tempting to imagine that government-run institutions, funded by taxpayers, might truly reflect the tastes of the people. The convoluted histories of LAMAG and the Watts Towers Arts Center (WTAC) prove that reality is more complex than that, but “Civic Virtue” still succeeds in reminding us of that original, idealistic impulse: that art should be a central part of civic life.

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Art review: 'It Happened at Pomona, Part II' at Pomona College

January 23, 2012 |  4:45 pm

"It Happened at Pomona, Part II"
In late August, the Pomona College Museum of Art was first out of the Pacific Standard Time gate with the lead installment of its three-part survey, "It Happened at Pomona: Art at the Edge of Los Angeles, 1969-1973." The exhibition was modest in size but surprisingly rich in implications. Not the least of its virtues, especially in our bigger-is-better era of art extravaganzas, was the vivid demonstration that a small college art museum can have a big impact if a keen intelligence is at work.

So it was 40 years ago, and so it is now.

The show was organized by Pomona Museum curator Rebecca McGrew and the Getty Research Institute's Glenn Phillips. It comes with an excellent catalog. Part one looked at the curatorial decisions made by Hal Glicksman during the 1969-1970 academic year. The second part, up now, moves the ball forward a bit, featuring about 30 works by 13 artists exhibited by Helene Winer, the curator who followed Glicksman.

Part two doesn't have a specific theme, since the aim is to be a straightforward chronicle of an ambitious if short-lived institutional effort to show new art. But, at least partially, one emerges anyhow. Disquiet, apprehension, precariousness -- after the lively 1960s, this is art from a gnawing age of anxiety.

Sometimes it's funny, rarely is it grim; but the restlessness is apparent.

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