Category: PST review

Art review: Los Angeles Free Music Society at the Box

February 16, 2012 |  7:30 pm

Freemusic
Walking into "Beneath the Valley of the Lowest Form of Music,” an ebullient survey of art, ephemera and artifacts charting the 30-year history of the Los Angeles Free Music Society, is like walking into the garage of a cool, eccentric uncle. In the cavernous main space of the Box’s new Traction Avenue location, one wall is plastered floor to the ceiling with concert posters advertising the many bands affiliated with this loose collective of experimental musicians (Le Forte Four, Doo-Dooettes, Smegma, Extended Organs and Airway, among others).

On another wall, an immense grid of black and white photographs introduces viewers to the musicians themselves: a gaggle of gangly, often goofy young men (and the occasional woman) — a dozen or so in the core group, many more, it would seem, in the extended circle — who came together in the pre-punk days of the early 1970s to explore the outer reaches of rock, using instruments, electronics and just about anything else they could find.

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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.

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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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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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PST: Richard Jackson makes a painting with a drone airplane crash

January 23, 2012 | 12:00 pm

Richard Jackson 006
After one aborted attempt at takeoff, artist Richard Jackson finally got his big, paint-filled, remote-controlled model airplane off the ground late Sunday afternoon. He circled the craft high above the grassy field adjacent to Pasadena's Rose Bowl stadium, then brought it in low to smash head-on into a 20-foot-square canvas erected in the field. (That's the paint-splattered moment of impact in the photograph.) A rainbow of color instantly streaked the canvas, already emblazoned with a military or club-style insignia.

Jackson launched his "Accidents in Painting" as part of the Pacific Standard Time Performance and Public Art Festival, which continues citywide through Jan. 29. (Some reviews are here.) Next month Pasadena's Armory Center for the Arts, which hosted Sunday in the park with Jackson, will open an exhibition based on the event. That's appropriate. Jackson showed a similar project in a Zurich gallery in 2003; yet a certain pointed resonance attends an art center built in a former National Guard arsenal in a region that owes much of its established prosperity to a once-flourishing defense industry.

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Art review: 'State of Mind: New California Art Circa 1970' at OCMA

January 5, 2012 |  3:30 pm

Paul Kos, "The Sound of Ice Melting"
The eruption of Conceptual art as a major force is the subject of "State of Mind: New California Art Circa 1970," a rambunctious Pacific Standard Time exhibition at the Orange County Museum of Art. In some senses it forms a narrow prologue to the Museum of Contemporary Art's wide-ranging PST entry, "Under the Big Black Sun: California Art 1974-1981." That show charts the collapse of a linear, monolithic artistic mainstream and the spread of more diverse, pluralistic art forms throughout the state. Conceptual art was its bellwether.

However different the two shows are, they do share something in common: A viewer will be struck by a near absence of color in the galleries, in favor of the prominence of black and white. There are a couple of reasons for this.

One is the pointed distinction many artists were making with contemporaneous Color Field painting, touted by the establishment as art's Next Big Thing.

In 1964, New York critic Clement Greenberg rounded up 31 American and Canadian artists for a sprawling Color Field show at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. (Greenberg preferred the term "post-painterly abstraction," which he used as the exhibition's title, but it meant the same thing as Color Field.) The show traveled to the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis and the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto, two influential outposts where the New York mainstream was often embraced.

Although LACMA's show included some first-rate California artists, such as Sam Francis and Emerson Woelffer, they were added to the roster by a LACMA curator, not chosen by Greenberg. His show was widely seen as representing the voice of authority, which rankled in a newly anti-authoritarian era.

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Music review: Carl Stone's Pacific Standard Time concert

November 13, 2011 |  2:30 pm

Carl Stone and Gloria ChengThe first notable musical offering of Pacific Standard Time was a glorious concert of electronic music by Carl Stone at the Getty Center on Saturday evening, a night of sonic wonder. Now my job is, somehow, not to explain why.

One of the most annoying aspects of Pacific Standard Time is that it engenders definitions. But for Los Angeles, definition can be an act of destruction, especially in music. A true L.A. composer is no more apt to be pinned down in our particular geographical energy field than a quantum particle in its.

That may be one reason why music has a relatively insignificant place in this festival (its antecedent, the region-wide Ring Festival last year, was not so small-minded). But Stone’s electronics did send, you might say, a stimulating signal.

Stone, who is 58, is from here, but doesn’t live here, having relocated first to San Francisco then Tokyo, where he is now based. That, however, has made him no less an Angeleno, if you take Los Angeles to be a place of many places.

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Art review: 'Now Dig This!' at the UCLA Hammer Museum

October 10, 2011 |  3:15 pm

Dig this Edwards and White 2
At the UCLA Hammer Museum, "Now Dig This! Art and Black Los Angeles 1960-1980" tells an important story that is not so much unknown as underknown.

Many of the individual artists -- Melvin Edwards, John Outterbridge, Noah Purifoy, Betye Saar, Charles White and others -- are certainly familiar, while David Hammons ranks among the most important American artists of the last 30 years. What hasn't been the focus before now is the context within which their work developed. "Now Dig This!" lays it out with clarity and compelling insight.

That means, of course, that the exhibition is not simply a compendium of great art. Quality is mixed. Even Hammons is represented mostly by precocious student work (he moved to New York in 1974), interesting primarily for seeing where his subsequent work came from. One of his most potent pieces is a bristling wall assemblage composed from shards of broken records, hair and plaster -- contemporary materials combined to evoke an ancestral African "power shield" -- but it dates from 1983.

The show, part of the region-wide Pacific Standard Time series, opens with a quiet wallop. The Hammer's small entry room juxtaposes just two works -- Edwards' 1965 welded steel sculpture "The Lifted X," all muscular strength laid low by battered industrial forms and grimly suspended hooks, and White's monumental 1964 ink and charcoal drawing "Birmingham Totem," its crystalline mound of splintered wood surmounted by the shrouded figure of a crouching youth.

Edwards spent his formative artistic decade in L.A., moving west after high school in Houston and leaving California for New York in 1966. Initially a painter, he began to weld compact wall-reliefs from salvaged metal objects -- chains, tools, bolts, gears, padlocks, scissors, etc. -- composing intense abstractions that nonetheless recall African masks, Cubist heads and the industrial-strength syntax of Abstract Expressionist sculptor David Smith.

 "The Lifted X" ruminates on Malcolm X, the civil rights activist who was murdered as Edwards was at work on a then-unattributed sculpture. Frontal and more than 5 feet tall, almost like a figure on a pedestal, its robust but broken forms seem forever poised between being upraised and hammered down.

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Art review: 'Phenomenal: California Light, Space, Surface'

October 4, 2011 |  5:13 pm

Doug Wheeler, DW 68 VEN MCASD 11, 1968 2011, white UV neon light
SAN DIEGO -- Of all the 60 or so exhibitions in Pacific Standard Time, the Getty-sponsored extravaganza that explores Southern California art made in the first two generations after World War II, one of the most anticipated has been "Phenomenal: California Light, Space, Surface." The title riffs on phenomenology, the philosophy of first-person consciousness.

Los Angeles is closely identified with Light and Space art, a distinctive form of perceptual exploration that emerged in artists' studios in and around Venice Beach in the 1960s and 1970s. Yet, until now, a broad survey of the genre hasn't taken place.

The Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego has happily rectified that long-standing lapse by turning over all three of its modestly sized exhibition venues, two downtown and one at its flagship seaside building in nearby La Jolla, to a beautiful and provocative show of 56 works by 13 artists. (Forty fascinating drawings and documentary works are also included.) Yes, there's obvious irony in the fact that it's taking place 130 miles south of Los Angeles. Give or take 20 miles, though, that's roughly the same distance as between Jackson Pollock's studio in Springs, Long Island, where the iconic New York School artist's great drip paintings were made, and the Museum of Modern Art in midtown Manhattan. So a visit to San Diego for archetypal L.A. School art is more than called for.

There's also the fact that the museum has steadily built an impressive permanent collection of Light and  Space art. Nearly one-third of the exhibition comes from MCASD's own holdings.

What the show and its excellent catalog accomplish is both substantial and memorable. They reassert the stature of the genre's most brilliant practitioner, critically resuscitate a reputation too little known today, provide an expansive context of related work (especially colored sculpture), offer abundant supporting material and, at the end, provide an unexpected but provocative twist. That's a lot for any show to achieve.

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Review: 'California Design 1930-1965: Living in a Modern Way' at LACMA

September 30, 2011 |  3:01 pm

Lacma1 
The first object you see in “California Design 1930-1965: ‘Living in a Modern Way,’” which opens Saturday at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, is an impossibly shiny aluminum Airstream trailer from 1936. Think of it as an aerodynamic time machine — or a dose of design-world Prozac, complete with wheels and lacquered cabinets — ready to whisk you off to a version of our state that could hardly be more different from the one we inhabit today.

The California in the exhibition, one of LACMA's major contributions to the Pacific Standard Time series, is bathed in an optimistic glow, adding population faster than it can tally the growth and ready, even impatient, to embrace the future. It is the state before Proposition 13 and bankrupt cities north and south, before the Watts riots or either of Jerry Brown’s stints in Sacramento, before Joan Didion symbolically renounced her California citizenship by calling her 2003 collection of essays “Where I Was From,” emphasis very much on the past tense.

Nobody is renouncing anything in “California Design,” organized by Wendy Kaplan, who heads the department of decorative arts and design at LACMA, and Bobbye Tigerman, a curator in the department. Though the show begins with references to the Depression and World War II, and hints later on at the political and aesthetic battles of the late 1960s and 1970s, it's the upbeat, cooperative spirit of postwar design that the curators are keenest to convey.

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