text by NARE GARIBYAN
Recently, I discovered the Pasadena Museum of California Art. The museum is preached on a corner, along Union Street; the parking garage welcomes visitors with a colorful art piece adorning the walls, entitled Kosmic Krylon, by artist Kenny Scharf. Directly attached to the parking garage, a spiral staircase leads visitors to the entrance, which is only partially enclosed overhead and contains a large rectangular cutout in the wall that looks out into the street; this creates an open air feel. The etherealness of the space continues through the twin glass doors that open into the gallery space with various viewing rooms. The minimalist décor includes grayish-silver floors and a scattering of plastic gray chairs; the focus is definitely placed on the artwork that adds color and dimension to the gallery space.
Currently, at the Pasadena Museum of California Art, L.A. RAW: Abject Expressionism in Los Angeles 1945-1980, From Rico Lebrun to Paul McCarthy exhibit is available for the public’s viewing pleasure until May 20, 2012. This exhibition, which is curated by Michael Duncan, brings to the forefront that “the figurative artists, who dominated the postwar Los Angeles art scene until the late 1950s, have largely been written out of today’s art history. This exhibition, part of the Getty Foundation’s initiative “Pacific Standard Time: Art in L.A. 1945-1980,” traces the distinctive aesthetic of figurative expressionism from the end of World War II, bringing together over 120 works by forty-one artists in a variety of media–painting, sculpture, photography, and performance. The exhibition fills in a gap in knowledge about post World War II art, tracking figurative art through postwar existentialism, the Beat movement, 1960s politics, and 1970s feminism and performance — the forces that lead to the explosion of body-oriented art in the 1980s.” 1
Three of the featured artists in the current show are John Altoon, Jirayr Zorthian, and Charles Garabedian, all of Armenian descent.
Andrea Hales, who had co-curated an Altoon exhibit at the Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego, states that Altoon “continued making drawings of the nude female form throughout his career, yet Altoon’s images of nude women are not renditions of beauty in the classical tradition. Rather they seem brazen or even lascivious” (p. 8). 2
Jirayr Zorthian in his own words, “…the past four years I’ve been doing some new works of art and most of it is involved with the figurative drawing. I love, I love, I love the art, I mean, I love the body. The human body to me is the most exciting thing you can imagine. The form, the crevices, the beautiful things. (session 2, tape 2, side B). 3 Holly Myers, who had written an article about Garabedian, in the Los Angeles Times, beautifully describes his work as “blending whimsical abstraction with a robust, archetypal brand of figuration—the nude figure is his most constant motif—and a bright, energetic, palette much indebted to the Southern California sunlight, the work is lyrical and strange, yet startlingly lucid” (p. E8) .4
Some of the other innovative artists include Jack Zajac, Arnold Mesches, Judith Baca, William Brice, Edward Kienholz, John Outterbridge, June Wayne and many more. Several visits are necessary to be able to take in this incredible art history and appreciate the unique works of art.
For more information, visit the museum’s website.
1. Pasadena Museum of California Art (2011, September 22). L.A. RAW: Abject Expressionism in Los Angeles 1945-1980 From Rico Lebrun to Paul McCarthy January 21, 2012 – May 20, 2012. PMCA News Release.
2. Hales, Andrea (1997). “Chronology of an artist.” John Altoon. La Jolla, California: Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego
3. Karlstrom, Paul J. (1997). “Oral history interview with Jirayr Zorthian, 1997 Jan. 28.-July 9.” Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
4. Myers, Holly (2011, February, 27). “Artistry Delayed: Charles Garabedian came late to the canvas but he’s still making a splash.” Los Angeles Times.