courtesy of the artist and Cardwell Jimmerson Contemporary Art
It was quiet as hell in Pasadena this past Easter Sunday. Spurned by Target’s closure (isn’t Target always open?) I had the great good fortune to drive by the Pasadena Museum of California Art, only to realize I had not yet viewed L.A. RAW: Abject Expressionism in Los Angeles 1945-1980, From Rico Lebrun to Paul McCarthy.
Part of Pacific Standard Time, “L.A. Raw” 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 show strikes me as di riguer viewing if you are part of the contemporary Los Angeles arts community, either on visual or performing art side. The work is a lot about the body and a good deal of it performative. There are lots of naked painters expressing extreme emotion and ideas with their bodies. Dance people need to see this.
The personal courage and freedom of expression is noteworthy and inspiring. Loneliness, space, and a profound detachment from society, all themes of the creative artist, just ring out across the spectrum of the 41 L.A. artists assembled in this survey.
I quote from Patricia Cronen’s excellent overview in artnet.com:
In Los Angeles, artists responded to post-war existential questions in a dramatically different fashion than their East Coast counterparts. While the New York School turned to Abstract Expressionism (simultaneously shifting the epicenter of the art world from Paris and Europe), artists in L.A. fashioned a much more direct and populist response to the realities of the Vietnam war, the horrors of Auschwitz and Hiroshima, and the threat of McCarthyism. The hallmark of this kind of work is the expressively distorted human body, constituting a new, distinctly West Coast kind of humanism.
What a great personal catch-up exercise it was for me, and what a gripping experience to view it work-by-work, quietly, in an empty gallery. We have curator Michal Duncan to thank for a spectacular — and shattering — show.
There is another film night coming up, the closing night May 20, featuring three artists, Conner Everts, James Strombotne, and Charles Garabedian. This time, I suggest that the museum incorporate the show; during the last film event, which I attended, the exhibit was roped off and nary a word spoken about it. It was mawkish and weird.
L.A. RAW: Abject Expressionism in Los Angeles 1945-1980, From Rico Lebrun to Paul McCarthy | Pasadena Museum of California Art | thru May 20