Friday, January 20, 2012

Hard Edge (bringing sexy back?)

Today was Getty/Hammer day here in smoggy/sunny (&sorta cold) Los Angeles. I ventured forth and paid for parking to go see the first of many "PST- Pacific Standard Time" shows. In particular "Crosscurrents in L.A. painting and sculpture, 1950-1970." And after the MET, the ICA, the MFA and the MOMA, this was the first show I was honestly gobsmacked at. I've always had the love for L.A. and the west coast art scene, but suddenly, after 4 collections of the great and the well-known/loved art anchors, I got to see 1 show of virtually unknown and completely lust-worthy art objects. These were the kind of art objects that remind a weary artist why they want to make things with a capital "T". I wanted to lick the glass pieces that were elegantly suspended, or set on the ground so precariously. Things were fragile, things were crafted. Sure, there were baby heads and house shapes and big, ugly ceramic eyesores (what mid-century California-based show could claim its cred without something huge and ugly, made out of clay?), but for everything predictable there was something gracefully sublime. I even appreciated Judy Chicago's car hood. When Diebenkorn's look sloppy by comparison to everything else in a room, I suddenly feel at home. The only thing that would've made me happier was if they had included some printmakers and a Wayne Thiebaud or 3.

But by far my favorite was this incredible Helen Lundeberg, which no reproduction could ever do justice. The quality of the exceptionally flat, perfectly mixed and muted acrylic made it feel as luminous as glass, and yet there was positively no reflective quality to the paint whatsoever. It had all the magic of a glass marble,all the grace of the ocean. According to Wikipedia, Hard Edge painting, a style original to California in the 50's (which I had never heard of) was a direct correspondent to the flingy AbEx crap happening on the east coast. Several other painters of this genre were also featured in the room, but this image (is it an island? A cave?)took my breath right away. I could have been with it for hours. Each time I got close to it (and I came back to it, over and over) there was a new layer of color that I hadn't discerned before, and completely lost myself in. So incredibly sexy.
I set the postcard in amoungst the mineolas and tree-ripened grapefruits on my friend's counter in his sea blue kitchen, and loved it all the more for it being a memory, now, of this beautiful house, set back in a beautiful hill. So content. Smelling citrus, listening to Willie Nelsen.

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