Archive for May, 2009

Palm Springs

Tuesday, May 19th, 2009
Frey House II, Palm Springs, CA

Frey House II, Palm Springs, CA

Julius Shulman, "Frey House II"

Julius Shulman, "Frey House II"

Palm Springs is a premier area for viewing a number of the mid-century modern architectural masterpieces.  This weekend I had the opportunity to visit two of them, the Frey House II and the Kaufmann House.  Frey House II was gifted to the Palm Springs Art Museum by  longtime resident, Albert Frey, one of the most important mid-century modern architects.  Built in 1963-64, it is steel-frame construction, with massive  sliding glass doors that allow the entire space to open up to the outdoors.  Sheathed in painted, corrugated metal and occupying a mere 800 sq ft., it offers expansive views of the entire desert.  At the time it was built,  it was at the highest elevation of any residence in the city.

Kaufmann House, Palm Springs, CA

Kaufmann House, Palm Springs, CA

Julius Shulman, "Kaufmann House"

Julius Shulman, "Kaufmann House"

The Kaufman house was commissioned by Edgar J. Kaufmann Sr., the Pittsburgh department store magnate who had earlier commissioned Frank Lloyd Wright to build Fallingwater in Pennsylvania.  Designed by Richard Neutra in 1946, the house is constructed as a series of horizontal planes that seem to float over the glass walls.  An iconic example of mid-century modernism, the house achieves a breathtaking harmony with the surrounding landscape.   It is also the site of one of Julius Shulman’s most memorable photographs.

The Palm Springs Art Museum has become a true oasis in desert.  Founded as a one-room facility in 1938, it has grown into the current 150,000 square-foot facility. Designed in 1974 by  E. Stewart Williams, the top floor was added in 1995. Numerous signficant gifts to the Museum have greatly enhanced the permanent collection which includes Modern and Contemporary painting, sculpture  and photography, architectural drawings, Western and Native American Art,  and Contemporary Art Glass.

Wayne Thiebaud, from "70 Years of Painting", Palm Springs Art Museum

Wayne Thiebaud, from "70 Years of Painting", Palm Springs Art Museum

I was pleased to catch the closing day of  the major exhibition, “Wayne Theibaud: 70 Years of Painting”.  This impressive survey included more than one hundred works drawn from Theibaud’s lengthy career.  The exhibition will travel to the Pasadena Museum of California Art, opening Oct 3. Best known for his lusciously painted still life compositions of bakery goods and delicatessen counters,  Theibuad has also specialized in large-scale portraits, studies of Northern California landscape, and cityscapes featuring San Francisco’s vertiginous streets and sidewalks.  All were represented here with splendor.

Brett

Brett Weston, Palm Springs Art Museum

Downstairs the Museum was featuring “Modern Moments: Recent Gifts in American Photography”.   The exhibition features some of the gifts that have elevated and expanded the museum’s photographic holdings which now number over 1000 images.  
The collection spans the history of photography, but the focus of this show is post-World War II American photography.

Matta (Roberto Sebastian Matta Echaurren) "Untitled", 1959, oil on canvas

Matta (Roberto Sebastian Matta Echaurren) "Untitled", 1959, oil on canvas

Matta, "Burn Baby Burn", Los Angeles County Museum of Art

Matta, "Burn Baby Burn", Los Angeles County Museum of Art

Lastly, an installation titled “Ancient and Modern: Selections from the Permanent Collection” offered works by artists from Mexico, Central and South America.  Notable among them is a significant painting by Matta. LACMA’s recent acquisition of Matta’s extraordinary and massive painting, ”Burn Baby Burn”,  has put this artist back on the radar screen.

Around Town 2

Tuesday, May 5th, 2009

 

"Hercules", The Getty Villa

"Hercules", The Getty Villa

I recently spent three days touring Los Angeles with the Director and trustees of the Virigina Museum of Fine Art.  Successive visits to our great institutions underlined the extraordinary visual wealth that surrounds us. Focused on classical treasures, we began at the Getty Villa.  The permanent collection as well as the four temporary exhibitions, including the seductive “Lasting Allure of Ancient Gems”, was impressive and edifying.   Viewing was made especially lively with a very knowledgable docent.  Sans docent, I highly recommend the complimentary audio along with the map of  Highlights.  These tools will make your visit to the Villa one of insight and pleasure.  Getty Villa

 

guido-reni-joseph-and-potiphars-wife

Guido Reni, "Joseph and Potiphar's Wife", Getty Center

 At the Getty Center, “Captured Emotions: Baroque Painting in Bologna 1575-1725″  was a highly engaging  exhibition focused on the Carracci family of painters from Bologna.  During a time when painting was thought to be stagnant, Annibale and Agostino, and their cousin Ludovico were  changing  the course of art history.  They set standards that were to remain authoritative for 200 years, influencing artists such as Guido Reni.  The show ended May 3, but the enlightened catalog is available in the bookstore.  Getty Center 

 

Gamble House, Pasadena

Gamble House, Pasadena

Pasadena’s glory is almost boundless, starting with the Gamble House.  If you’ve never been or haven’t been lately, put it on your list.  Designed by Charles and Henry Greene in 1908 for David and Mary Gamble of the Procter and Gamble Company, it is one of the outstanding examples of  American  Arts and Crafts style architecture.  The level of commitment and quest for quality from  both the architects and the clients is truly an inspiration.  Reservations required for the tour.  Gamble House

 

Pablo Picasso, "Girl with a Book", Norton Simon Museum

Pablo Picasso, "Girl with a Book", Norton Simon Museum

The Norton Simon Museum is a gift on every visit.   One of the greatest private collections ever assembled by an individual,  it comprises more than 12,000 works of art from from the Renaissance to the 20th century as well as remarkable work  of South and Southeast Asian art spanning 2,000 years.  In preparation for our visit, I recently reread Suzanne Muchnic’s informative biography “Odd Man In”.  Not only does it detail Simon’s passion for collecting, it comments extensively on the history and  growth of LA’s art institutions.  It also details Simon’s legendary machinations involved in the acquisition of specifc works, such as Rembrandt’s “Titus”. Insight gained from the book makes the work even more compelling.   Norton Simon Museum

 

Treasures Through Six Generations, Weng Collection, Huntington Library

Treasures Through Six Generations, Weng Collection, Huntington Library

Exhibitions at the Huntington just keep getting better.  This small but exquisite show of calligraphy and paintings from the Weng Collection offer another example of erudite collecting on the part of an individual collector.  Beautiful examples of scroll paintings and calligraphy are presented for optimum viewing and are fascinating even for viewers less familiar with this genre.

 

Desert Garden, Huntington Library

Desert Garden, Huntington Library

Lastly, no trip to the Huntington is complete without a stroll through the Desert Garden.  At this time of the year many plants are in bloom.  The whole garden is incredibly exotic and visually arresting.  It is a premier place to contemplate the power of sculpture, as these plants rival  the best of it.  And of course, the other gardens are a delight, including the recently completed Chinese Garden based on the classical gardens in Suzhou, China.