08/12/2011 11:21 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Art World Colonoscopy

Everyone in Los Angeles is jumping on the high-speed train, oh wait, we don't have one... everyone's powering north in their cars on the killer Golden State Freeway. Destination, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art for The Steins Collect: Matisse, Picasso, and the Parisian Avant-Garde.

The much-lauded Gertrude Stein show adds to the ever-growing dump of evidence that museum curators tend toward overly complex exhibition titles -- too frequently set up with the poor bedraggled colon.

[not sure what a colon is? see illustration at right]

Let's check out the Getty Museum, a castle of art high atop a hill, dubbed (by me) the Kingdom of the Colon. What do the Getty curator-luminaries have on offer?
  • In Focus: The Sky
  • Paris: Life & Luxury
  • Luminous Paper: British Watercolors and Drawings
  • Display and Art History: The Düsseldorf Gallery and Its Catalog
  • A Revolutionary Project: Cuba from Walker Evans to Now
  • Gods of Angkor: Bronzes from the National Museum of Cambodia
  • La Roldana's Saint Ginés: The Making of a Polychrome Sculpture
"In Focus: The Sky???"Um, do 'ya really hafta go to a museum to see that?

The Getty's also staging Fashion in the Middle Ages, with its sad, colon-free title. Not fancy-schmancy enough, it must be a bad show. Anyway, everyone knows they dressed like schlumps in the Middle Ages.

LACMA, the people's museum, will certainly adopt a more direct approach! Well, don't count on it.
  • Gifts of the Sultan: The Arts of Giving at the Islamic Courts
  • The Sound of One Hand: Paintings and Calligraphy by Zen Master Hakui
  • Possible Worlds: Mario Ybarra, Jr., Karla Diaz, and Slanguage Studio Select from the Permanent Collections
  • and then there's plain-old Teresa Margolles, who must surely be a boring artist.
The Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) is hip. But the hope that hipsters will hate this horrible habit proves hapless.
  • The Personal is Political: Woman Artists from the Collection
  • Miranda July: Eleven Heavy Things
  • George Herms: Xenophilia (Love of the Unknown)
  • Common Objects: Pop Art from the Collection
The colonitis epidemic has even spread to proper, polite Pasadena. There the Norton Simon Museum contributes its own double dots:
  • Surface Truths: Abstract Painting in the Sixties
  • Where Arts Meets Science: Ancient Sculpture from the Hindu-Buddhist World
At the Norton Simon, you may also register for the adult education class "Old Master Materials and Techniques: What Lies Beneath." Next term they are offering, "What Lies Beneath: Old Master Materials and Techniques."

Meanwhile back in SF, the Contemporary Jewish Museum, a museum about contemporary Jews (which ya'd think would preclude Gerty and Alice B) offers its own Stein display, Seeing Gertrude Stein: Five Stories.

Now, personally, I don't wanna traipse up and down five stories just to see Gertrude Stein, who's usually sitting on her duff. So I'll give that a miss.

What we have here is a lack of punctuation compunction. Ms. Stein herself would get a sore tuchas from the colon overload. Listen up.

Los Angeles-based arts journalist Debra Levine blogs about dance, film, music and urban culture on arts•meme.