Like weather and politics, art can be good, bad and ugly. But unlike political commentators, who cannot avoid dealing with the nasty parts of politics, I am searching only for the best, or at least the solidly good art to talk about. If an exhibition intrigues and inspires me, then there is a chance that you will also be curious enough to jump in a car to see it. And to hell with the bad and mediocre stuff. There is always plenty of it. Why bother?
A new, amazing exhibition at the Orange County Museum of Art, devoted to the great American artist, Richard Diebenkorn, has already gotten well deserved accolades. I knew I was going to like it, but I didn't expect to be bowled over. The exhibition is simply superb. I was not just happy to see these 75 paintings, prints and drawings from the artist's celebrated Ocean Park Series; I felt like a child receiving a beautifully wrapped Christmas gift.
The museum went all out to give Diebenkorn his due and then went even further. The permanent collection was put into storage, gallery walls were literally moved, cement floors were polished to shimmering effect. More to the point, the curator's deep understanding and love for this art was happily and eloquently conveyed through a poetically sparse installation.
Take a look at the photos I took in the galleries, with paintings reflected on the polished floors, which resemble, if not almost become, the surface of the ocean.
I was staring at these beautifully composed abstract compositions, with their strict geometric constructions softened by the dreamy pastel, colors and my spirit started to soar as if I was in church, listening to the music. I'm still trying to decide: was it Handel or Bach?
If you are too lazy to travel to Orange County, here are two good exhibitions to see close to home. At the Fowler Museum at UCLA, there is an interesting exhibition of Italian artist Alighiero Boetti (1940 -1994), whose popularity on the international art scene is getting stronger with every passing year. It's been almost twenty years since the artist's death, but his exhibitions keep coming. The Fowler Museum gives a good sampling of his works, especially his best-known 'World Maps,' conceived by the artist but embroidered by Afghan women. Boetti didn't have direct access to these women, but, through middlemen, was able to convey his ideas. Amazingly, the artist didn't mind when these women made unexpected choices of color and words while embroidering his Maps.
Another good thing in town is the photographic exhibition at the USC Fischer Museum about the grassroots, artist-run organization formed in 1973, Los Angeles Center for Photographic Studies (LACPS). The well-designed installation includes a number of good photos, culled from the archives and made by aspiring photographers from all over L.A.
And now about Arnold, poor Arnold. I never thought that I would feel this sorry for our former governor. A few days ago, the L.A. Times published a photograph of him standing in front of a massive bronze statue, portraying him as a young, near-naked bodybuilder flexing his ridiculously huge muscles. This statue, recently unveiled in Columbus, Ohio, is not just bad; it's simply ugly. Does Arnold have anyone in his entourage to save him from this embarrassment? Where is Maria when he needs her? It's a scandal that our politicians have such a blind eye for art.
Richard Diebenkorn: The Ocean Park Series
Orange County Museum of Art
Through May 27, 2012
Order and Disorder: Alighiero Boetti by Afghan Women
Fowler Museum at UCLA
Through July 29, 2012
Sight Specific: LACPS and the Politics of Community
USC Fischer Museum
Jan. 11-April 7, 2012
Banner image: Alighiero Boetti, Mappa (Map), 1971-72, embroidery on linen. Courtesy Fondazione Alighiero e Boetti
Edward Goldman is an art critic and the host of Art Talk, a program on art and culture for KCRW 89.9 FM. To listen to the show and hear Edward's charming Russian accent, click here.