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FROM THIS EPISODE

However strange it might sound, there is something in common between visiting a particularly good art exhibition and going to that special restaurant for a great dinner with friends.  In both cases, the moment you enter the premises, you are charmed and slightly seduced. By art and by the intelligence and elegance with which it is presented at an exhibition. And by the aroma of heavenly food that makes your nostrils flare as soon as you step into a restaurant.  

 

What a pleasure when your first impression is confirmed when your tongue and teeth actually encounter the delicious food.  And there is no mistake that you are smitten by an exhibition when you want to touch, caress and even plunge into a work of art—with your eyes only, of course.  

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If you don’t mind a little bit of traveling along the Pacific Coast Highway, here, for you, are two excellent exhibitions that no art aficionado can afford to miss: one is a travelling exhibition of Roy Lichtenstein in Malibu, another is of our own Charles Garabedian in Santa Barbara. Both of them were born in 1923 and each of them created highly stylized, very idiosyncratic art. The difference is that Lichtenstein committed himself to art when he was still in his 20s, while Garabedian waited until his 40s before discovering art as his calling.

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In the 1960s and 70s, Lichtenstein hit his stride and became famous as a key figure in the newly developed Pop Art. His images combined the biting simplicity of comic cartoons with the dramatic, even operatic use of color and gesture. In the travelling exhibition of his 60 works, currently on display at The Frederick Weisman Museum at Pepperdine University, we have a rare opportunity to understand his artistic process. From small, unassuming sketches on paper to carefully constructed, effortlessly gorgeous collages to meticulously painted canvases that make you wonder, were they printed or painted? Roy Lichtenstein passed away in 1997 and one cannot help but notice that the art of his last decade is not necessarily his strongest.

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The sprawling retrospective of Charles Garabedian at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art finds this Los Angeles artist, now in his late 80s, to be at his absolute best.  And the miracle is that he has continued to be in top form since the 1970s. This expertly organized and sumptuously installed exhibition will hopefully introduce his art to a wider audience beyond the tight circle of aficionados who have known and admired his work for decades. CAPTION_SBMA_2.jpg

 

Most of Garabedian’s paintings are inspired by Greek and Roman mythology and populated by endearingly clumsy naked figures of men and women: standing, stumbling, falling, and laying down. Even when they are fighting and dying on a battlefield, they don’t betray either ecstasy or anguish. There is something very monumental and eternal in the way these figures come across.   

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There are truly two show-stoppers in this exhibition, a pair of gigantic canvases on the scale of major Renaissance paintings, each roughly 12 by 24 feet. Only instead of the Bible, they are inspired by ancient stories of Homer.  Prepare to lose yourself in the deep blue sprawl of their Mediterranean skies, then to plunge into the warm green water of the Aegean Sea, and all this conveyed by the generous, quick and somewhat rough brushstrokes of the artist’s 87-year young hand.

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