The Armory Center in Pasadena
Sam Francis at The Norton Simon Museum
Keeping up with interesting exhibitions in Los Angeles museums and galleries used to be so simple. A few afternoon strolls through downtown studios, and along La Cienega Gallery Row, plus a few spots in West Hollywood and Venice and that was pretty much it. Not any more. These days, if you don't do it around the clock, you are out of the loop. Let me take you on one of my recent strolls.
South on the Harbor Freeway off we go toward San Pedro. Have you heard about L.A. Harbor College in Wilmington? In its art gallery, there is an exhibition of L.A. based artist Ali Acerol, whose studio in Santa Monica Airport is one of the hidden treasures for those in the know. Born in Turkey, but educated at the Sorbonne in France, Ali Acerol is known for sculptures made from bricks and mortar. His sculptures may look like old fashioned club chairs and ottomans, but weighing up to 500 pounds, they will defy attempts to move them closer to a fireplace or into the shade. To see the artist working hard by chiseling blocks of fused together bricks, is to be reminded of the old romantic notion of sculptors carving a human figure out of a block of marble.
But we live in the Postindustrial Age, dominated by Conceptual Art, whatever that means; Ali Acerol's sculptures can be sat upon, and, surprisingly, they are very comfortable. But you'll get more out of them if you study them by looking, or better, by touching them. Brick, the most ancient and primitive building material known to mankind, is transformed by the artist into a seemingly receptive, pliable substance. Macho rectangular shapes of bricks slowly, grudgingly reveal its hidden feminine voice and transforms itself into furniture with soft and voluptuous contours. With furniture like that around the house, who needs friends?
Now, hurry up, we want to go check out the newly remodeled Armory Center in Pasadena. The entire place sparkles with new energy as if the Fairy Godmother gave it a good scrub. For this occasion, a number of artists made site specific works. The one which struck an especially festive and mischievous note with me is the installation by Jane Mulfinger, who camouflaged two huge skylights with hundreds of items of old clothes. In a deliciously subversive way, it looks soooo L.A. - to make sunlight stream down through recycled pants, shirts, skirts, and even underwear, if I'm not mistaken. What a perfect reinterpretation of traditional stained glass depictions of the Passion of Christ into a 21st century thrift store inspired spectacle.
Now we've earned the pleasure to have a cup of coffee at nearby Norton Simon Museum, in their unique, and probably the most beautiful garden this side of heaven. Before letting you go, let me take you to see the recently installed gigantic so-called Basel Mural by Sam Francis. Usually kept in storage, it is now installed to a mesmerizing effect. Going through a series of galleries, you can lock your eyes on it from a hundred feet away. It reveals itself slowly, but when you reach the last gallery where it's exhibited, all your senses are completely overwhelmed. What a treat.
For More Information:
Los Angeles Harbor College
1111 Figueroa Place
Wilmington, CA 90774
Armory Center for the Arts
New Works, New Spaces
April 14 - June 23, 2002
145 N. Raymond Ave.
Pasadena, CA 91103
Norton Simon Museum
411 West Colorado Boulevard
Pasadena, CA 91105
(626) 449-6840 www.nortonsimon.org