Art at the Edge: Pomona

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Pacific Standard Time is far flung affair and last week I drove to east, way east, to check out the show at Pomona College Museum of Art. It's a small gallery that, thanks to funding from the Getty, has been able to recreate a number of astonishing installations made between 1967 and 1970 when the adventurous Hal Glicksman was curator.

These were peak years for artists using light and space, experimenting with the very nature of perception. There is a beautifully installed white aluminum disc by Robert Irwin but the big Wow is Rise, a 1970 installation by Tom Eatherton. I walked into a darkened doorway and into a room where a pair of long concave walls emanated a pale blue light that has a soothing effect. The light and space artists experimented with this sort of thing, called a Ganzfeld. The longer I stayed, the more disorienting it was eventually producing the effect of floating. I felt like I was inside a balloon.

And speaking of balloons, they cover the ceiling of Lloyd Hamrol's 1969 Situational Construction, a glowing red room with the floor covered in still black water that reflects their round shapes. Hanging rods of wire look vaguely like falling rain. This enticing scene is only visible through a small window, which made me feel as though I were looking out at a sunset over the sea.

Michael Asher, a Conceptual artist who is involved what is called “institutional critique," could not recreate his piece from 1970 but came up with something new and subversive. His art is simply keeping the gallery open 24 hours a day. This requires extra guards and staff of course but unsurprisingly, it has proved popular with students who've wanted to stage slumber parties in Eatherton's lozenge of blue light.

Chris Burden was a student at Pomona in 1967 when he built a big yellow cube with black recessed panels. The recreation stands on the lawn and the grass is worn away where people have stood within those recessed areas. I did the same thing. The sculpture invites this sort of participation and seems a harbinger of Burden's future in performance art. Also in the show are works by Judy Chicago, Ron Cooper, and Lewis Baltz and this is only the first of a three-part show dedicated to an astonishing number of cutting edge artists who studied or taught at Pomona. Hence the title, It Happened at Pomona: Art at the Edge of Los Angeles 1969-1973. Part one closes November 6. By the way, one of those students was James Turrell, whose pavilion of shifting colored light is a permanent attraction at the college and just a short distance from the gallery but its best seen early or late in the day.

While I was in Pomona, I couldn't resist a trip to the LA County Fair and the Millard Sheets gallery. He is the artist who created those decorative tile murals on the fronts of what used to be Home Savings and Loan buildings around L.A. and arranged the shows at the fair for 25 years. Now his son, Tony Sheets, organizes the shows and this year, the theme is Eclections: these are collections of everything from metal hard hats with elaborate repoussé designs to chairs and tables made entirely from the pull-tabs of aluminum cans to sculptures made from buttons to vintage ray guns and a hyper-realistic wood carvings including an entire motorcycle. There are even works of art by Millard Sheets! It looks like something cooked up LA contemporary artists Jim Shaw and Jeffrey Vallance. Along with fried Twinkies and pig races, I thought it was a great reason to visit the county fair, which closes October 2.

For more information, on It Happened at Pomona, go to or call 909-621-8283.

For more information about the LA County Fair, go to