It usually takes more than one cup of coffee to wake me up in the morning. But, yesterday was an exception. When I looked at the front page of the NY Times Arts section, I said, “Wow.” The news from the Metropolitan Museum completely woke me up.
Concept rendering for Americas Galleries Looking South, The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Image by wHY.
For the $70m project to reconfigure and reimagine the museum’s Rockefeller Wing, the Met has chosen Kulapat Yantrasast, the Los Angeles-based architect, whose architecture firm wHY has offices in LA and New York. About 20 years ago, the Museum of Modern Art chose the office of another Los Angeles-based architect, Michael Maltzan, to renovate the factory in Queens that would become MoMA’s temporary quarters. And, a few weeks ago, the new Menil Drawing Institute, designed by Los Angeles architecture firm Johnston Marklee, opened in Houston. These high-profile projects, designed by well- established LA-based architects, proves that – slowly but steadily – the world is learning that Los Angeles is full of cutting-edge creative energy.
Nina Chanel Abney, Four Stops. 2007. California African American Museum. Photo by Edward Goldman.
And, talking about high energy… on Sunday, I went to the California African American Museum, to see their current exhibitions by two New York-based artists. Let me start with Nina Chanel Abney (b. 1982), whose exhibition "Royal Flush" is her first solo museum survey, which includes paintings, watercolors, and collages created over the past 10 years.
Nina Chanel Abney, Untitled (XXXXXX). 2015. California African American Museum. Photo by Edward Goldman.
The energy, the color, the visual information streaming – or may I say screaming – from her images makes you think about the world in which all of us live, with 24-hour, non-stop news cycles. I caught myself looking admiringly at her figurative paintings from a safe distance, afraid that if I came too close I might be overwhelmed with its visual stimulation.
Nina Chanel Abney, Untitled (IXI Black). 2015. California African American Museum. Photo by Edward Goldman.
I definitely want to compliment CAAM for giving Nina Chanel Abney her first, well-deserved museum show.
Robert Pruitt. A Brother I Have Had on Earth. 2017. California African American Museum. Photo by Edward Goldman.
Robert Pruitt (b. 1962) is a well-known American artist, but his exhibition at CAAM is his first major museum exhibition in LA. His drawings, sculpture, animation, and photography investigate spiritual traditions of black identity. It was the first time that I had seen his works in real time, in a real place, and his large-scale figurative drawings stopped me in my tracks.
Installation shot: (L) Robert Pruitt. A Holy Motherfucker. 2017. (R) Male Figure. 2011. California African American Museum. Photo by Edward Goldman
And they didn’t stop me simply because of their large scale, but because of their exquisite draftsmanship and attention to detail. These portraits of young, African- American men and women capture their character and spirit, as well as their appearance. It seems to me that Robert Pruitt is familiar with and influenced by the Old Masters’ classical portraiture.
Robert Pruitt. I Turned Into Myself. 2018. California African American Museum. Photo by Edward Goldman.
Now, I am fantasizing about an exhibition pairing Pruitt’s drawing of his wife laying down on a couch with Manet’s Olympia and all the other well-known Venuses by European masters. So, my friends, if you haven’t yet been to the California African American Museum, this is a good time to go. And, it’s free of charge – I wish other Los Angeles museums were as generous.