Looking Back

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irst, let's dispense with the bad news. The lowest moments of 2013 had to do with the protracted departure of Jeffrey Deitch from MOCA. His exhibition of massive installations by Urs Fischer turned out to be the death knell. As a clay bust of Deitch crumbled to pieces over the course of the show, it seemed a manifestation of his loss of credibility.


Urs Fischer bust of Jeffrey Deitch at MOCA

Coming soon? A new director and a significant number of realized financial pledges from a chastened board of trustees. As to who will step into Deitch's soggy shoes, MOCA remains mum. Many respected museum directors have been contacted and rejected MOCA's invitation out of hand, privately explaining that whoever takes the position has to be ready for a massive rebuilding effort. At least. And they prefer not to do that.


Installation photograph, "Calder and Abstraction: From Avant-Garde to Iconic"
Los Angeles County Museum of Art
© Calder Foundation, New York, Artists Rights Society, New York
Photo © Fredrik Nilsen

On to the high points of the past year: Rooms of light by James Turrell, one of the most famous artists of the artists to come out of L.A. in the 60's, but whose work had rarely been seen. With simultaneous presentations at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston and the Guggenheim Museum in New York, Turrell was introduced to new audiences. Here the immensely popular show continues at LACMA to April 6 and must not be missed. Finishing the year with a crash of cymbals, the Alexander Calder exhibition of abstract sculpture from the prime years of his career, enhanced greatly by the Frank Gehry installation, remains on view to July 27, 2014. (Go to lacma.org.)


Sam Francis, "Abstraction" (Red, Blue, and Yellow), 1953
Watercolor on wove-screen paper, 19 1/2 x 24 1/4 inches
The Buck Collection, Laguna Beach, California
Artwork © Sam Francis Foundation, California / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York


In terms of the history of West Coast art, the paintings of Sam Francis, lapidary color splashed on blazing white backgrounds, continues to January 5 at the Pasadena Museum of California Art. (Go to http://pmcaonline.org/.)


Richard Diebenkorn, "Figure on a Porch," 1959
Oil on canvas
Collection of the Oakland Museum of California
Anonymous Donor Program of the American Federation of the Arts
Gift of the Estate of Howard E. Johnson
© 2013 The Richard Diebenkorn Foundation. All rights reserved.


And the show of Richard Diebenkorn's rich, structured paintings from his years in Berkeley, are now at the Palm Springs Art Museum through Feb. 16, 2014. This is a really welcome companion to the 2012 show of Ocean Park paintings at the Orange County Museum of Art. (Go to psmuseum.org.)


James Welling, "0469," 2009
Inkjet print. 33 11/16 x 50 1/2 in. (85.5 x 128.3 cm)
Hammer Museum, Los Angeles

Concluding my own interest in the history of modern and contemporary art in California, I think that the show of James Welling's photographs reveals so much about the trajectory of his own work but also the ways that photography as a practice for all artists is changing as it meshes with the larger practice of contemporary art. It continues to Jan. 12, 2014. (Go to hammer.ucla.edu.)

So the gifts of 2013 keep giving, at least for a few weeks or months, into 2014. Now where is that new MOCA director?

Banner image: Detail from Richard Diebenkorn's Berkeley #44, 1955, oil on canvas, private collection. © 2013 The Richard Diebenkorn Foundation