Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Pasadena Museum of California Art: An Appreciation

Edgar Payne, Hills of Altadena, 1917-1919. Oil on canvas,
36 x 45 in. Steven Stern Collection

Just a few days ago, my daughter introduced me to a delightful museum in Pasadena, the Pasadena Museum of California Art. This is a smaller museum than the Norton Simon but makes up for any size difference with excellent permanent and visiting collections.

The Museum is in downtown Pasadena, near City Hall.

In recognition of the automobile’s importance in southern California, the art starts with free flowing spray paintings by artist and cartoonist, Kenny Scharf in the Museum’s parking garage. Scharf’s paintings turn the garage from just a place to store cars into a “Kosmic Kavern.”

Upstairs from Scharf’s painting are the main exhibit spaces.

Until Sunday, October 14, 2012, nearly all the museum is given over to nearly 100 paintings and drawings by Edgar Payne, a Chicagoan who moved to California in the early 20th century and was swept away by the artistic possibilities.

Payne was an American Impressionist; his paintings are best viewed from about six to 10 feet away, to best appreciate his use of color and light. Many of the pictures in this exhibit are on large canvasses and are breathtaking.

In addition to painting California landscapes, Payne’s painted scenes from New Mexico and Europe. An artist is not obliged to make his or her work realistic. However, two pictures in the exhibit of the San Gabriel Mountains are almost dead ringers for the mountains as they appear today.

After visiting the eastern Sierras on a fishing trip with my friend, Dennis, I realized that Payne’s paintings of these mountains are as close to an exact copy to the landscape as one can come without a camera.

The Museum does not have a permanent collection but has rotating exhibits. The next exhibits are described in the upcoming exhibits section of the Museum’s website and start Sunday October 28th. The new exhibits are devoted to Swedish-American architect and designer Greta Magnusson Grossman, sculptor and photographer Jessica Rath and printmaker Paul Landacre.

Rath, who works in 'porcelain sculptures and large-scale photographic portraits of hybrid apple trees, is makng art with a bicoastal touch. The LA artist's exhibition is informed by visits to the USDA/Cornell University Plant Genetics Resource Unit in Geneva NY, which preserves endangered varieties of apples from extinction, and its Agricultural Experiment Station, in which apple clones are crossbred to create new varieties for large-scale consumption.

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