Art News

L.A. RAW: Abject Expressionism in Los Angeles 1945-1980 at the Pasadena Museum of California Art

artwork: Arnold Mesches - "Allegory 2", 1958 - Oil on canvas, 24 x 36 inches - Collection of Vincent Price Art Museum, Los Angeles.

PASADENA, CA.- The Pasadena Museum of California Art presents L.A. RAW: Abject Expressionism in Los Angeles, 1945-1980, From Rico Lebrun to Paul McCarthy on view from January 22, 2012 to May 20, 2012. The figurative artists, who dominated the postwar Los Angeles art scene until the late 1950s, have largely been written out of today’s art history. This exhibition, part of the Getty Foundation’s initiative “Pacific Standard Time: Art in L.A. 1945–1980,” traces the distinctive aesthetic of figurative expressionism from the end of World War II, bringing together over 120 works by forty–one artists in a variety of media—painting, sculpture, photography, and performance.

L.A. RAW surveys the continuing presence of dark expressionistic work in Southern California, providing a fresh local heritage for the figurative art of today. The exhibition fills in a gap in knowledge about post World War II art, tracking figurative art through post-war existentialism, the Beat movement, 1960s politics, and 1970s feminism and performance—the forces that led to the explosion of body–oriented art in the 1980s. 

The exhibition includes commanding figurative works by Rico Lebrun , Howard Warshaw, Jack Zajac, and William Brice that provide a fascinating heritage for the darker side of the Ferus Gallery scene, exemplified with work by Edward Kienholz, Wallace Berman, Llyn Foulkes , and John Altoon. Artists such as Hans Burkhardt , David Hammons, Judith Baca, and Charles White use their work to vent political outrage, while Eugene Berman, June Wayne, John Paul Jones, and Joyce Treiman convey more melancholic, contemplative assessments of mankind. L.A. RAW also includes four artists associated with the important venue, Ceeje Gallery: Charles Garabedian, Roberto Chavez, Ben Sakoguchi, and Les Biller. Judy Chicago , Barbara T. Smith, and Carole Caroompus present deeply personal feminist expressions, while performance artists Chris Burden , Kim Jones, and Paul McCarthy develop a new kind of physical expressionism.

artwork: Jan Stussy -The False Accuser, 1968. - Mixed media on masonite, 48 × 48 inches.  -  Collection of Woodbury University.

The passionate consistency of all the artists—whose work often depicts a boldly honest, stripped–down view of humanity in its rawest, most elemental state—demonstrates the ongoing relevance of expressionism as a primary approach to art making.

artwork: William Brice - Untitled (Malibu Figure), 1968 Oil on canvas, 69 1/2 x 59 in. Courtesy of L.A. Louver, Venice CA. © Estate of William Brice.L.A. RAW: Abject Expressionism in Los Angeles 1945-1980, From Rico Lebrun to Paul McCarthy places both lesser– and better–known artists in a historical context, giving unique insight into the reactions to World War II and the atomic bomb; to the repressions of the Eisenhower Era; to the fallout of 1960s idealism; and to ongoing racial and gender struggles.

The exhibition is curated by art writer and independent curator Michael Duncan, a Corresponding Editor for Art in America whose writings have focused on maverick artists of the twentieth century, West Coast modernism, twentieth century fi guration, and contemporary California art. L.A. RAW: Abject Expressionism in Los Angeles 1945–1980 will be accompanied by a 200 page catalogue, a much–needed reference for the study of post–war American fi gurative art. It will include essays by Duncan and art historian Peter Selz who have each written extensively on many of the most the most prominent fi gures of twentieth century West Coast art history and many of the L.A. RAW artists. Co-published by PMCA and Foggy Notion Press, the volume will also feature short biographical essays on each of the artists written by Duncan.

The Pasadena Museum of California Art (PMCA) is dedicated to the exhibition of California art, architecture, and design from 1850 to the present. Informed by the state’s rich mixture of cultures and inspired by its impressive geography, California art has long been defined by a spirit of freedom and experimentation. PMCA exhibitions and educational programs explore the cultural dynamics and influences unique to California that have shaped and defined art in all media.

Ground was broken for the building in December 2000, and the museum became open to the public in June of 2002. “With the Oltmans, we had the freedom to make a statement with a public institution that we anticipate will become a cultural centerpiece in the redevelopment of the historic Playhouse District,” said Steve Johnson, the museum project manager and principal partner. PMCA, located just north of Colorado Boulevard at 490 East Union Street in Pasadena, is a 30,000 SF three-story, mixed-use facility. An open-air staircase accentuated by ever-changing natural light from an oculus above creates a dramatic entrance into the museum. The stairs lead to the second-floor lobby, 8,000 square foot gallery spaces, a bookstore, and a community room. The third floor includes a 2,000 square foot Founders’ Gallery and a vast rooftop terrace (4,000 square feet) that is accessible to the public during scheduled hours. The terrace commands a breathtaking vista of the 1927 City Hall dome and the San Gabriel Mountains to the north. Visit :