When is the Southern California art establishment going to actually start curating instead of appeasing local collectors and potential trustees? Not anytime soon, if "Pasadena Collects: The Art of Our Time" is any indication. This unfocused, dreadfully installed group exhibit is a perfect example of Los Angeles' predilection for regional self-promotion as an antidote to its neurotic inferiority complex vis-a-vis New York.
The thinking behind the exhibition is obvious. Pasadena is celebrating its centennial this year, and its collectors have always been supportive of the local art scene. Why not put together an exhibition of contemporary art that showcases these collections and promotes Pasadena as a city of both taste and creative vision? This might have produced, at the very least, a vague insight into Southland collecting practices if curators Melinda Wortz and Stephen Nowlin had decided upon a specific point of view. Instead they opted to promote a broad eclecticism that throws together painting, sculpture and photography from every imaginable postwar school and -ism. Even such a disparate melange of styles might have worked if the show had even a modicum of organization. Instead, works are crowded together in an arbitrary fashion so that subtler Minimalist and conceptual works become engulfed in a sea of Neo-Expressionist excess and decorative design fodder. Thus Gregory Mahoney's muted, hard-edge "Horizon Study" is wedged uncomfortably between the electric colors of Joe Fay and Don Sorenson, while Roger Herman's conceptual "Woman With a Vacuum Cleaner" is passed off as recycled Expressionism by virtue of its context: Suzanne Caporael and Lee Krasner.