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Lacma To Host Wyeth's 'Helga' Portraits In 1988

March 08, 1987|ZAN DUBIN

While several major American museums have declined to exhibit Andrew Wyeth's "Helga" portraits, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art will host the show in April, 1988.

The exhibition is a potential blockbuster. News about the works and Wyeth's alleged obsession with Helga Testorf, his model, have already drawn national attention. However, the exhibit, which polarized critics, has been rejected by such museums as the Metropolitan in New York, which questioned Wyeth's artistic merit.

Earlier this month, the New York Times quoted art experts and those who rejected the exhibition who view Wyeth as "more of an illustrator than a painter," "a sentimental artist," and one whose art is "provincial," "without substance," or "a conjuring trick."

However, the paper quoted other experts who either praised Wyeth as one of the century's greatest realist painters or who took a middle-of-the-road approach. Robert Rosenblum, art history professor at New York University's Institute of Fine Arts, told the New York Times that Wyeth is "at once the most overestimated painter by the public and the most underestimated painter by the knowing art audience."

"I'm in agreement with Rosenblum," County Museum Director Earl A. (Rusty) Powell said. "Wyeth's art does represent a long tradition of American realism. He is the most popular current proponent of that tradition. And there are images in the 'Helga' series that are hauntingly beautiful and make for a wonderful presentation."

But did the County Museum accept the show because of its ticket-sale potential?

"There will always be talk of the so-called blockbusters," Powell said, "and we suspect 'Helga' will be a popular exhibition. But we weighed the decision to take the exhibit on the quality merits of the art."

The exhibition of paintings and drawings debuts this May at Washington's National Gallery.

Two months before America sees Wyeth's "Helga" series, the Soviet Union will view other works by the artist--and those of his father and son.

On Wednesday, "Three Generations of Wyeth Art" will open at Leningrad's Academy of Arts. The 115-painting exhibition, organized by Pennsylvania's Brandywine River Museum, will next travel to Moscow, then to Washington, Milan, Italy; Cambridge, England; Dallas, Chicago and Wyeth's hometown of Chadds Ford, Pa.

In exchange, the Soviets will send the Brandywine River Museum an exhibit of paintings from the Academy of Arts of the Soviet Union.

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art will not exhibit "Three Generations," although it had the chance. The show was declined, director Powell said, "largely because it was absolutely humongous. We could have taken a smaller version, but that wasn't really a matter that the exhibition organizers wanted to consider."

POSTERS PROCLAIM "ART HEALS": Once again the art community joins the fight against AIDS with an art walk/fund raiser along La Brea Avenue today from 11 a.m-4 p.m.

Each of about a dozen La Brea galleries will contribute an artwork by a gallery artist for a silent auction to benefit AIDS Project Los Angeles. Also, the Whiteley Gallery, 111 N. La Brea Ave., will place on sale about 60 works by lesser-known artists. These pieces were chosen by a jury composed of County Museum of Art curator Howard N. Fox, Municipal Art Gallery curator Marie de Alcuaz, art critic Hilda Mullin and David Limrite, Herald Examiner art director for promotions and special events.

Bidding for the artworks will begin at half their appraised values.

All four galleries in the 170 S. La Brea Ave. building will participate in the event, as will the Wenger, Burnett Miller, Jack Rutberg and other galleries.

The nonprofit, 4-year-old project provides housing, food and referral services to acquired immune deficiency syndrome patients and their families, as well as educational programs about the fatal disease to the general public. Its hot line receives about 4,000 calls a month. The project is also currently selling square-inches of a mural under the Hollywood Freeway at Odin Drive and Highland Avenue now being painted by artist Russ Carlton.

LOCAL ART WANTED: With visions of arts events throughout the county, indoors and out, delighting audiences day and night, Aaron Paley is optimistically planning this fall's Fringe Festival/Los Angeles.

The cultural celebration, modeled after the annual Edinburgh Festival Fringe, is designed to feature Los Angeles County artists and arts groups in all media--visual, performance and literary art, music, dance, theater and video. It will run Sept. 3-27.

Any Los Angeles County artist or art organization may exhibit works or perform in the Fringe, and Paley is soliciting participants. A sliding-scale entry fee, plus production costs, will secure a spot in the event, though Fringe staff will coordinate overall scheduling and publicity. Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions and Los Angeles Institute for Contemporary Art have promised to participate.

Applications for entry must be received by June 1. Information: (213) 931-1255.

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