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It's Expressly Deutsch

March 22, 1987|ZAN DUBIN

Just after opening galleries for photographs and prints and drawings, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art inaugurates its Robert Gore Rifkind Center for German Expressionist Studies on Saturday.

The center, located roughly beneath the museum's restaurant, will house about 5,000 prints and drawings and a library of more than 4,000 volumes, most of them in German. Open by appointment only, it's for scholars and students of art, social and literary history, not for those with a "casual interest" in the subject matter, says Victor Carlson, the museum's senior curator of prints and drawings.

"That's partially because the center's library (also put together by Rifkind, a Beverly Hills lawyer) contains many very rare periodicals, books, exhibit catalogues, and other ephemera designed and printed by German Expressionist artists," Carlson explains. "Frequently these things survive in small numbers and the books particularly are often printed on paper that has now become fragile. So access to the material has to be very carefully controlled."

The general public will be able to enjoy the center's offerings, however, through changing exhibitions drawn from its extensive collection. The first of those, "The Expressionist Context: Artists, Writers and Publishers," opens Saturday.

Portraits are featured among 30 prints and drawings to be displayed in a new exhibit space between the Robert O. Anderson Building and the Leo S. Bing Center.

"The exhibit tries to suggest the rich web of association between artists, writers, dramatists and publishers who worked very much in concert at this time," Carlson says. "For instance, publishers would commission designs for book illustrations or magazine covers, and the artists might well have done a portrait of the publisher because they were friends. There was a very restricted audience for German Expressionism at the time it was created--not at all like there is now."

These interdisciplinary connections will be spelled out with explanatory labels in the exhibition, Carlson says, which is geared somewhat for the intellectual. But, he adds, an "emotional punch" will also prevail.

"You can't escape that. It's inherent in any idea of German Expressionist portraiture."

The exhibit, to June 7, will also emphasize the Rifkind collection's specialization in ephemera.

"I really hate to use that word because it connotes second-rate," says Carlson. "These are works of art--original prints in the form of a theater program, a poster announcing a lecture, or a magazine cover--that were not designed to be saved, collected and eventually put in the storage area of a museum. They were projects done for special purposes which happened to be saved more by chance and accident than by intent. The Rifkind Center is rich in this kind of thing."

"Expressionist Context" will include woodcuts, lithographs, dry points and drawings by such artists as Max Beckmann, Oskar Kokoschka, Ernst Barlach, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Otto Dix and Conrad Felixmuller.

"Subjective/Objective Images," an exhibition of manipulated photographic works, runs Friday to May 1 at the Los Angeles Center for Photographic Studies. It features four artists, two of whom use Xerox machines to produce their works.

"Carl Toth and Rita Dewitt both do Xerox collage work made on various electro-static imaging machines--in layman's terms, Xerox machines," explains Howard Spector, the center's director.

"The artists put objects and images onto the machines and arrange them as one would arrange any collage or montage. Sometimes they manipulate the color balance on the color Xerox machines too. The machines use a three-exposure printing process--yellow, magenta and cyan. Each exposure is really three exposures that form a single color image. By varying the balances of the filtration on the machine, they can alter the color."

(Manipulated color photographs by Robert Flynt and collage/installation by Elfie Wilkins-Natch will round out the exhibition.)

"Artists have been working with these technologies for a really long time," Spector says, "since the '70s, when these machines started being made. But as new technologies become available to artists, they begin to explore their ideas through them. It's a constantly evolving process. Now artists are working with computer graphics or other electronic imaging systems. They are taking what society produces and using it to articulate their ideas."

A symposium related to this interdisciplinary exchange will be held Saturday at Pasadena's Art Center College of Design.

"Crossing Boundaries: Implication of Contemporary Image Technology on Society," from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., will address how artists, scientists and various scholars "use photographic images, media, or electronic- or computer-generated images to understand their own disciplines," says Spector.

The symposium will feature interdisciplinary panel discussions and visual presentations addressing how these images have affected the fields of folklore and anthropology, space exploration and archeology.

The conference is sponsored by the Los Angeles Center for Photographic Studies. See Calendar art lectures for further details.

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