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Christian Boltanski's Vision of Everyday 'Darkness'

July 10, 1988|ZAN DUBIN

Pieces of cardboard and bits of wire, wadded-up paper, knives and forks. Family album photographs of a trip to the beach or a wedding. French artist Christian Boltanski uses materials and images that are common to everyday life. The "humble, stupid" stuff that surrounds us, he says, that elicits immediate recognition.

"Irrespective of our gender, our age or our nationality, we can all relate to Boltanski's work," says Mary Jane Jacob, chief curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art. Using the theme of collective memory, "the images he shows are in fact our own. Whether a photograph of a 3-year-old boy is Boltanski himself or your brother, it doesn't matter, it could belong to any of us."

"Christian Boltanski: Lessons of Darkness" opens today at MOCA's Temporary Contemporary. Sixty-two works from 1970 to 1988 include assemblages, groupings of found photographs and large-scale photographic series.

Born to a Jewish father and Christian mother in Paris on Liberation Day, 1944, Boltanski's work reflects his experiences growing up in the post-World War II era.

"His powerful and painful remembrances of this period" shaped his sensibility, Jacob said, and directly relate to his predominant theme. "There are many examples of atrocities like the Holocaust throughout world history. But it is the one that's closest in our collective memory."

Concurrently on view at the TC is "The Image of Abstraction," with two- and three-dimensional works by five European and five American artists who are attempting to redefine abstract painting in the '80s.

The artists are Jean-Pierre Bertrand, Domenico Bianchi, Ross Bleckner, Tim Ebner, Moira Dryer, Helmut Federle, Imi Knoebel, Sherrie Levine, Gerhard Richter and Gary Stephan.

ALSO OPENING: The Los Angeles County Museum of Art will present "Ernst Barlach," an exhibition of 60 prints, sculptures and books by the prominent German Expressionist Thursday (July 14) through Aug. 28 in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the artist's death. The works were selected from the museum's Robert Gore Rifkind Center for German Expressionist Studies and from the collectors private holdings.

NEW BOOKS: "Richard Serra," recently published by Rizzoli International Publications, pays tribute to the maker of monumental sculptures with more than 300 black-and-white photographs and five essays by an international group of critics who address Serra's sensibilities and the controversies surrounding his work. The artist also contributes three revealing pages of "Notes on Drawings."

Even heftier is "History of Italian Renaissance Art" by art historian Frederick Hartt, who writes with authority about the era's sculpture, painting and architecture. This is the third edition of the tome, containing more than 830 illustrations, 105 in color, two of them depicting Michelangelo's recently cleaned Sistine Ceiling frescoes.

The National Endowment for the Arts has just released findings from its two-year study on art education in U.S. schools. "Toward Civilization: A Report on Arts Education" recommends basic sequential arts education from kindergarten through 12th grade. For a copy, write the Superintendent of Documents, Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402-9325. The books are $9.50 each.

PUTTING IT TOGETHER: It took the floor space of four galleries to mount a major retrospective of assemblage art opening Saturday. Organized by the James Corcoran Gallery, "Lost and Found in California: Four Decades of Assemblage Art" spans the '40s through the '80s and represents about 75 artists, says Sandra Starr, Corcoran director.

"Jim (Corcoran) and I share an interest in proud but unfashionable territory," said Starr, who curated the exhibit. "We started out with four artists, and the list grew to 76 names. I realized that obviously assemblage was not underground anymore--it had surfaced in the mainstream--and that many artists in California had worked in assemblage."

The Pence, Shoshana Wayne and G. Ray Hawkins galleries will show works in collaboration with the Corcoran: Among the artists represented are Richard Diebenkorn, Marcel Duchamp, Kim Abeles, Roland Reiss, John Baldessari, Chris Burden, Charles Arnoldi, Joan Brown and Ed Ruscha.

"I was surprised to find that artists which one doesn't associate with assemblage, such as Baldessari, Diebenkorn, Ruscha and Brown, had found it useful to work with the medium," Starr said. "But as Diebenkorn described it to me, for instance, he liked the idea of using collage and assemblage as a way of adding presence, of enriching surface, something he's always been interested in."

RECENT ACQUISITIONS: Italian draftsman and printmaker Giovanni Battista Piranesi (1720-1778) sketched classical architecture with unmatched complexity and grandeur. The J. Paul Getty Museum has acquired a major Piranesi etching, a preparatory study for "Parte di ampio magnifico Porto" (part of a large magnificent port). The museum has also acquired "Portrait of Francisco de los Cobos y Molina" by Jan Gossaert (circa 1478-1532), the most accomplished Flemish portraitist of his generation.

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