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College Library Gets New Role in Exhibit of 20th-Century Art

March 16, 1989|ESTHER SCHRADER | Times Staff Writer

In the rotunda at the Glendale College library, among the checkout counter, copy machines and students alternately studying and dozing over their books, Tom Anderson is showing off his greatest coup.

Anderson teaches sculpture at the college, but this is no student show. It includes works from the likes of Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol, Judy Chicago and David Hockney.

Here in an exhibit put together by a gallery director with no budget and no gallery is hanging the bulk of a diverse private collection that has never been shown before.

Anderson is the first to admit that the library at Glendale College is an unlikely exhibition space for such a show.

But if it weren't for Anderson, the collection of 92 works of major and not-so-major contemporary Southern California artists would probably not be exhibited anywhere.

The collection belongs to Ronald Steen, a 48-year-old Pasadena art historian who has had much of it packed away at his home for years because of a lack of space. Steen, a friend of Anderson's, agreed to loan the collection to Glendale College out of friendship and, he said, curiosity about what students see in the works.

'A Learning Process'

"I wanted to bring this major microcosm of 20th-Century art into an educational situation," Anderson said. "It's set up so there's a learning process here. That's what art is all about."

Steen said he was initially reluctant to show his collection, fearing that its diversity would be interpreted as a mishmash. But now, he said, he is excited about the exhibit.

"I think it's in one sense a good place for it because it's a study collection. So having it at a school and in a library sort of fits with the aspect of an art historian who uses a library," Steen said. "And a museum is a visual library in a certain sense. It sort of speaks to the library art work that I do and what art is about."

The collection includes art made of everything from wood shavings to microfiche, post cards and burnt paper.

Hollywood Imagery

A number of paintings by Warhol, Richard Adkins and others explore Hollywood imagery.

Another three paintings are witty examples of what Anderson called " deja vu ," contemporary updates on paintings of old masters.

One by Charles Clem Clark titled "Bacchus After Caravaggio" replaces the Italian master's Greek reveler with a figure reminiscent of a modern fraternity member.

Anderson has been gallery director at the school for three years and a teacher there for nine.

He said he is trying to persuade college officials to build a permanent art gallery on campus.

But in the meantime, he said he is enjoying putting together shows in the clutter and movement of the college library.

"There's a real sense of accomplishment in being able to start out with just a whole bunch of artwork stacked up against a wall and make a real cohesive and exciting artistic experience out of it," Anderson said.

The three-week exhibit will be taken down late Friday to be replaced by a more usual type of exhibit for the college--a group of studies and small paintings done by a teacher there.

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