"Artists' Artists" is the third in a series of exhibitions at the Long Beach Museum exploring the art of collecting. On view through March 4, this installment showcasing the collections of eight Southern California artists is a wildly eclectic grab bag full of wonderful surprises and minor masterworks.
Curated by Josine Ianco-Starrels, the show isn't too surprising in that the work these artists collect is pretty much in keeping with the work they themselves make. Juxtaposing one work by the participating artists withapproximately a dozen works from their collections, the show underscores the links between what these artists make and what they like.
George Herms, for instance, is a funk assemblagist and that's what he collects. Herms shows Bruce Conner's "Chou Rat," a bound assemblage from 1960, along with works by the late Wallace Berman and actor Dean Stockwell. (Berman, Herms and Stockwell were all Venice beatniks together in the late 50s). Ceramist Gifford Myers brings a sophisticated touch to clay, traditionally considered an earthy medium, transforming it into urbane abstractions finished with richly colored glazes. As might be expected, Myers has a sensuous eye, and his elegant collection includes Ed Ruscha's silk-screen "Sin," a masterful watercolor by Peter Alexander, and first rate works by Kenneth Price, Bruce Nauman, and David Hockney. Myers is known to have once walked a tightrope, and that might explain his affection for Nicholas Africanos' untitled portrait of a tightrope walker, also on view.
Joyce Treiman is a fairly traditional figurative painter and her collection of mostly figurative work includes a charming George Bellows drawing. Artist John Outterbridge, a longtime social activist, favors work with a political bent, while Tony Berlant, known for his patchwork tapestries made of hammered tin, collects Indian blankets and rugs. It's interesting to note that the house is the central recurring motif in Berlant's work and that he collects functional objects for the home. Berlant shows pieces from his vast collection of Navajo art, along with ceramic plates by his two year old daughter Kate. It seems that Berlant and his pal Ken Price got to talking about the fact that while the world admires the purity and immediacy that children bring to art, kids usually have to work with second rate materials. So, Price threw some plates and Kate was supplied with first rate glazes to decorate them with. The plates look pretty good.
Photo-realist painter Jon Swihart shows several pieces from his collection of work by Jean-Leon Gerome, one of the leading members of the French Academy of the 19th Century. The Renaissance motifs Swihart employs in his work clearly reflect his admiration for Gerome. Also on view are works from the collection of Frank Romero, one of the founding members of the "Los Four" group, and photographer Grey Crawford's collection of Indian art and vintage photographs by Edward Curtis and Lewis Hine. The Hine photographs--several of which were used as evidence during the Child Labor Law debates of the early 20th Century--are deeply moving.
On view in the museum's newly refurbished video gallery is a retrospective of the Long Beach Museum's "Open Channels" series. The retrospective is highlighted by the debut of four new tapes produced through "Open Channels." Conceived in 1984, "Open Channels" serves as a liaison between video artists and California's cable industry, which donates studio time and equipment for completion of art videos.
More than two dozen tapes have been completed thus far, and two of this years entries are as good as anything to come out of "Open Channels." Fu-Ding Cheng's "The Winged Cage" is a haunting fable of love and fear built around a savagely funny plot device worthy of Beckett, while Paul Tassie's "Remember Flavor," a fragmented visual poem about the search for home, skips along with whimsical charm. Lawrence Andrews' "The Making of the Towering Inferno," and Nancy Buchanan's "Mouth (piece)" are exercises in painfully earnest politics. The metaphor in Buchanan's piece is labored and obvious and Andrew's tape is tedious and incomprehensible. Skip these two and check out some "Open Channels" programs from previous years. Several first rate tapes have come out of the program since its' inception.