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Finding patterns in the past

September 14, 2003|Christopher Knight | Times Staff Writer

On Saturday, the Santa Monica Museum of Art unveiled an exhibition that's something of a touchstone for the fall art season.

A hugely interesting yet long-neglected episode in the past is the subject of the show -- a characterization appropriate to two other major Los Angeles museum presentations in coming months.

The Santa Monica Museum show is "Parrot Talk: A Retrospective of Works by Kim MacConnel" (through Nov. 15), which surveys 30 years of work by the Encinitas-based artist -- a key figure in the Pattern and Decoration movement that shook up complacent segments of the art world in the 1970s. Unlike most art "isms," P&D actually was a movement, organized by a group of artists who did not share the taboo against decoration that is so deeply entrenched in modern Western culture. Five commercial galleries at Bergamot Station will amplify the MacConnel show with their own exhibitions featuring an additional 50 artists from L.A., Chicago and New York whose work, past and present, resonates with the P&D theme.

At UCLA, the Hammer Museum will present "Lee Bontecou: A Retrospective" (Oct. 5-Jan. 11), a much-anticipated survey of sculptures and drawings by an American artist who was a leading figure of her generation in the 1960s -- before she withdrew almost entirely from public view (see accompanying story). The Hammer survey presents about 50 sculptures and 75 drawings spanning several decades of Bontecou's unusually reclusive life as a working artist.

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art will offer "The Circle of Bliss: Buddhist Meditational Art" (Oct. 5-Jan. 4), a large international exhibition of about 160 Tibetan, Nepalese, Mongolian, Indian and Chinese paintings, sculptures, textiles and ritual implements that reflect the ideals and teachings of important Himalayan mystical writings (called tantras). The show is expected to draw previously unknown connections between the works of art and specific Buddhist meditative practices, which for centuries had been taught only to initiated disciples.

Out of town, all eyes will turn to Dallas, where the $60-million Nasher Sculpture Center will debut Oct. 20. With a 54,000-square-foot building by celebrated Italian architect Renzo Piano and two acres of park-like grounds for outdoor sculpture, the center focuses on the 700-work collection of 19th and 20th century masters assembled by shopping-center magnate Raymond Nasher and his late wife, Patsy.

The Dallas Museum of Art had hoped to receive the collection -- with which it inaugurated its own new building in 1984 -- but the disappointment was somewhat minimized by Nasher's choice of a building site: The new center is directly across the street from the DMA.

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