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An affair in the abstract

Style & Culture | SOCIAL CLIMES

June 20, 2004|Ann Conway | Times Staff Writer

"At this price, don't you think he should have printed his name on it in big, bold letters?" asked modern art lover Elinor Turner, gazing longingly at a small, unsigned Ellsworth Kelly -- one of several artworks on the silent auction block at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art's launch of "Beyond Geometry: Experiments in Form 1940s-70s." Would she bid on the $10,000 collage, a few torn paper fragments artfully scribbled with what appeared to be crayon? "Depends on whether or not my husband turns his back," she quipped.

Turner was among the enthusiastic hundreds who, besides being the first to catch the new exhibition, cruised an auction and dined on geometrically shaped fare -- parallelogram of smoked salmon, circle of tuna tartare, triangle of strawberry shortcake -- at the Modern and Contemporary Art Council's "Geometry-Gala-Grinstein" chaired by Linda Janger.

Architect Frank Gehry, on hand at the June 8 event to recognize L.A. art patrons Elyse and Stanley Grinstein, stopped dead at Irwin's "Untitled" (1964-66), a huge canvas smothered with dots of pale color. "I haven't seen this one for years," he said. "I remember when he did it." Pronouncing the show "stirring, amazing," Gehry observed that it spans an era of "looking for new ideas ... finding an essence."

Seated for dinner at tables draped in shocking lime cloths and topped with orchids, guests heard Gehry describe the Grinsteins as party aficionados who have "brought artists from all over to mix with L.A. artists, and they enriched each other, demystified this New York-L.A. thing. We've all grown better for it."

Calling himself and his wife "art groupies," Grinstein, co-founder of Gemini G.E.L., one of the world's foremost publishers of limited-edition fine art prints, said the couple had spent their lives "enjoying creative people, following them around, doing what we could to make ourselves useful to them."

"Artists enrich our lives," he added. "We get so narrowly focused, and creative people open it up for us."

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