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1974 Asian Games Host

January 28, 2012 by staff 

1974 Asian Games Host, One of the unexpected dividends of the Getty’s far-reaching “Pacific Standard Time” series is the cross-pollination of audiences and institutions; another is focused historic perspective. The Pacific Asia Museum, not known for modern-art exhibitions, is playing host to a modest retrospective of the influential Pasadena Art Museum. The former was initially housed in the Pacific Asia’s building, hence the title of the show: “46 N. Robles: A History of the Pasadena Art Museum.” It’s a nifty piece of site-specific heritage in the form of a mixed media art survey.

Long before the Los Angeles County Museum of Art debut in the 1960s, the Pasadena Art Museum mounted important modern-art surveys. From the late 1920s, downtown L.A. had a modernist cell centered on the Jake Zeitlin bookstore, and the Westside was where many of the European intellectual exiles lived. Pasadena was seen as a culturally sleepy bedroom community, albeit one with wealthy families. In 1942, the Pasadena Art Institute combined with the one-year-old Pasadena Museum of Art and took over 46 N. Los Robles Ave., keeping the name Pasadena Art Institute. The name changed to the Pasadena Art Museum in 1954.

Innovative community arts programs for schoolchildren and shows by photographer/artist Man Ray followed. An infusion of more than 450 modernist works from collector Galka Scheyer in 1953 was a watershed acquisition for the museum. The German emigre was the U.S. representative of “Blue Four” artists Wassily Kandinsky, Alexei Jawlensky, Lyonel Feininger and Paul Klee. A geometric watercolor by Kandinsky is notable for its precise draftsmanship and characteristic colorful harmony.

The Pasadena Art Museum hosted the first California Design show in 1955, which featured the forward-looking work of Charles and Ray Eames, so why no mention of them? Solo Pasadena Art Museum shows for SoCal surrealist Helen Lundeberg and hard-edge pioneer John McLaughlin were rare museum endorsements for the emerging artists who would be the object of “Pacific Standard Time” these many years later.

Walter Hopps, the brilliant curator who championed the Ferus Gallery rebels, began organizing Pasadena Art Museum shows in 1960, and the museum quickly became as important to L.A.’s late-century modern art as it earlier had to European modernism. Career surveys of Ocean Park painter Richard Diebenkorn and German Dadaist Kurt Schwitters preceded Hopps’ epochal Marcel Duchamp retrospective of 1963. This world-class gathering of the seminal works of the grandfather of conceptual art capped Duchamp’s activity. A poster for the show, designed by the artist, shows Duchamp in mug shots, identified by aliases, last seen working in a New York butcher shop called Hooke, Lyon and Cinquer.

It is curious that the Duchamp display doesn’t use the iconic image to come from the show: Julian Wasser’s black-and-white photo of the old man serenely sharing a game of chess with a n*de woman, the future writer Eve Babitz.

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