Critics’ Picks

Cameron, Portrait of George Herms, 1967, casein on paper, 12 x 8".

Cameron, Portrait of George Herms, 1967, casein on paper, 12 x 8".

New York


Jeffrey Deitch | 18 Wooster Street
18 Wooster Street
September 8–October 17, 2015

Cameron never wanted another gallery show. After Wallace Berman was arrested in 1957 at the Ferus Gallery for showing an “obscene” reproduction of her Untitled (Peyote Vision), 1955—an ink drawing of a fantastical couple copulating—Cameron quit the commercial art scene. Then, as now, rejection is chic. A version of career suicide, Cameron’s bewitching no persisted until her death in 1995. Last year, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, opened her debut museum retrospective, and a sizable version of it has now traveled with the institution’s former director, Jeffrey Deitch, to his newly reopened gallery. Worries about insider trading aside, it’s high time Marjorie Cameron Parsons Kimmel, a so-called mystic, claims her rightful spot in art history. These bicoastal shows serve as overdue correctives.

In studies of mysticism, as in art history, the question of what’s canonical always nags. Cameron has long been primed for rebirth: her drawings, paintings, and poems were vital contributions to the 1950s and ’60s Los Angeles milieu, and these largely autobiographical pieces network to other (canonized, mostly male) artists, including George Herms, whose somber 1967 portrait is one of the first works viewers encounter in the exhibition. It’s also one of Cameron’s least gothic and sphinx-like takes, which occupy the majority of the show—from Untitled (Peyote Vision) to the undated ink-on-paper illustrations for Songs of the Witch Woman (made for a book of poems penned by her husband, rocket scientist and Thelemite occultist Jack Parsons) to 1966’s Holy Guardian Angel According to Aleister Crowley. These cult classics, as well as her spellbinding late-career abstractions for Pluto Transiting the Twelfth House, 1978–86, telegraph visualizations from one of Southern California’s, but also American art’s, most shrewd and beguiling heretics.