Los Angeles

“Director's Choice”

Pasadena Art Museum

The Director’s Choice show at the Pasadena Art Museum presents the personal selections of the new Acting Director, Walter Hopps, in an improved format from prior years. The exhibition displays works by artists who have had major shows during the preceding year (the memorable Kandinsky, Nolde and Duchamp exhibitions, the Antoni Tapies, Viennese Expressionist and John McLaughlin shows), and selections within the primary directions in which the Museum is concentrating its collection. These categories are the Blue Four group and other German Expressionists, pre-Columbian Art, Oriental and old and modern master prints (these selected with the assistance of Mrs. Donald F. Smith, Curator of Prints), contemporary prints, and contemporary painting. Organized in this integrated manner and well displayed to key these units together, the viewer gets a sense of cohesiveness and purpose that make the Museum’s goals and achievements intelligible even beyond the personal taste of Mr. Hopps.

A whole gallery is devoted to contemporary art, and here, too, it is hung to demonstrate as much as possible the current trends and related directions, i.e., New York abstract expressionists, optical painters, Pop artists, figurative, those dealing with time-space concepts and others.

A show that attempts this vast a scope naturally has its high points and a few weak spots. Some of the latter are caused by the sheer need to set a limit to the show. No sculpture is included, the areas of collage and assemblage are sparsely represented as is, to a lesser extent, contemporary printmaking. The pre-Columbian pieces are not the finest (with the exception of an exceedingly beautiful and expressive Mayan figure from the Island of Jaina). Certain works in the show are admittedly merely representative of their type, while others are real gems.

Of the established masters whose works are displayed, a Kandinsky watercolor is superb, there is an exquisite Feininger, a fine Klimt drawing, two beautiful Jawlenskys, a fine lithograph by John McLaughlin, and a marvelous Munch print (Vampyr).

In the contemporary group, with the exception of the abstract expressionists who are not broadly represented, the sheer number of important artists included is impressive, and it therefore stands as a useful survey of current trends. Of the “gems” in this gallery, mention must be made of Gorky, John Altoon, de Kooning, Motherwell, Moses, Dole, Hefferton, Bengston, and fine examples by John Paul Jones, Enrique Castro-Cid, James Gill and Llyn Foulkes. There is a lovely Rauschenberg “combine” giving a sense of history or of time span as it comes to mind as a cohesive unit in an instant, only to disappear again, the present and past joined by memory. Particularly interesting is a glass painting by Dick Pettibone showing a time sequence in frames where a train appears to move backwards, or an enigmatic reclining female below it seems to move forward.

One small portion of this show is out of context; it is devoted to Surrealism and is a preview of a major show concerned with this movement to be in the coming season. The general effect of the display of masterworks is awe and reverence for the best of these. The effect in the contemporary room is of celebration. It is an experience of delight to see from what rich and varied sources artists are finding their inspiration. A further heartening aspect of this show is the inclusion of works by some very little known artists who are not currently represented by dealers.

Barbara Smith