Los Angeles

“The Virginia Dwan Collection”

UCLA Art Galleries

Like most other transitory enthusiasms which seem to periodically engulf the world, such as flagpole-sitting, wars, hoola-hoops, and poly unsaturated fats, the collection of original works of art has reached frightening proportions. The overly successful public relations job performed by the profession in selling culture to the man on the street has resulted in a flood of original pieces in all media, low priced, imported and domestic, good and bad. To possess a “Collection” today means very little indeed. How many pieces constitute a “Collection” or how large an investment must it represent? It doesn’t seem so very many years ago that one could list the recognized “Collections” in this area on one hand. Today names appear from out of nowhere preceded by a distinctly discriminating “The” and followed by a once-impressive “Collection.”

The name of Virginia Dwan did not come out of nowhere, since her activities in local commercial art gallery circles is well known. The “The” and the “Collection” however, are new, and UCLA’s Art Galleries offer the opportunity for all to take a look. In view of the enormous number of galleries here, La Cienega alone could probably furnish a continuous exhibition program for several years to come in an exhibition hall inclining to such a fearful policy.

All of this is not to imply that the art with which Virginia Dwan has surrounded herself is unworthy of public attention. On the contrary, included are works of singular beauty as well as significant mileposts in the development of contemporary movements here and abroad. Other than a lonely Daumier pencil drawing, and the wonderfully intricate Boite-en-valise of Duchamp, the collection is composed of items covering the past decade with emphasis on the assemblage, Op, Pop, and tableau schools. Tinguely, Rivers, Rauschenberg, Kienholz are all represented strongly in the display with several inventive and noisy efforts. De Kooning, Philip Guston, Kline, Nevelson, Oldenburg, Parker, Reinhardt, and David Smith are also on hand with works characteristic of their various attitudes. Bontecou’s Untitled metal and canvas structure dominates the far wall as you enter although it is no mean trick for any work to appear to advantage in the environment regularly prepared by the curatorial staff at UCLA. An exhibition setting should contribute nothing more than a quiet complement to the works on view much in the manner of film music which is only successful as it underscores the action in an unobtrusive manner. But the UCLA crews seem bent on delegating the exhibit to a role secondary to their installation by subjecting the works to impossible conflicts with their environment. What painting could preserve its presence hung on a solid wall of violent chartreuse, fluorescent pink, or bright turquoise? Complementary ghosts are retained in the retina as one moves to a less offensive area only to obscure it too with opposite hues. The University conducts classes in exhibition design.

Curt Opliger