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“California Dreaming”
Pepperdine University, Frederick R. Weisman Museum of Art, Malibu, California
by Molly Enholm


Ed Ruscha, “End,” 1993, oil on canvas, 36 x 40”. Courtesy of the Frederick R. Weisman Art Foundation.

 

Marking the museum’s 25th anniversary, “California Dreaming: Contemporary California Art from the Weisman Collection” offers its annual primer on the innovations of West Coast modernism and its contemporary manifestations. Curated and installed by Billie Mae Weisman, director of the Weisman collection, the exhibition is an energetic chromatic progression from room to room: from fiery yellows and reds, through cool multihued harmonies, and concluding in a somber earthy palette. Although rooted in the 1960s, the heart of the exhibition lies not in the past, but revels in the eclectic roster’s ever-evolving experiments in materiality.

 

The show opens with the ironic Pop of Ed Ruscha, a foreboding landscape inscribed with its eponymous and ominous title: “End.” Hard Edge practitioners include John McLaughlin, Mary Corse and Scot Heywood. Billy Al Bengston is represented by a selection of his “Dracula” paintings, which find their complement in Ed Moses’ arachnid expressionist gestures. Then we arrive at the post-minimalist experiments of Charles Christopher Hill and Peter Lodato. All that name-dropping, and we haven’t left the first room. Works on both floors span over half-a-century, emphasizing the persistent pursuit of contemporaneity, the core characteristic of the Weisman collection. This exhibition isn’t merely a look back, but a record of cross-generational artistic investigations into the formal properties of paint, plastic and perception — from Warhol to Moses, Gisela Colon to Craig Kauffman, Kelly Berg to Charles Arnoldi. This story has not reached its end, not by a long shot.

Frederick R. Weisman Museum of Art at Pepperdine University

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