Quality in Big Quantity
MMA packs a wealth of far-ranging art into its momentous
Thursday, July 6, 2006
Here “collection” is kind of an understatement. Monterey Collects consists of more than 150 works borrowed from more than 50 lenders—enough to fill both Monterey Museum of Art locations. It includes works from Asia, North America and Europe. It spans the millennia from 2000 BC to the 1990s. GRAFBREAK To give viewers a fighting chance of navigating its grandeur, the museum has divided Monterey Collects into five categories that mirror the MMA’s own collection interests—photography, early California painting and prints (housed at Pacific Street), Asian art and contemporary art (housed at La Mirada). In each category, a history of the medium is presented through diverse approaches by distinct artists.
In the photography section, Darren Almond’s “Fullmoon @ Burns Bay,” a chromogenic print on aluminum of a Big Sur waterfall, hangs opposite Walker Evans’ “George’s Place Panchatoula, La,” which takes the viewer into a roadside past. The Other is compassionately captured in Marion Post Wolcott’s “Cotton Pickers, Miss” and Edward S. Curtis’ “The Scout, Apache Plate 13” while Edward Steichen shows us a different side Greta Garbo, and Yousuf Karsh captures Alberto Giacome 0tti and Pablo Picasso posing with their sculpture.
Adam Fuss uses the daguerreotype process to transform ordinary objects into meditations on the past, and Ansel Adams’ “Pipe and Gauges, West Virginia” goes beyond his beloved black-and-white landscapes, revealing a shadowy image of industrial pipes that take on anthropomorphic qualities.
Through the photography exhibit and into the early California painting section, cypress trees appear, showing us a Monterey coast of the past. Upstairs the early California painting continues, but not until you walk through the prints section. Carmel artist William Silva renders “Point Lobos Cypress” and painter Edgar Payne shows a fishing port.
Meanwhile, Roy Lichetenstein and Andy Warhol are present with vibrating prints of bright blue, yellow, red and green. Lichetenstein’s dancing notes on a swirling staff of “Composition I” provide the music for Warhol’s “Dinner Party.”
Helen Frankenthaler’s color etching and aquatint, “Nepenthe,” is there, with Henry Moore’s etchings depicting the imperfection of the human form and Jim Dine’s masterful sepia-toned etching, “Braid,” an amazing work.
The Asian art section, at La Mirada, the smallest section of the exhibit, contains ancient pottery, woodblock prints, contemporary ceramic sculpture and weaponry that ranges from stylistically simple to very ornate. Shimaoka Tatsuzo’s stoneware “Vessel” is a fine example of contemporary Japanese pottery, while a “Farmhouse” earthenware piece dates back to China’s Han Dynasty (206BC-220AD). Ando Heritage’s “The Sixty-Nine Stations of the Kisokaido, 220 dai” shows his mastery of the woodblock print technique while depicting cartoonish countryside men. The most stunning piece in the section is by Isamu Noguchi. His “Homage to Martin Luther King Jr.” in bronze pays tribute to the civil rights leader through forms and powerful symbolic content. A simple piece that looks like a pipe over a square box instantly conjures the image of a canon—as if to say that Martin Luther King, Jr. was a force on a platform.
In the final section, the tension between abstraction and representation throughout the 20th century art movements is played out. John Haley’s large abstraction is hung next to that of his colleague Hans Hoffmann. These deep abstractions move on the opposite wall to “Flora” by Joan Brown, where a girl with a crown of flowers on her head holding a bouquet is subtly apparent. In this section paint drips, dances and splatters. One can see the artist’s intentional yet seemingly random strokes.
Hung Liu’s “Visage III” moves toward representation with iconic cherry blossoms and circles framing paint running down a stoic and androgynous Asian face. Roy De Forest’s “Untitled Construction,” a wood assemblage piece that seems to be made from the scraps of a woodcarving workshop, hangs on the same wall as Mel Hanson’s “Icon to Nyla Marie,” another assemblage piece where dolls, now as old as the children who originally owned them, turn creepy as they stir up memories. In between the two pieces, David Ligare explores the cubist influence with “Cubist Still Life”.
In each of the five sections, a veritable who’s who of world-class artists is present in a historical timeline of the medium of their mastery. Volumes can be said about the significance of many of the works. More importantly, volumes can be seen and enjoyed.
MONTEREY COLLECTS exhibits through September 17 at the Monterey Museum of Art, 559 Pacific St. and 720 Via Mirada, Monterey. Gallery hours are 11am-5pm Wed-Sat. and 1-4pm Sun. Tickets are $5 for both locations; good anytime. 372-5477 or montereyart.org.