October 7, 2014 - Santa Barbara Museum of Art - Contemporary/Modern: Selections from the Permanent Collection
October 7, 2014

Contemporary/Modern: Selections from the Permanent Collection

Jorge Pardo, Untitled (Sea Urchin), 2012. Aluminum, molded Plexiglas, canvas, electrical cords, light bulb. Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Museum Purchase with funds provided by The Museum Contemporaries and the 20th Century Art Quasi Endowment Fund.

Contemporary/Modern: Selections from the Permanent Collection
August 31, 2014–January 4, 2015

Santa Barbara Museum of Art
1130 State Street
Santa Barbara, CA  
Hours: Tuesday–Sunday 11am–5pm, 
Thursday 11am–8pm

T +1 805 963 4364  


Contemporary/Modern: Selections from the Permanent Collection brings together a selection of significant paintings and sculpture from the Santa Barbara Museum of Art’s permanent collection that highlights the persistent influence of modernism. While recent works inventively reference and reinterpret the past—including both popular and obscure forms of painting, architecture, and design—earlier works, representing notable movements in abstract painting, articulate methods and forms that are still prescient to contemporary dialogues. Exemplifying a small sampling of works in the Museum’s late 20th-century to early 21st-century holdings, the installation provides a glimpse into the ongoing, dynamic, and often surprising discourses between works from the past and present. The exhibition is comprised of 11 major works by eight artists of national and international renown.

Works in the exhibition include Los Angeles- and Mérida-based artist Jorge Pardo‘s Untitled (Sea Urchin) (2012), a recent and large-scale work rising from the artist’s lamp series. Alluding in form and function to classic, mid-century design, this work also recalls in its biomorphic and luminescent components a giant sea creature. Another sculpture by Josiah McElheny, Crystalline Landscape After Hablik and Luckhardt III (2011), is influenced by the visions of the Glass Chain: a group initiated in 1919 that exchanged ideas on spirituality in glass architecture through chain letters. The shapes of McElheny’s colorful glass objects derive from the crystalline structures designed by Wenzel Hablik, the brothers Wassili and Hans Luckhardt, and others. 

The largest work is Larry Poons‘s Yangtze (1969)—extraordinary not only for its sheer size but also for its mass of poured and coagulated acrylic paint. Critic Michael Fried referred to Poons’s surfaces from this period as “elephant skin.” The painting’s title, named after the famous river in China, suggests on one level an infinitesimal view of the water, and, on another, a vast view of the geography that contains it. Helen Frankenthaler is represented by Green Sway (1975). Suggestive of landscape painting, this large canvas employs color and light to evoke the tranquility of nature, while the watercolor-like painting effect provides a sense of immediacy and ephemerality. Lucas Samaras is represented by Reconstruction #107 (1979), an abstract, patchwork fabric construction on canvas that are considered riffs on the gestural paintings of the Abstract Expressionists. Of works from this series, Hilton Kramer stated that their “spatial imagery…is akin to a kind of aerial Cubism,” referencing the flat, collaged pieces of fabric.

Of the three paintings by Frederick Hammersley, two are recent additions to the Museum’s permanent collection, including Growing game (1958), a major painting from the artist’s “Hunch” series. The pictorially rich, yet simple, compositions typical of this series were inspired by shapes the artist intuitively derived from the figure and still life. Works from this series were part of the landmark 1959 exhibition Four Abstract Classicists at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (curated by Jules Langsner). Also included were works by the artist John McLaughlin, who is represented in this exhibition by two paintings. These rectilinear compositions of unmodulated blacks, whites, and yellows strive toward symmetry and simplicity, achieving a balanced state of substance and void. 

Throughout his decades-long career, Guy Goodwin has explored the limitations of medium, from his chosen materials to the structural design of his work. His painting Hotel Motel – IN (2014) is created from layers of found cardboard that he shapes, paints in vibrant hues, and staples onto the surface of a large panel. Using few but specific primary hues, his labor-intensive paintings present a simultaneously familiar and strange sort of abstraction.     

Related program:
Curator’s Choice lecture: Jorge Pardo
Thursday, October 23, 5:30–7:30pm


Contemporary/Modern: Selections from the Permanent Collection at Santa Barbara Museum of Art
Santa Barbara Museum of Art
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