Visits to Pasadena are few and far between given the expanse of Los Angeles but I made my way to this gem on a weekday and the drive wasn’t as unforgiving. In fact, the quality of the art despite the small space was a pleasant surprise. They don’t waste any time here – the folks at Pasadena Museum of California Art. The artwork begins from the parking garage! You might mistake it for graffiti but it is the work of native Kenny Scharf and the pop aesthetic he is known for is immediately recognizable. The Kosmic Krylon Garage is a permanent exhibit since he first showed here.
Once inside, there is only the one main floor in the building to view but the exhibits are involved. The main hall was completely taken up by the work of Euphemia Charlton Fortune – I was impressed by the fact that an entire exhibition space was devoted to a female artist. Shouldn’t be the case but even in this day and age that is impressive. Equally impressive is the story behind her trailblazing work as a painter until the age of 43, when she began a pioneering new vocation in liturgical art. And the times during which she thrived – she actually signed her name E. Charlton Fortune so as to not reveal her gender. While her work is strong in color and a heavy focus on scenery and landscapes around her, it is said many thought she was a male painter given the ruggedness interpreted in her work. She did come form some money and travel was an experience she enjoyed – you can see that in the different places she painted. No photos are allowed in this main gallery and so I have none to share.
The two smaller exhibits up front and the back are quite fun and a nice break from this larger exhibit. The first, as you enter, is a really cool display on reduction linocuts titled LA Redux. I am not going to proceed to explain to you what that is but the artist is a local Angeleno, Dave Lefner, and pursues this extremely time consuming and perfecting method as an ode to the dying legacy of neon signs in the city. There is a whole video in there explaining exactly what he does and how. I had the patience to watch the video but I guarantee you I’d never have the patience or passion to follow through on what he does. Labor of love takes on a whole new meaning. His work, as you can see from the pictures, is pretty spectacular and will make you want to sit down to watch his video on the process behind each framed masterpiece. This room actually has an activity space and I believe he does come in and teach printmaking sessions as well.
At the very far end of the main hall is an exhibit that had me going around twice as I understood the artwork and what it represented. This was called Hollywood in Havana and featured four walls of graphics, basically silkscreen artwork, for really famous Hollywood movies ‘released/imported’ (but we don’t have details how!!) to Havana but the promotional posters to raise publicity were done locally. There is no use of actors’ likeness but instead each poster is a creative interpretation of the title. Not all graphics were a direct translation though so if you hadn’t seen the movie you wouldn’t totally understand what the poster was about but I thought this was one of the most unique takes on film-related art – when you have to create with those restrictions on your work, you do tend to get pretty creative altogether!
Since the movie titles on the posters are translated to Spanish, it takes a minute to understand what the movies are unless you take the easy route and just read the descriptor in English alongside. Some of my favorites are pictured here. I also learned that Charlie Chaplin was a big deal in Cuba and his likeness was used all the time. Who’da thunk! I really enjoyed the colors, the innovativeness of the art and understanding the history/culture of creative arts in another country. This is part of the LA/LA PST exhibit highlighting Latin American art in Los Angeles - a great addition.
1. The parking under the building is limited so plan to be there early for a spot. It does fill up pretty quick.
2. The museum is closed for the better part of January for installation of the next set of exhibits so visit in Feb or after.
3. Check out their classes online – they have some interesting sessions and maybe you could try your hand at a new art form.
4. Their first Fridays are free, possibly explains the crowd on the date I visited but a great way to check out a local spot to see if you like the art there.