Friday, February 9, 2007

The Hidden Light

It's Cultural Friday again.. the day where Sam and I try to do something that is perhaps informative, challenging, dazzling, or simply pretty. Today we ventured to Pasadena's Museum of California Art to see an exhibit of paintings and drawings by Irving Norman. He produced what might be called an 'assload' of work between the mid-1940's and his death in the 80's.. a Polish immigrant who settled with his family in Los Angeles, Norman was a lifelong leftist who volunteered for service in the Abraham Lincoln battalion, part of the Int'l Brigade fighting to defend the Spanish Republic against the fascist forces of Franco.

Much of his work, which the museum calls 'Social Surrealism', deals with the atrocities of the Military-Industrial-Financial complex. Norman says '..the experience was so powerful and my realization (was) that this society is based on war'. He stated that his paintings were not political propaganda; rather a straightforward unpretty look at the human condition. Industrialization, overpopulation, chronic anxiety, debauched humans, congestion, corporations, advertising, and hundreds upon hundreds of naked clone-like commuters are his subjects. This painting from 1978 is called 'From Work':

In the 'Project Room' there's a neat installation done by Dan Goods, an artist who works at Jet Propulsion Labratories. It revolves around the principal that entities in the universe can be hidden or obscured until scientists find new ways for understanding or seeing them. A primary projection fills the wall with a beautiful lemon-lime static, and as the viewer casts their own shadow upon the wall a second projection is revealed: planets moving through space.

It's a great juxtaposition-- a giant room filled with enormous paintings crammed with tiny details (which generated feelings of anxiety and a slight headache, though I found the work thoroughly amazing) and a smaller space with a silent playful color field. Definitely worth the trek.