March 30, 2011, 7:39 am“Surface Truths” at the Norton Simon Museum
The Norton Simon Museum is doing another small, surprising show from its storerooms: “Surface Truths: Abstract Painting in the Sixties.” It’s 17 works that Norton Simon probably wouldn’t have approved of—acquired, at any rate, by the spendthrift Pasadena Museum prior to Simon’s takeover.
The paintings are mostly hard-edge abstractions, large to XXXL (above, Jack Youngerman’s Red-Vermillion and Frank Stella’s 32-foot wide Damascus Gate I). The artists range from the canonical to the un-Googleable, and I guess that’s the appeal. It’s a core sample of what the most astute West Coast collectors considered to be important, in the post-painterly sixties. One surprise is how many NY and DC color field painters the museum has.
The show also reminds you how important Paris was to this generation. Youngerman and Ellsworth Kelly spent time there, as did Sam Francis (not in the show, but his Basel Mural is upstairs). A standout is Washington/Provincetown artist Thomas Downing’s Red-1966. He became known for hand-painted “Spot” paintings, some rigorous and some more free-form. Here the colors so resemble lipstick shades that you’d swear it’s a feminist conceptual piece of the next decade or later.
To see Liesl Bradner's interview with Jack Youngerman in the LA Times click here.