May 3, 2009

Callis, Outerbridge, and Decorative Art and Design at the Getty

Johann Paul Schor (called Giovanni Paolo Tedesco), Detail of a Side Table (or carriage end ornament) c. 1670 (gessoed and gilt poplar) See the Eagle?
From the exhibition Taking Shape: Finding Sculpture in the Decorative Arts March 31 - July 5, 2009 at the Getty Center.
Last month I attended the opening for an odd conglomeration of shows at the Getty. The crowd on hand was broken into fourths, and quickly squired through one of the four small exhibitions by their respective curator, before being passed along to the next. The mood--dour and pensive--was a far cry from past openings at the Getty, as if some decorative sword of Damocles has loosened itself from an earthquake-proof mounting, and was swinging precariously overhead. The recent layoff of nearly a hundred Getty staff can explain the vibe, though I can expect that not knowing where or how deep the cuts would be made the mood more pervasive. From the look on the Getty staff blog, emotions have swung from anxious to depressed.

Jean-Louis Prieur's Drawing for a Wall Light, c. 1775
From the exhibition Made for Manufacture: Drawings for Sculpture and the Decorative Arts March 31 - July 5, 2009 at the Getty Center.
Though some sort of superficial home furnishing or decoration connection could be made between a few of the pieces in each of the shows, the incongruity between a small selection of drawings, over-the-top guilt furniture, mid-century commercial photography and a mini mid-career retrospective--made for some strange mental gear shifting between the rooms. Like strawberries and mustard, each was tasty in its own way, but not very complementary of the other.

Paul Outerbridge's The Potting Shed (March 1937 Cover of House Beautiful), 1937 (cabro print)
From the exhibition Paul Outerbridge: Command Performance March 31 - August 9, 2009 at the Getty Center.
When Judy Keller, curator of the Callis show introduced the artist, she made note of 20+ years of instructing at CalArts. A related event will be a conversation between Cathie Opie, one of Callis' former students at 7:00pm on May 21 in the Harold Williams Auditorium.

The mention of artist-as-instructor made me realize the theme common to all the shows. For fine artists of the past five hundred years, it took more than making fine art to pay one's bills. Bernini and other artists of the era made drawings for metal workers, tapestry makers, stained glass window guilds, furniture makers, and more. Outerbridge found a steady income as a commercial photographer, and Callis augments sales of her work by teaching.

Several months back Ed Winkleman said artists are not taken as seriously if they held a job apart from their art making. These four show at the Getty show that there's an ample history of artists doing more than one thing, and doing several things well.

Jo Ann Callis' Untitled (Poles and Spheres) from Decor Series, 2005
From the exhibition Jo Ann Callis: Woman Twirling March 31 - August 9, 2009 at the Getty Center.

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