The Palm Springs Art Museum’s current show at their Palm Desert Campus looks at the relationship between around 15 artists’ sculptures and their works on paper.
Across Dimensions: Graphics and Sculpture From the Permanent Collection includes artists both well-known—Pablo Picasso, Alberto Giacometti, Ellsworth Kelly and Jim Dine, for example—and lesser-known, including Dan Namingha, John Buck and Robert Hudson.
On one level, the show asks the question: Does this artist, by working in two media, create synergies or a sense of continuity that furthers that artist’s vision? The show answers with a resounding yes in some ways—although the exhibit does show some weaknesses.
Using only artwork only from the museum’s permanent collection offers both good and bad news. The positive? The curators have a defined body of work from which to choose, and their knowledge of the collection produced some well-thought-out and synergistic pairings.
But other pairings seemed contrived and/or forced. It is unclear if the less-than-successful pairings stem from limitations in the museum’s collection, or questionable choices by the organizers. Also, the exhibition includes no women artists.
The works of Alberto Giacometti (1901-1966), Henry Moore (1898-1986), Donald Judd (1928-1994), and Dan Namingha (1950-) show the clearest relationship between works on paper and sculpture. These striking cross-medium synergies provide that “ah-ha!” moment.
Giacometti’s portraits (including a 1949 lithograph of Tristan Tzara; a 1962 etching of Rimbaud; and a 1949 sculpture, “Diego on a Cubist Base”) demonstrate a clear alignment between print and bronze. He answers the question, “What is my aesthetic?”
A lyrical quality presents itself in Henry Moore’s lithograph “Six Reclining Figures” (1963), his bronze “Mother and Child” (1959) and his maquette (a small-scale model) “Reclining Figure #2” (1950). Moore’s way of highlighting figures in his prints gives insights into how he thinks about light hitting his sculptures.
Donald Judd’s “Untitled” woodcuts (1988) and his concrete sculpture, also “Untitled” (1998-2001) are rather massive and imposing. Despite being printed on a soft, cream-colored paper, these woodcuts—printed with ultramarine ink—demand attention. Similarly, the concrete does not merely exist in the outdoor sculpture garden; it takes over its space. Despite being situated in two different areas, these works are pure Judd.
A member of the Hopi-Teva nation, Dan Namingha creates imagery that celebrates the kachina, a symbolic representation of anything in the real world. Namingha effectively straddles figurative and non-representational imagery in three works: a 1985 lithograph, “Kachina Mana”; a 1997 chine-collé, “Hemis Kachina”; and a 1997 bronze, “Kachina Montage.” Namingha clearly shows how connected he is to his Native American roots—and his sculpture is as insightful as any other piece in the exhibition.
Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) was, of course, one of the most prolific 20th century artists—which makes the apparent disconnect between his print “Fetes des Faunes” (1957) and ceramic sculptures, “Male” and “Female,” all the more puzzling. The print is powerful, energetic and complex. The sculptures, in contrast, appear minimal and simplistic.
Despite some clear limitations, the exhibition is worth the trip to the Art Museum’s Palm Desert Campus.
Across Dimensions: Graphics and Sculpture From the Permanent Collection continues through Wednesday, Oct. 23, at the Palm Springs Art Museum in Palm Desert, 72567 Highway 111. The museum is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday through Sunday; and noon to 8 p.m., Thursday. Admission is $5 for adults; $4 for seniors and students; and free to members, active military, kids 12 and younger, and everyone after 4 p.m. on Thursdays, as well as the second Sunday of every month. For more information, call 760-346-5600, or visit www.psmuseum.org/palm-desert.
Victor Barocas is a photographer, author and educator. You can contact him at Victor@VictorsVisions.com.