Modern Times: Museum opens two shows with contemporary views in La Jolla

‘Men Seldom Make Passes at Girls Who Wear Glasses,’ 1985, Alexis Smith, wall painting with two framed mixed-media collages. Muse um purchase with partial funds from Ansley I. Graham Trust, Los Angeles. Photo by Philipp Scholz Rittermann
‘Men Seldom Make Passes at Girls Who Wear Glasses,’ 1985, Alexis Smith, wall painting with two framed mixed-media collages. Muse um purchase with partial funds from Ansley I. Graham Trust, Los Angeles. Photo by Philipp Scholz Rittermann

By Susan DeMaggio

with Museum Reports

The Museum of Contemporary Art in La Jolla will welcome the summer of 2011 with two striking exhibitions opening Saturday — “High Fidelity: Selections from the 1960s and 1970s” plus “Emperor's River: Philipp Scholz Rittermann.” Both will remain on view through Sept. 5.

“High Fidelity,” primarily an exhibition of paintings, showcases more than 50 of the "greatest hits" from MCASD's collection.

The exhibit name is derived from the hi-fi stereo, “the manner in which we re-played the music of the ‘60s and ‘70s,” said chief curator Kathryn Kanjo. “It suggests that visual art can serve as the same sort of aesthetic analogue: as a record and reminder of a moment in time.”

The works in “High Fidelity” reflect different styles, such as minimalism, pop art, and assemblage, and reveal the experimental spirit of a period when artists continued to challenge long-held stylistic conventions to allow room for contemporary content, Kanjo said.

“Abstraction is represented in many variations — from the pull of mid-century abstract expressionism to refined monochromes that rejected that very approach.”

Exhibiting artists, including John Altoon, Robert Irwin and John McLaughlin, explore surface tension, positive and negative space, and push the limits of painting itself. Other artists such as Sol Lewitt, Alfred Jensen and Donald Judd, employ systems to determine their compositions.

Other works on view, according to Kanjo, reflect a grittier, often informal quality. Artists like Vija Celmins, Bruce Connor, Edward Kienholz and John Baldessari use found materials, expanses of text, and prosaic imagery to reference the real world as much as the art world.

“While many artists mined the potential of abstraction, others turned to familiar if unexpected imagery and content in their art,” Kanjo said. “Vija Celmin's steam tray of eggs updates the traditional still life, just as Alexis Smith's witty collages integrate literary and media references.”

In addition, “High Fidelity” will pay tribute to the late, great art patron Murray A. Gribin (1923-2011), an “inspired trustee” of MCASD since the 1970s. Gribin and his wife, Ruth, settled in California in the 1940s. Together they built a lively collection of recent art from the West Coast.

At MCASD, the Gribin collection was the subject of a 2006 exhibition, “La Dolce Vita.” Gribin donated more than 75 works to MCASD. “High Fidelity” will feature some selections with an emphasis on his early acquisitions, including works by Sam Francis, Joe Goode and Ed Ruscha.

“High Fidelity” is made possible by a gift from Faye Hunter Russell with additional support from Barbara Bloom, the Cochrane Exhibition Fund, the San Diego County Neighborhood Reinvestment Program Fund, District 3 County Supervisor Pam Slater-Price and the Mandell Weiss Charitable Trust.

The second exhibition, “Emperor's River: Philipp Scholz Rittermann”

showcases the dramatic landscapes of China's Grand Canal captured through the lens of San Diego-based photographer Philipp Scholz Rittermann.

In 2009, Rittermann set out to chronicle China's rapidly evolving economy with a study of life along its historic Grand Canal. The ancient waterway has been a major force in China's cultural and economic development for more than two millennia. It extends more than 1,000 miles across the eastern portion of the country's alluvial plain, from Beijing in the north to Hangzhou (near Shanghai) in the south.

Rittermann's panoramic images portray the often-jarring contrasts of history and modernity, rural terrain and burgeoning metropolises of this rapidly developing country.

“Emperor's River” is made possible by funds from MCASD's Monte Carlo gala.

If you go


Two exhibits “High Fidelity: Selections from the 1960s and 1970s” and “Emperor's River: Philipp Scholz Rittermann”

Members' Opening:

7-9 p.m. Friday, May 27, free to MCASD members, $20 non-members

Museum hours:

11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday-Tuesday (Closed Wednesdays) to 7 p.m. third Thursdays


700 Prospect St.


$5-$10, free to ages 25 and younger


(858) 454-3541    


Conversation with Alexis Smith:

7 p.m. Thursday, June 9, members free, non-members $10. Many of Smith's iconic works are featured in ‘High Fidelity’ including ‘Men Seldom …’ ‘La Dolce Vita,’ and ‘Living Well is the Best Revenge’



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