Words and pictures draw crowd to MCASD opening of two new exhibits

Hundreds of art-lovers gathered at the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego (MCASD) in La Jolla for the opening of a pair of exhibitions exploring the works of two artists who have spent decades defining the regions they live in with their art — West Coast Pop and Conceptual Art icon Ed Ruscha, and Baja California abstract painter Álvaro Blancarte — on Jan. 30, 2016.

Ed Ruscha Then & Now,” curated by Kathryn Kanjo, MCASD Deputy Director of Art and Programs, features paintings from the artist’s early years (the 1960s) and more recent ones (the 2000s), spotlighting his use of recurring themes, words and images over the past half-century.

“When he was still in high school, he started seeing the possibilities of what art could be,” Kanjo said. “He’s an example of how young artists can set up abiding interests, questions and themes that remain constant throughout their lives.”

Ruscha, now 78, was born in Nebraska, raised in Oklahoma, and made his way to Chouinard Art Institute (now CalArts) in Los Angeles in the mid-1950s. Strongly influenced by L.A’s landscape and pop culture, he began creating paintings that featured power words and found phrases in the 1960s, and has since been honored with retrospectives around the world. For years, his mural “Brave Men Run in My Family” has enlivened MCASD’s outside west wall, above the sculpture garden.

Álvaro Blancarte: Marking the Present” was curated by Cris Scorza, MCASD’s Education Curator. Born in Sinaloa, Mexico, Blancarte lives and works in Tecate, often mixing sand and paint to suggest the landscape of Baja California. Now over age 80, he exhibits internationally and has been mentor and inspiration to a new generation of Tijuana artists. Although much of his work is large-scale, including a mural at San Ysidro’s Mexican Port of Entry, he recently produced a series of 100 small textured canvases, 42 of which are here on display.

••• IF YOU GO: The exhibits are up at Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego’s La Jolla location through April 24, with museum hours 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily (11 a.m. to 7 p.m. third Thursdays), 700 Prospect St., La Jolla. Admission: $10; $5 ages 65-plus. (858) 454-3541.