Fall Arts Frenzy

Fall Arts Frenzy

Choices abound for local art lovers this autumn

By Carl Kozlowski 09/04/2014

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Whether enjoying the fine arts frenzy of ArtNight, the mind-bending inventiveness of the AxS Festival, or the plethora of exhibitions hitting town at our city’s world-class museums, art lovers have plenty to keep them busy through fall. 


Perhaps the biggest single event each fall is ArtNight, with this year’s extravaganza bringing together a unique mix of works and performances from nearly 20 different locations and organizations, with free shuttle service running from Pasadena City Hall (100 N. Garfield Ave., Pasadena) making it possible for attendees to hit a plethora of possibilities. 


ArtNight Pasadena is from 6 to 10 p.m. Friday, Oct. 10, at venues throughout Pasadena. Admission is free. Visit artnightpasadena.org.


From sing-along show tunes in the Pasadena Playhouse’s Carrie Hamilton Theatre (39 S. El Molino Avenue, Pasadena. Call 626/356-7529 or visit pasadenaplaynouse.org) and MUSE/IQUE throwing a dance party with live music on a flatbed trailer parked at the Pasadena Convention Center to showings at the Norton Simon Museum (411 W. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena. Call 626/449-6840 or visit nortonsimon.org) and Pasadena City College’s Boone Family Gallery (1570 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena), this is one night with endless possibilities at the best price possible: free. Visit artnightpasadena.org.


Yet, as impressive as ArtNight is, the 6th annual AxS Festival|Curiosity is even greater in scope: A two-week citywide festival produced by the Pasadena Arts Council that focuses on the nexus of artistic and scientific inquiry by promoting experimentation between the two often disparate fields. 


From Sept. 19 through Oct. 5, 15 diverse locations that include A Noise Within theater, the Sphaerae arts space, Neighborhood Church, Kidspace Museum and Caltech will offer the best in architecture, new media, visual art, music, theater, educational programs and provocative conversation all centered on this year’s theme of “Curiosity.” Visit axsfestival.org if you’re curious.


Each of the city’s three main art museums offers two new exhibitions apiece this fall, with the Norton Simon Museum showcasing “Home and Away: The Printed Works of Ruth Asawa” from Sept. 19 through Jan. 19, and “Lock, Stock and Barrel: Norton Simon’s Purchase of Duveen Brothers’ Gallery” from Oct. 24 through April 27. While Asawa was best known for wire sculptures and public fountains, she formally trained in drawing and design at Black Mountain College in North Carolina. “Home and Away” features her printed works of both intimate portraits of family and friends and floral prints that were also her specialty. 


Meanwhile, the Duveen exhibit shines a light on some of the most unique aspects of the Norton Simon, highlighting the 130 objects the museum feels are worth showing of the 800-piece inventory that founder and famed art collector Norton Simon bought from the New York-based Duveen Brothers Gallery in the mid-1960s. The paintings, sculptures and porcelains found within not only show Simon’s willingness to buy large collections in giant swoops, but also his passion as a businessman for buying once-foundering businesses like Hunts Foods and Canada Dry and helping them succeed. The Duveen collections likely would have faded into the past if not for the dramatic purchase by Simon, so a visit to the museum will provide an interesting view of the past while standing dynamically in the present. Visit nortonsimonmuseum.org. 


Not to be outdone, the USC Pacific Asia Museum (46 N. Los Robles Ave., Pasadena. Call 626/449-2742 or visit pacificasiamuseum.org) has three new exhibitions this fall, with “The Rent Collection Courtyard: Fifty Years” and “The First Wave: Modern and Contemporary Chinese Art in the USC Pacific Asia Museum Collection” running from Sept. 26 through Feb. 22, and “INSIGHT: The Path of Bodhidharma” running from Sept. 19 through Feb. 15.


“Rent” celebrates the 50th anniversary of the revolutionary landmark Chinese installation work, “The Rent Collection Courtyard,” and features 114 clay figures depicting starving peasant farmers paying rent to a tyrannical feudal landlord — a key part of the Communist Party’s critiques of serfdom and servitude in imperial China. 


“The First Wave” focuses on a group of modern and contemporary Chinese paintings from the second half of the 20th century — drawn from the museum’s permanent collection — will be featured. 

“Insight”, meanwhile, explores the portrayal of the Buddhist monk Bodhidharma and how the religious figure became a popular icon through an array of objects, from paintings and sculptures to decorative objects and toys. 


Finally, the Pasadena Museum of California Art (490 E. Union St., Pasadena. Call 626/568-3665 or visit pmcaonline.org) offers three exhibits as well. “An Opening of the Field: Jess, Robert Duncan, and Their Circle” runs from Sept. 14 through Jan. 11, alongside “Burning Down the House: Ellen Brooks, Jo Ann Callis, Eileen Cowin” and “Stas Orlovski: Chimera.” 


“Opening” focuses on the artist Jess Collins, his romantic partner poet Robert Duncan and the creative relationship between the two and their circle of friends. “Burning” brings its eponymous artists together for the first time, showing how their photography was used to achieve narrative with multilayered provocative images. 


Finally, Orlovski mixes diverse sources of inspiration, from the Soviet-era children’s books from his own childhood through Japanese prints and Dutch botanical illustrations, to create drawings, collages, paintings and prints. 


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