An Exhibition That Happily Shreds Its Prime Material

With no exceptions, museum collections are full of artworks that use paper: prints, drawings, photographs, collages, and what have you... As we all know, paper is a rather delicate material, and museum curators put in extra effort to preserve and protect it. But what about artists who crumple, fold, and shred the paper in attempt to tell amusing stories open to our own interpretations?


The new exhibition at Craft & Folk Art Museum, Paperworks, presents works by 15 artists based in or with close ties to Los Angeles. According to Howard Fox, the museum's guest curator, paper " enjoying a... heyday, as artists around the globe explore it as if it were a newly discovered material." With near impossible patience, each and every one of the artists in this exhibition shows his or her love affair with paper, and paper loves them back. One cannot imagine the amount of time and patience that all of these artists had to put into these works.


Seeing this exhibition made me feel as if I was stepping onto a theater stage crowded with colorful characters talking to each other in full voices. Some paper sculptures are suspended from the ceiling, others hug walls and corners. And in one instance, you will look in disbelief into small, intricate sculptures made out of books that were delicately cut out and sometimes lovingly shredded into dust. You simply have to see it to believe it.


And here is another thing for us art lovers that truly must not be missed. For one week only, starting this coming Friday, Nuart Theater will screen the new documentary about "notoriously eccentric grande dame," PEGGY GUGGENHEIM: ART ADDICT. An heiress of the family fortune, she was able to not only collect art, but "collect" artists as well. Many of the great cultural figures of the 20th century were more than her friends, but also her lovers. Among them, Samuel Beckett, Max Ernst, Jackson Pollock, Alexander Calder, Marcel Duchamp, and the list goes on...


She opened her first gallery in London in 1938, but then, a few years later in 1942, she proceeded by opening the much more ambitious Art of This Century Gallery, in New York. The documentary, along with the just-published biography, Peggy Guggenheim: The Shock of the Modern by Francine Prose, is not afraid to tell the stories describing her not only as a colorful character ahead of her time, but also as an impossibly difficult person. In the many comments made by people who knew her well, we hear and read that art and sex were two major passions of her life.


Here in Los Angeles, every time I pass by the bronze sculpture of a naked horseman by Marino Marini on one of the terraces of the Getty Center, I think about Peggy, who kept another cast of this very sculpture in Venice, at her Palazzo Venier dei Leoni on the Grand Canal. She lived in this palace until her death in 1979, and it has become one of the most popular art destinations for tourists around the world. This bronze sculpture by Marino Marini features a naked horseman with... let's put it politely... an erect phallus, which was designed to be removable. As the story goes, every time Peggy expected nuns to visit or pass by, she would make sure to remove the bronze phallus. But here at the Getty, it's always on.

To learn about Edward's Fine Art of Art Collecting Classes, please visit his website. You can also read The New York Times article about his classes here, or an Artillery Magazine article about Edward and his classes here.


Edward Goldman is an art critic and the host of Art Talk, a program on art and culture for NPR affiliate KCRW 89.9 FM. To listen to the complete show and hear Edward's charming Russian accent, click here.