Bursting with exhibitions likely to delight, confound and enlighten--amid a few dull spots--the new year has a promising look. Following is a rundown of what’s on tap at the major institutions and a few less heavily trafficked spots.
At Newport Harbor Art Museum:
* “Edward Hopper: Selections From the Permanent Collection of the Whitney Museum of American Art” (Jan. 20 through March 17). The American painter who so memorably captured the loneliness of the human condition is a hardy perennial, appealing to art innocents and art sophisticates alike with his isolated figures who pass empty hours in offices, cafes, porches and hotel rooms. A major traveling exhibit of Hopper’s work--65 paintings, 35 watercolors, 50 prints and drawings--is making its first stop (and only California visit) in Newport Beach, where it’s likely to be the year’s most popular show. Hopper’s art will be exhibited chronologically, beginning with early student works, and including pieces rarely exhibited. The Whitney received Hopper’s estate of 2,500-plus works as a bequest from his widow, Josephine Nivison Hopper, the model for many of the women in his paintings.
“New California Artist XVIII: Robert Millar” (Jan. 20 through March 17). Millar’s photographs, sculptural objects and site-specific works have to do with light, form and space, and his first one-person museum show makes its point by deliberately wandering all over the place. Five of his pieces will be in the museum, a stairlike construction will touch down in the outdoor sculpture garden, and four wooden chess tables and seats designed by Millar will be found in various locations around Newport Beach. The exhibit was organized by Lucinda Barnes, the museum’s former associate curator.
* “Typologies: 9 Contemporary Photographers” (April 9 through June 2). For the contemporary art crowd, this is the big one. It’s the first international survey of work by nine contemporary artists from North America and Germany who photograph suites of visually similar images that examine a particular subject matter--like industrial buildings or people’s faces. The work is closer to traditions of documentary, ethnographic and natural science photography than to traditional art photography. The exhibit, organized by guest curator Marc Freidus, includes work by Lynne Cohen (from Canada), Judy Fiskin, Roger Mertin, Ed Ruscha (United States), Candida Hofer, Thomas Ruff, Thomas Struth and the husband-and-wife team of Bernd and Hilla Becher (Germany).
“New California Artist XIX: Kim Yasuda” (April 9 through June 2). Yasuda uses such materials as fabric, photographs, wood, sand and living trees to make installations concerned with the passage of time and its cycles of growth and decline.
* “Selections from the Permanent Collection” (June 25 through Sept. 15). “Collection” shows are usually routine things, but Newport’s collection of postwar California art normally remains tucked away, awaiting a building with more gallery space. This show also features recent acquisitions, some on view for the first time.
“Third Newport Biennial” (Oct. 6 through Jan. 5, 1992). In previous years, the biennial surveyed either Northern or Southern California work by up-and-coming artists. This year, the museum has the whole state to play with, and it’s come up with eight artists who are said to have made a significant impact on the scene. The fun of these shows lies partly in the endless quibbles they spark--how could anyone possibly choose artist X and not artist Y?--and partly in the delight of discovering new work and possibly seeing a favorite artist honored with curatorial attention.
At Laguna Art Museum:
* “Edward Corbett: A Retrospective” (Jan. 11 through March 24). Organized by the Richmond (Calif.) Art Center, this is a 30-year survey of work by a leading San Francisco painter of the postwar years and an influential teacher at the California School of Fine Arts (now the San Francisco Art Institute). The exhibit emphasizes Corbett’s atmospheric paintings and drawings from the late 1940s.
* “Kim Abeles: The Smog Collector” (Jan. 11 through April 21, at the museum’s South Coast Plaza Satellite). The museum commissioned the well-known Los Angeles artist to do an installation, and she responded with a piece everyone can relate to--about the quality of our air. Images that appear to be etched on pieces of glass and other transparent materials were actually created by placing stencils on the glass and leaving them on Abeles’ studio roof for 30 days.
* “The Expressive Sculpture of Alvin Light” (Jan. 18 through March 24). The drawings and sculptures in this show (organized by the Monterey Peninsula Museum of Art) were made over a 25-year period by one of the pioneers of abstract sculpture in the Bay Area who died in 1980. Light found equivalents in wood for the themes of his Abstract Expressionist painter colleagues. Using both milled lumber and tree branches he found on beaches and in parks, he forged a quirky style entirely his own.
* “Morphosis: Buildings and Projects” (March 29 through June 9). A couple of years ago, at the annual American Institute of Architects dinner, Morphosis partner Thom Mayne excoriated Orange County architects for creating bland buildings that baldly refuse to relate to one another. Now Orange County gets to see the kind of unconventional solutions cooked up by Mayne and Michael Rotondi--the driving forces behind Morphosis, a Santa Monica-based architecture firm--for such projects as single-family and multiple-unit housing, medical facilities, restaurants and retail spaces. The exhibit, curated by museum director Charles Desmarais, includes models for buildings and furniture as well as mixed-media prints and other non-traditional architectural documents.
* “Beginning the Next Decade: Recent Acquisitions” (March 29 through June 16). Now that the renovation of their Laguna Beach building is history, the museum has been making a big push to beef up the collection with gifts from friends. One prize for the gift-givers--and, we hope, also for the community at large--is seeing their stuff on display. This show will including paintings by Lorser Feitelson, Roger Kuntz and Dan Lutz, works on paper by Peter Alexander, an assemblage by Bruce Connor, and other California works from the past century.
* “The Cutting Edge: Contemporary American Folk Art from the Rosenak Collection” (June 14 through Aug. 18). Work by unschooled rural and urban artists from a major private collection (organized by the Museum of American Folk Art in New York) sounds likely to lure casual visitors during the season when a museum has to work pretty hard to compete with a beach.
* “Arthur Wesley Dow and His Influence” (June 21 through Sept. 1). Dow, whose style filtered the look of Asian art through a Western sensibility, was an important influence on such American modernist painters and photographers as Georgia O’Keeffe, Max Weber, Alvin Langdon Coburn, Clarence White, Gertrude Kasebier and other members of Alfred Stieglitz’s circle. This exhibit of prints and photographs was organized by the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art at Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y.
* “Dream and Perspective: The American Scene in California, 1930-1945" (Sept. 6 through Nov. 17). And now, a show organized by the Laguna museum that aims to examine the social roles played by artists in California during the isolationist and war years of the 1930s and ‘40s. This sounds like a good opportunity to reveal the sociology behind the art; as for the art itself, we’ll have to wait and see whether work by Millard Sheets, Maynard Dixon and such lesser-known figures as Phil Paradise, Rinaldo Cuneo and Barse Miller still offers food for thought.
* “The Transparent Thread: Asian Philosophy in American Art, 1950-90" (Nov. 22 through Feb. 9, 1992). This ambitious show aims to explore the impact of Asian philosophies on a number of otherwise disparate artists, among them, John Baldessari, Robert Rauschenberg, Robert Arneson, Jasper Johns, William Wiley and Larry Rivers. If the works are well chosen and the catalogue essayists can muster persuasive arguments, this may be Laguna’s top show of the year. It was organized by the Hofstra University Museum, Hampstead, N.Y., with the Edith C. Blum Art Institute at Bard College, Annendale-on-Hudson, N.Y.
At the Fine Arts Gallery, UC Irvine:
* “Ansel Adams: Fiat Lux” (Jan. 8 through Feb. 10). Millions love his pristine images of nature--but it remains to be seen whether local viewers will go gaga over his 100 images of University of California campuses, agricultural fields and research labs. The photos, commissioned by then Chancellor Clark Kerr, were taken in the mid-1960s to commemorate the university system’s centennial but never shown publicly because student protests put the kibosh on the 100th-birthday celebration. Also on view, the (yawn) oh-so-famous images that compose “Ansel Adams: The Museum Set.”
At the Muckenthaler Cultural Center in Fullerton:
* “System/Situation: The Narrative in Kinetic Sculpture” (Jan. 19 through March 3). Jim Jenkins, associate professor of fine arts at Cal State Fullerton, guest curated this show, which examines some of the ways sculptures with movable parts can tell stories. The artists--Kim Abeles, Lewis Alquist, Dave Quick, George Stone, Catherine MacLean and David Wilson--use dioramas, photographic documentation, light, sound and other means to depict objects, events, historical periods and unusual experiences of various kinds.
At Security Pacific Gallery:
* “Prints from the Security Pacific Collection” (Jan. 31 through March 24). A show without a meaningful theme, alas, but an opportunity to see lithographs, intaglio and silk screen prints by more than 40 well-known artists, including John Baldessari, Jennifer Bartlett, Vija Celmins, Helen Frankenthaler, David Hockney, Louise Nevelson, Robert Rauschenberg, Richard Serra, Susan Rothenberg and Andy Warhol.
* “Chamber Soundings” (April 6 through Dec. 22). The next piece for the gallery’s Project Room will be an interactive sound installation by New York composer Kevin Jones.
At the Orange Coast College Art Gallery:
* “Oracular Orifices” (Jan. 31 through March 6). Winner of the Oddball Award for 1991 art shows in Orange County--this one offers just about everything you ever wanted to know about contemporary “pinhole” photography, including work by 31 artists, and large and small examples of the handmade cameras that produce these soft-focus images. Among the artists are Marcus Kaiser, who used the Berlin Wall as a pinhole camera, and Dominique Stoobant, who makes sun tracings and recordings of solar eclipses. Among the cameras on view will be one built especially for the show by Darryl Curran, photography department chairman at Cal State Fullerton, and “Pinhole Journal” publisher Eric Renner’s version of the pinhole, designed especially for underwater shots. Curated by San Clemente photographer Peggy Ann Jones, who teaches photography at Orange Coast.