Ceramics and clay
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Best art museum exhibits of 2012 | Christopher Knight

Ceramics and clay
Together, “Common Ground: Ceramics in Southern California, 1945-1975" at the American Museum of Ceramic Art in Pomona and “Clay’s Tectonic Shift: John Mason, Ken Price and Peter Voulkos, 1956-1968" at Scripps College’s Ruth Chandler Williamson Gallery in nearby Claremont made for the most thorough telling of the tale of a distinctive revolution in postwar art. One laid out the rich panoply of modern ceramic conventions, the other cheerfully smashed them. (Scripps College)
Richard Diebenkorn
Three years later than originally planned, thanks to the national economic meltdown, “Richard Diebenkorn: The Ocean Park Series” at the Orange County Museum of Art was worth the wait. More fully than any other paintings, the large abstractions Diebenkorn made between 1967 and 1985 brilliantly resolved the century-old duel between color and line in Modern art. (John R. Glembin / Orange County Museum of Art)
‘Ends of the Earth’
At the Museum of Contemporary Art’s Geffen warehouse, “Ends of the Earth: Land Art to 1974" proved that an indoor museum could smartly chronicle a form that typically operates outdoors in the actual landscape. How? Partly by revealing how closely tied to gallery spaces and mass media the genre actually was. (Los Angeles Times)
‘Santa Ana Condition: John Valadez, 1976-2011'
“Santa Ana Condition: John Valadez, 1976-2011,” a 35-year survey at the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, charted how the L.A. artist manufactures an eye-opening estrangement of everyday experience in paintings, drawings and rarely seen photographs. In the process, centuries of Latin American baroque art emerged as deep background to the Chicano street art movement. (Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego)
Ken Price
The sumptuous Ken Price retrospective at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (through Jan. 6) cements his position as one of the great American sculptors of the last half-century. Price, who died in February at 77, took aim at the conformist 1950s and ‘60s demand for formal purity, instead creating emphatically hybrid works that anticipated a wider theme in art. (Fredrik Nilsen / LACMA)
‘A Strange Magic: Gustave Moreau’s Salome’
The UCLA Hammer Museum assembled related paintings, drawings and books to do a deep and incisive look at one of the greatest works in its modest permanent collection. “A Strange Magic: Gustave Moreau’s Salome” was a model of its kind.

Pictured: Gustave Moreau’s “Salome Dancing Before Herod” (1874-76).  (Robert Wedemeyer / Hammer Museum)
‘Destroy the Picture: Painting the Void, 1949-1962
At MOCA Grand Ave., “Destroy the Picture: Painting the Void, 1949-1962" (through Jan. 14) surveys an art of creative destruction in the generation following the unspeakable cataclysm of World War II. Japan’s Gutai Group, Art Informel in Europe and other postwar art long in the shade of American Abstract Expressionism comes into an illuminating spotlight. (Museum of Contemporary Art)
América Tropical
The date for completion of conservation and a public reopening of Mexican painter David Alfaro Siqueiros’ shamefully censored 1932 mural “América Tropical” had been pushed back so many times -- literally decades -- that it was hard to believe it would ever happen. But it did, complete with an enlightening interpretive center on Olvera Street. (Christina House / For the Times)
A landmark exhibition, the J. Paul Getty Museum’s “Florence at the Dawn of the Renaissance: Painting and Illumination, 1300-1350" (through Feb. 10) profoundly expands our understanding of a fundamental shift in Western history -- no small feat for a period and place that have long been the subject of art historical scrutiny. (Handout)
With his dramatically lighted, introspective, highly cinematic dramas, Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, the genius of Italian Baroque art, always feels uncannily fresh. At LACMA, “Bodies and Shadows: Caravaggio and His Legacy” (through Feb. 10) shows that lots of 17th century painters felt the same way. (LACMA)