Art on all levels

All three floors of Laguna Art Museum will be chock-a-block with art from all mediums and eras when the museum opens three concurrent exhibitions on Sunday, preceded by a gala opening night preview party from 7 to 9 p.m. Saturday.

The spring shows — "Extract: Developing Exhibitions Inspired by the Collection;" "Landscape and Figuration from the Collection;" and "Brad Coleman: Reproductions" — include minimalist modern art, impressionistic landscapes, Depression-era works, precisely rendered drawings and paintings and a rare showing of a sand installation by Laddie John Dill.

Each exhibit takes up one floor of the three-level museum, and each was curated by a different person. Museum director Bolton Colburn curated "Extract," culling works from the museum's permanent collection to make 12 "mini-exhibitions."

"I pulled out works from the collection that we want to work on for future exhibitions," Colburn said. The exhibition includes one room filled with works by mother and daughter artists Eleanor Colburn and Ruth Peabody, many of which depict mothers with children. In a different vein are Chris Wilder's humorous large works in the museum's main hall, including "White Monochrome Fur Painting," a huge piece consisting solely of white faux fur. Wilder's "Missing," a humorous take on a missing dog poster featuring Snoopy, is also included.


Mountain of sand

On Tuesday, Dill was directing two workers who were hauling bags of sand and pouring them to make a small mountain into which six glass rectangles were placed. A light placed beneath the sand casts a subtle glow that is picked up by the glass edges.

The piece, which is untitled, was conceived 40 years ago and uses various types of sand, Dill said. A version of the piece is in the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and Laguna Art Museum has owned its version for 10 years.

"It's been shown five or six times," Dill said of the Laguna museum's version. The sand work was inspired by the artist's having grown up in Malibu, he said, adding, "I'm interested in light and space."

The piece was first shown in New York in 1971, he said. "I took it all over Europe, using indigenous materials." Dill's piece takes up one wall in a main floor room that also houses other modernist pieces.


Landscapes and figuratives

Downstairs in the lower level, Janet Blake, curator of the collections, has assembled a selection of older and historic figurative and landscape paintings that she said will be surprising and unfamiliar to many museum regulars.

"These are paintings people haven't seen," Blake said. There are seminal Laguna Beach works, such as Joseph Kleitsch's "Old Post Office," a faithful rendering of the city's beloved first post office in the early 1920s, said to be the hub of the fledgling artist colony.

The paintings range from the 1920s to the 1950s, including California Impressionist and abstract works, and portraits in different styles. Several paintings are from the Depression-era Works Progress Administration.

A 1948 fishing scene by Phil Dike shows a lively Corona del Mar, and a 1938 David Levine work called "Near Angel's Flight," depicts the working-class tenements that existed in downtown Los Angeles below Bunker Hill. A beautiful 1930s painting of the Grand Canyon by James Guilford Swinnerton is hung alongside a 1910 painting of the "Bastions of the Painted Desert" by Fernand Lundgren — the oldest painting in the show — and Anna Katherine Skeele's "Rancho Church, New Mexico," circa 1930.

A serenely beautiful 1930 painting by McClelland Barclay, "Beach in Moonlight," could easily be of Laguna Beach, but Blake said it is not clear what locale the painting depicts. An exquisite 1939-40 landscape, "Fogbound Shore, Antarctica," by Leland Curtis, shows a frigid landscape, in sharp contrast to the California and Southwest scenes.


Coleman 'sheep' series

Upstairs is a collection of 12 charcoal drawings of Dolly the cloned sheep by Laguna Beach evangelical pastor and artist Brad Coleman. Coleman teaches at Laguna College of Art + Design and is also a pastor at the Church by the Sea. Coleman, who just announced he is departing Laguna Beach for Chicago in July, is leaving on a high note, with his first major exhibition, according to Grace Kook-Anderson, the curator of exhibitions at the museum.

Kook-Anderson, who curated the Coleman exhibit, said the show invites the viewer to slow down and look at each of 12 precisely rendered sheep drawings, each one of which is based on the one before it. Coleman, she said, began the project in 1998, when he and his wife were trying to have a baby and Dolly the cloned sheep became news. It was completed in 2010.

The first drawing was made from a newspaper photograph of Dolly.

"The later ones are harder, and there are fun subtle changes," Kook-Anderson said. "In these sheep, the hand of the artist is there."

Coleman, raised in rural Ohio, uses farm animals and vegetables in a lot of his work, which is drawn precisely to scale. In addition to sheep, there are drawings of chickens and teapots, cups and saucers.


Special tours and lectures

The museum is planning special events focusing on each of the exhibits:

Blake will give a tour of her "Landscape and Figuration" show at 1 p.m. Sunday.

Coleman will lecture about his work at 1 pm. March 20.

A panel discussion with artists from the "Extract" show will take place at 1 p.m. April 10.

If You Go

What: Spring exhibitions

Where: Laguna Art Museum, 307 Cliff Drive.

When: Sunday through May 15.

Hours: Daily from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and on First Thursday's Art Walk until 9 p.m.

Cost: Admission is $12, $10 or students, seniors and active military. Admission is free for children 11 and younger.

Information: Call (949) 494-8971 or visit

Preview party: 7 to 9 p.m. Saturday. Meet artists and view the exhibitions before the general public. Tickets are $20 if purchased online, $25 at the door. Cash bar.

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