Celebrating the Brand's purchasing power

The Brand Art Gallery has put its own twist on “Pacific Standard Time,” the Getty Initiative that calls upon art purveyors to concentrate on artists who were active in the L.A. art scene from 1950-1980. Now at the Brand is “Purchasing Power: Jurors Make Their Mark,” an exhibition of 35 artworks from the Associates of Brand Library Purchase Award Collection, accrued between 1971-1980.

The 1971 maiden event was judged by modern and contemporary art superstars like Hans Burkhardt and Guy Maccoy. They were just the beginning of what was to become a legacy of preeminent jurors whose fine art fingerprints are all over this extraordinary accumulation of art. Many of them are, themselves, currently featured in the Getty’s larger project.

The Associates of the Brand Library have for the last four decades provided a foundation for artists to exhibit and compete for the Jane Friend Purchase Award, a coveted opportunity to snag a position in the Brand collection. Adding weight of the award throughout the years has been the caliber of the jurors who have participated.

The first exhibition, “Brand 1,” was very controversial. Some were disgusted with the avant-garde selections by jurors, names that did not carry as much gravitas with the public then as they would today. In a March 1971 Glendale News-Press article, one visitor was quoted: “The judges should have been hung instead of the pictures.” Public resistance in the ’70s was fierce, but as the Brand collection grew over these 40 years, so did the public’s taste for modern and contemporary art.

The honor roll of jurors begins in 1971 with the Austrian-born Burkhardt, known for an intense expressionistic style. Maccoy is respected today as the father of the screen print and serigraphy, a technique that offered artists another way to produce multiple copies of their work. Both jurors taught and exhibited in the finest teaching institutions, museums and galleries around the world. By 1976, jurors also included Claire Falkenstein, whose sculpture and jewelry drew on an extensive artistic vocabulary.

In 1972 and 1977, Joe Mugnaini participated as a juror. His work is now in the Smithsonian Institution and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and his fantastical images have inspired a cult following for decades. The 1979 Brand contest benefited from the expertise of Millard Sheets, considered by many a major force in the California-style watercolor movement. Sheets was a well-rounded and consummate creator. He was at various points an architect, illustrator, muralist, printmaker and, occasionally, an art exhibition juror.

The personal work of many of these elite jurors is represented in the Pacific Standard Time project. The annual exhibition has been a lightning rod for hugely qualified jurors and it shows. This exhibition serves as a documentary of sorts — the finest art teachers and professionals selected works that closely aligned with their own artistic ideals. The history captured in the Brand collection epitomizes everything that the Getty Initiative is now embracing.

TERRI MARTIN is an art historian and critic.

Purchasing Power: Jurors Make Their Mark

When: Through March 3. Gallery hours; Tues.-Thurs., noon to 8 p.m.; Weds. noon to 6 p.m.; Fri.-Sat. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Where: Brand Library and Art Gallery 1601 West Mountain Street, Glendale.

Contact: (818) 548-2051

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