Not all collaborations are created equal. Some time ago, the jewel-box art museum in El Segundo teamed with the Getty and noted graffiti artists to compare and contrast ostensibly street art with medieval illuminated manuscripts. ‘Scratch’ was an audacious reach across centuries, comprehensive in its choices, and convincing thanks to its subtle yet driving focus on context.
‘Studio,’ ESMoA’s just-opened collaboration with LACMA suffers greatly in comparison. It’s a retrospective of the late Norbert Tadeusz (1940-2011) with twenty-seven paintings from moderate to large adorning the walls and leaving a lot of whitespace for all that. There’s nothing particularly wrong with the art but nothing especially right about it, either. All fall short of the promised monumental scale. Tadeusz seemed to like bold colors, moderate perspective, gymnastics, and cats. The works on offer are all about his studio, hence the title. A couple almost pull you in. Almost.
The website says he was important(tm) and that he studied and associated with other important(tm) people. It might even be true but the evidence and context woven so well together in ‘Scratch’ is startlingly absent here. Captions are limited to a webpage per piece with a thumbnail, size and material data, and ‘Q&ART’ a question designed to solicit comments. The viewer can see these on two iPads or on his or her smartphone at http://esmoa.org/gallery/studio/ Even a linked Wikipedia article on the artist is in German. Asking audiences to engage with the art is fine but it doesn’t relieve the gallery of its obligations in the matter.
The catalog has an unconvincing introduction from LACMA’s unremarkable Michael Govan and mostly shows photographs of the artworks with a few other images and an interview with Tadeusz’s wife. Whitespace again rules the day. It’s as if ESMoA had to meet its opening date and did what it could with time and money available. The artist deserves better.
Experience 17: STUDIO – June 7 until September 27, 2015
208 Main Street
El Segundo, CA 90245
Phone: 424 277 1020
Fri – 10am-5pm
Sat – 10am-5pm
Sun – 10am-5pm
Mon – Thur – appt. only