At Bergamot Station: Great Paintings for Every Taste

On a visit to Los Angeles a few days ago I saw enough terrific paintings to last me for awhile. I'm going to keep this blog short -- the images can do most of the talking -- but I do want to tell you that if you love painting you are going to be be impressed by the quality and variety of what you see at Santa Monica's Bergamot Station the next time you drop by.

Robert Swain: The Form of Color
Installation at the Santa Monica Museum of Art, 2014, Courtesy of the Artist
Photo by Jeff McLane

After making my way through the exhausting L.A. traffic, walking into Robert Swain's installation The Form of Color at the Santa Monica Museum of Art was a refreshing and soul-cleansing experience. The installation, which is described as "immersive" is made up of 12 inch squares of color and is exquisitely and seamlessly installed and lit. I took an iPhone panorama -- the SMMOA is very nice about allowing photos -- that hopefully gives some idea of the unfolding and orderly serenity that one can feel just by scanning Swain's enveloping panels.

The author's iPhone panorama of Robert Swain's The Form of Color

Sitting on one of the benches in the museum's main gallery now feels a little like being surrounded by Monet's late "Nymphéas" at the Musée de l'Orangerie in Paris: but the clarity and sense of order is unique. I don't think of myself as being a fan of hard-edged painting, but Swain's installation converted me. It is really, really beautiful. You would think with all those years of college behind me I could say something more original than that...

Moving right along, if you like looser approaches than Swain's -- much looser -- don't miss the spectacular two-man show featuring Ed Moses and Larry Poons at the William Turner Gallery just footsteps away from the SMMOA. The idea for this pairing apparently hit William Turner at Ed Moses' 85th birthday party three years ago when he noticed Moses and Poons standing on opposite sides of his gallery.

Artist Ed Moses with his paintings Edward #1 and #2

Both artists are accomplished veterans -- Poons is 76 and Moses is now 88 -- and the sheer bravura confidence that each brings to their contrasting approaches is thrilling. Moses has a variety of works on view including some of his amazing "craquelare" works -- they are made with acrylic and other undisclosed ingredients -- as well as some "waterfall" and "grid" paintings.

Larry Poons, Diamond Jim, acrylic on canvas, 76 1/2 x 102 inches

Because Poons' works need to be seen up close to be appreciated, I took some iPhone videos of his exquisitely glooby surfaces. Click on the video below for a quick virtual bird walk through one of his canvases:

At Copro Gallery -- in Bergamot's "T" building just north of the SMMOA -- artist Adam Miller is showing four oil paintings and three drawings under the title "The End of Arcadia." Miller's theatrical and carefully staged paintings explore a heavy theme -- the end of the American Empire -- but do so with images that can only be described as challengingly beautiful. After seeing Robert Swain's immersive color installation and the dazzling painterliness of Ed Moses and Larry Poons, Adam Miller's show is going to offer you something completely different.

Adam Miller, Apollo and Daphne, oil on canvas 72 x 48 inches

Miller's paintings -- which are activated by the artist's dual commitments to Humanism and anti-authoritarianism -- show just how carefully their creator has studied Italian art and brought its narrative possibilities into a contemporary American context.

Adam Miller, Night Watch, oil on canvas 60 x 72 inches

Hard-edge abstraction, painterly abstraction, contemporary realism/humanism: you can see superb examples of all three approaches at Bergamot Station all in about a 75 yard radius.

Another art-loving friend of mine has reminded me -- in talking about taste -- that "You have to stir the pot." If you can get to Bergamot Station before Adam Miller's show closes on June 7th and see the three shows mentioned in this blog, I can guarantee that your pot will indeed be stirred. If you don't like something you see there I will give you back the money you paid to read this blog: which is free. So is visiting Bergamot Station where parking, admission to the Santa Monica Museum of Art and admission to all the commercial galleries is also free.

Exhibition Information:

 Robert Swain: The Form of Color
The Santa Monica Museum of Art
May 17 - August 23rd

Ed Moses and Larry Poons: The Language of Painting
The William Turner Gallery
May 31 - July 19th

Adam Miller: Twilight in Arcadia
Copro Gallery
May 17 - June 7th