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Museum Mixes it Up With Sheep and the Overlooked

One of the little seen works from the Laguna Art Museum collection on display in an exhibit opening to the public on Sunday, Feb. 27.

The Laguna Art Museum fills its galleries with three diverse shows on Saturday, Feb. 26, two of which are filled with works taken from the museum’s permanent collection. Even so, this is not a mere “shopping from the closet” undertaking but an attempt to exhibit works seldom or never seen before.

Museum director Bolton Colburn turned curator for “Extract: Developing Exhibitions from the Collection.” Thirteen chosen paintings reflect his interest in putting a spotlight on artists whose overlooked work merits closer scrutiny. “We have pulled some work we are interested in for future show themes, artists we would like to explore in a bigger way,” he said.

Colburn suggested that “Extract” is akin to a small one-person show for each artist whose genre has either defined the museum or for others, like film makers Oscar Fischinger (clips of his work will be seen as well) and Jules Engel, who have been important but obscure abstract/hard edge painters, suggested Colburn.

Works by John McLaughlin, along with George Kennedy Brandriff, Elanor Colburn (no relation to Bolton), Chris Wilder and Laddie John Dill, to mention a few, give insight to the variety stored in the museum’s racks. “While we have tended to show painters from the ‘30s and ‘40s, we are expanding here into the 1950s and beyond, into edgier, abstract works,” he said.

“Landscapes and Figuration from the Collection” is the territory of museum curator Janet Blake, who also chose works little seen recently. She brought out early 20th century pieces such as Edgar Payne’s “Sierra Packer,” works by his wife, Elsie Payne, Phil Dyke views of Corona del Mar and McClelland Barclay’s fabulous “Beach in Moonlight,” an out of genre work as he is best known as an illustrator.

In the upstairs galleries, viewers will count sheep in a series of 12 drawings by local artist-pastor Brad Coleman titled “Reproductions.” He conceived of the series at a time when he and his wife were grappling with fertility issues. After seeing a 1996 newspaper photo of Dolly, the first cloned sheep, he drew an image of the animal while formulating concepts about reproduction and Biblical metaphors inspired by sheep.

An ensuing drawing was based on his interpretation of Dolly, and the one thereafter on that portrayal of Dolly and the next on the previous drawing, said museum curator Grace Kook-Anderson, who organized the exhibition. The process resembles playing telephone with pencil and charcoal.

“I had heard about the sheep drawings and made a studio visit a year and a half ago. Brad did six sheep at that time and I enjoyed seeing the process but, I was also skeptical since they all looked the same,” she said. “It was not until we started talking about each one that the subtleties popped out and then, gradually, the differences became rather dramatic.”

All three shows run from Feb. 27 to May 15, 2011. www.lagunaartmuseum.org 949-494-8971.

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  1. Clips of Oskar Fischinger’s film works will not be shown in the gallery, as stated above.

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