February 20, 2010
by Laura Shingles

Classic Contemporary: Lichtenstein, Warhol and Friends

MCASD : La Jolla | 2/20/2010

Stare at a row of Campbell’s soup cans in the grocery store and you might feel a twinge of hunger. Frame paintings of those cans and hang them side by side in the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego La Jolla, and I can almost guarantee you will feel much more than a craving for half a sandwich. There are few words to describe what ten of Andy Warhol’s Campbell’s soup cans look like, but a good one might be “exhilarating.” Warhol’s other piece in the Classic Contemporary exhibit, the lavender silkscreen “Flowers,” is a noticeable break from his standard neon palette.

Andy Warhol - Flowers, 1967
Warhol is usually enough for any exhibit, but this one also features Ed Ruscha, Roy Lichtenstein, Ellsworth Kelly, Frank Stella, Sol LeWitt and Claes Oldenburg.

Frank Stella - Sabra III, 1967
“Sabra III,” one of two Stella pieces in the exhibit, has an odd shape that is just as much a part of the work as the fluorescent colors filling it. The other Stella, “Sinjerli 1,” a large circular piece painted neon green, blue and cream, hangs to the left of a narrow window overlooking the Pacific. Waves are the perfect complement to Stella’s works and to Kelly’s “Red Blue Green.” Each has a ‘70s-California-bungalow feel.

Ellsworth Kelly - Red Blue Green, 1963
Standing in a room filled with such influential work is similar to what I imagine being in a room filled with celebrities would feel like. Except there is one thing a celebrity can do to ruin his or her beauty that a piece of art can never do: speak. Take Ruscha’s “Ace,” an entirely black canvas save for three dark blue letters spelling the word for which it’s named. Such straightforward, prepackaged expression leaves little room for illusion or disappointment. It’s uncomplicated, unchanging and, of course, exhilarating.

Ed Ruscha - Ace, 1962
Classic Contemporary: Lichtenstein, Warhol and Friends runs until March 28 at MCASD La Jolla.

Tags: Andy Warhol, MCASD, Laura Shingles

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