Malibu Seen

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    A DAY AT THE BEACH

    If you’re a local art lover, you might want to pay a visit to Pepperdine’s Frederick R. Weisman Museum of Art. That’s where you’ll find an eye-popping showcase of exceptional works called Dual Natures by artist Graham Nickson, which is on display through March 29. These pieces are big-I mean really big. In fact, it was the first time in the history of the museum that a painting was too large to fit through the front door.

    “Can you believe it?” mused director Michael Zakian. “We had to remove one of the windows to get it in here.” The work in question is a monumental 10 feet high and 16 feet wide.

    But the sweat and strain was well worth the effort. From the moment you enter the museum’s expansive space, you find yourself dazzled by larger-than-life beach scenes in the most brilliant colors imaginable. They depict images of men, women and children relaxing at the shore. Some are in various stages of dress and undress, others stretch, dry themselves off or shake the sand from their towels.

    Many of these captured moments are serene, like the onset of dusk in “Departure” with its splashes of creamy tangerine, deep mauve and gray blues. A few are full of electricity, like “The Sanctuary,” where a group of bathers find themselves surrounded by a flock of agitated sea gulls swirling against a lemon yellow sky.

    Nickson’s early works concentrate on a single bather in a private world. As the work expanded, his compositions became more complex.

    “What I really like is the air of mystery,” explained Zakian. “Because if you look, you’ll see that the people aren’t really interacting. They’re alone in their thoughts.”

    Nickson began his love affair with the subject of bathers 20 years ago, drawing inspiration by watching the ever-changing scenery from his cottage in the Hamptons.

    “The idea came from there,” he said during the opening night reception. “I look for an image that’s very banal, very ordinary and try to make it mysterious and monumental.” Although the subject never changes, the scenes have an incredible range and diversity. “The beach is one of the few areas where people exist in a very unconscious way-action, non-action, intimacy, solitude, drama, romance, family. It’s not just a spot by the seaside, it’s a world and it’s a stage.” And so it goes, for as this artist sees it, life truly is a beach.

    Graham Nickson: Dual Natures runs through March 29.