‘Eclectic Eye’ exhibit shines light on

James Rosenquist, "Sketch for Fire Pole," Expo '67 Mural, Montreal, Canada, 1967, oil on canvas. Frederick R. Weisman Art Foundation, Los Angeles.

Weisman collection

From Oldenburg and Hockney to de Kooning and Warhol, Frederick R. Weisman’s collection was acclaimed as one of the most important private collections of modern art in the United States. Selections from the Weisman Art Foundation are now on display at Pepperdine University through Oct. 2.

By Pam Linn / Special to The Malibu Times

Soft afternoon light streams through the reception area of Pepperdine’s art museum. Director Michael Zakian is meeting with a group of art lovers from Santa Barbara here to view the new exhibit, The Eclectic Eye: Selections from the Frederick R. Weisman Art Foundation. On the reception desk are copies of a new book of the same name, a 190-page color catalog featuring 85 artists from the collection, including Claes Oldenburg, David Hockney, Willem de Kooning and Jasper Johns among other modern and contemporary artists.

The visitors are drawn first to the spacious Gregg G. Juarez Gallery where an enormous blue dog is standing on its head, legs skyward. “Cagna,” the largest of the exhibit’s dozen sculptures, is fashioned of PVC foam carpet by Paolo Grassino. Zakian says it appears to be break dancing. This gallery is devoted to Pop Art, with other sculptures-a real motorcycle painted bright pink with graphic designs by young New York graffiti artist, Angel Ortiz. On the far wall are Andy Warhol’s 10-panel silkscreen images of Marilyn Monroe. Jim Dine’s “The Yellow Venus” hints at classicism in a woodblock print using an expressionistic technique that mimics the look and feel of rough marble.

For those who’ve wondered how Christo lays out his massive outdoor projects, “Running Fence,” a mixed media collage, shows engineering details for his 1976 work in Sonoma and Marin counties. The actual fence was 18 feet high and 24 miles long-a single line of fabric panels temporarily installed in the countryside north of San Francisco. It traversed private ranches and intersected 14 roads, passing through a town and plunging into the ocean at Bodega Bay.

Flood (I Heard a Voice) is Lesley Dill’s cascading waterfall of letter-stamped leaves, autumn bleached and symmetrically arranged on a huge white board. Its descriptive card reads: “Links and equates the murmur of voices, rush of water, sound and feeling of falling leaves.”

David Hockney is represented by his “Metropolitan Opera House, New York,” a photo collage as viewed from the stage. This is one of Hockney’s most beautiful pieces, strongly evocative of the venerable hall, rich in color and texture.

The West Gallery is devoted to a dozen major works by L.A. Pop artist Ed Ruscha, the sole artist to represent the United States at this year’s Venice Biennial in Italy. Ruscha is the first California artist to be so honored. The panoramic landscapes, some 13 feet wide, depict Ruscha’s perspective on the open space of the American West and the wide-screen format of American cinema. His word-image paintings depict a sunset, “The End;” smog hanging over the coast marking LAX, Sunset and Malibu in “Atmospheric Trash” and a huge carrot on a stick titled “Please.” Weisman was a longtime patron and personal friend of the artist, “Ruscha was very witty, a very smart painter,” Zakian says.

In the center of the gallery upstairs is Les Christensen’s huge sculpture, “Why Should I Walk if I Have Wings to Fly?” an assemblage of shoes and wood in the shape of archangel wings. The 5,300 worn shoes (mostly women’s pointy-toed styles) are attached to a freestanding frame, soles facing outward. Its card reads: “Exaggerated polarization of content and form contrasts idea of constriction and confinement of earthbound shoes to the freedom and liberation of heavenly flight.”

Weisman was a friend to many of these artists and believed strongly that their works should be seen by the public rather than sequestered in private homes. During his lifetime, the collection was acclaimed as one of the most important private collections of modern art in the United States.

Now under the direction of Billie Milam Weisman, who curated this exhibit, the foundation continues to collect work by new and young artists.

The exhibition is open through Oct. 2, Tuesday through Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

A reception is scheduled for Tuesday, Aug. 23, from 6 to 8 p.m.