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Laguna Beach is Southern California's premier seaside destination, midway between Los Angeles and San Diego. A year-round retreat for art lovers, nature enthusiasts and beach goers, Laguna Beach features seven miles of soft sand and surf.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

California Art at Laguna Art Museum

The Laguna Art Museum has deep ties to the history and culture of Laguna Beach. It was in 1918, when a group of artists formed the Laguna Beach Art Association as a way to highlight some of the great artwork that was being produced in Laguna Beach. By 1929, they opened a gallery and in 1951 they expanded that gallery. In 1971 they had obtained non-profit status as a museum and had a healthy collection of artwork. It was in 1986 when the association formally changed their name to Laguna Art Museum. The focus of the Museum is American art with an emphasis on the art of California. In their mission statement they say, “Working within the tradition of the oldest cultural institution in Orange County, Laguna Art Museum documents regional art and places it in a national context. The Museum maintains its historic ties to the community and is responsive, accessible, and relevant to the area’s diverse population.” The Museum now, after 90 plus years, holds one of the most comprehensive collections of California art.

Currently at the Laguna Art Museum, are three exhibits that capture the historical, contemporary and pop culture of Californian and American art.

OSKAR FISCHINGER ‘Criss-Cross’ 1939, Oil on canvasboard
“Over the years, Laguna Art Museum has been fortunate to take into its collection significant holdings by underrepresented individual artists who, though they have had little art historical attention thus far, have made significant contributions to regional and national art. These holdings have inspired a curatorial interest in the artists' work, enough of an interest to explore the possibility of future exhibitions.
Extract will consist of several small, one-person shows from the Collection by Florence Arnold, George Brandriff, Elanor Colburn, Laddie John Dill, Jules Engel, Oscar Fischinger, Tom Holland, Peter Krasnow, Ruth Peabody, David Simpson, Vic Joachim Smith, Jean St. Pierre, and Chris Wilder. The exhibition will include brief curatorial statements on the importance of each artist's work, and will aim to assess the potential for fully-formed monographic exhibitions.” (excerpt from Laguna Art Museum)

While walking through this exhibition, I was struck by the diversity of the works in front of me. Some used non-traditional multi-media mediums, others, modern and geometric in their expression, and even some, like Chris Wilder’s work, ‘White Monochrome Fur Painting,’ were humorous and thought provoking. In fact, On Sunday April 10th at 1pm visit the Museum for a chance to hear Laddie John Dill and Chris Wilder speak about their work. Click HERE for more information. 

ELSIE PALMER PAYNE, ‘A Decent Burial’ c. 1942, Watercolor on paper
“Feature exemplar twentieth century works from the Collection ranging from impressionism to modernism. Works from the early part of the century will include several of the Museum's popular impressionist paintings, among them The Old Post Office (c. 1922-23) by Joseph Kleitsch. The exhibition will also feature works by artists who aligned themselves with a more modernist approach in both landscape and figurative works. There will also be several paintings on view that have not been exhibited in many years, including signature works by McClelland Barclay, Conrad Buff, Leland Curtis, Phil Dike, Elsie Palmer Payne, Lee Randolph, Anna Katharine Skeele, and Elmer Wachtel.” (excerpt from Laguna Art Museum)

I thoroughly enjoyed this exhibition! Seeing some of the landscapes such as McClelland Barclay’s ‘Beach in Moonlight,’ drew me in and made me feel connected to the beauty of the ocean and the spectacular area in which we live.

When you visit the Laguna Art Museum, be sure to take note of the floors in the Museum’s lower level gallery, where the exhibition is located. You’ll notice that the large cement tiles have names stamped into them. The Museum discovered these by accident when they were stripping the floors of carpet to replace with wood. After a bit of research, they found out they were donor tiles from the 30s. No one had any idea that they were there! Some of the families and their stories were identified after the list of names were published in the local paper requesting information on their identity.

‘Sheep 1’ 1998, Charcoal on paper

“An attentive look at one series of drawings, Coleman's Sheep series. Upon first glance, the Museum's upper gallery will appear to be occupied by twelve identical drawings of one sheep image. However, with careful observation viewers will begin to see differences in each drawing and will eventually see a noticeable difference between the first and last drawing. The works are inspired by the sheep Dolly, the world's first cloned animal (1996). Coleman begins with a photograph of Dolly. He then makes a drawing based on that photograph. In the next drawing, he attempts to make a meticulous copy of the previous drawing. He continues the cycle with each drawing being a copy of the preceding drawing. Through this rigorous endeavor, slight unintentional variances occur, producing a series that begins with a drawing of a sheep and becomes a drawing of a drawing.” (excerpt from Laguna Art Museum)

This was a fascinating exhibition! It was so interesting to watch Coleman take one image and then replicate it once a year for 12 years and base it solely on the previous work. It was amazing to see the metamorphous. You can see subtle differences when looking at each image side by side. Then comparing the first one to the last, you see stark contrasts. Don’t miss this exhibition, you too will be fascinated!

All these wonderful and diverse exhibits are on display until May 15th.

Visit on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday or Saturday at 2pm and get a chance to have a guided tour of the exhibits by a docent (FREE with paid admission.)

Have a smart phone? Use it to check-in at the museum and tag a friend and one of you will get in FREE!

The museum is open LATE on FIRST THURSDAYS ART WALK until 9pm. Be sure to drop in for a visit!

By Anne-Marie S.



  1. Hai there, nice placa, my be, if i have money, i'll go there. My be you want visit Jogja In Indonesia, he.he..he

    Warm Regards

  2. As an older art collector since my wife passed away, I must admit to being very partial to collecting nudes in art, as original paintings or as good prints, that I have displayed all over the house. (I like to see the surprised faces of my new visitors).
    This one,, by Emile Munier, is hanging in one corner of my bedroom and was printed by, where I am a very good customer.

  3. This is pretty sweet Kerri, I love it. I can't wait to see more.

    beach art