PMCA’s new exhibits engrossing and sometimes gross adult fare

When you enter an art museum in America, one isn’t shocked to see naked women served up as objects. That’s not what makes the three new exhibits at the Pasadena Museum of California Art adult.

There is nudity–bared female breasts, and in some situations it’s more about gritty realism than painting a pretty picture. What is likely to give some people pause is there is full frontal male nudity. This should shock Los Angeles theater goers, especially if you’ve been to a few plays in the smaller venues of Hollywood and most definitely if you hang out in West Hollywood. Yet this is Pasadena.

Other art pieces that give you pause is the large canvas that incorporates real human skulls. Don’t worry; they’re from Mexico and desecrating Mexican graves are okay, I guess.

In the Project Room, Nancy Baker Cahill’s “Fascinomas” is a multimedia installation with projected paintings (mostly monochromatic red). The hanging screen catches the images, but viewers can go behind the screen as well. A fascinoma is, medically speaking, an unusual case or diagnosis and the paintings are supposed represent bodily invaders, growths, etc. You ca consider your own body or try to get your body into the act by playing with the shadows for the viewers.  We did this when we were alone in the room (just the two of us) with varying success. Try to respect other museum goers though.

For those people on the Pacific Standard Time track, “L.A. Raw: Abject Expressionism in Los Angeles 1945-1980, From Rico Lebrun to Paul McCarthy”  is like a hurried journey through time via art. There are 120 works by 41 artists. If you’ve been around Southern California, you might have heard a few of these names and even taken classes with one of these people. Race, gender and sexual politics are addressed so this might not be the kind of exhibit you take small children to view.

There’s nudity (male and female) as well as the sex act depicted. Then there are those skulls.

Yet if you’re really interested in art and creating while living in California, stop by. I was moved by some beautiful wood sculptural pieces as well as some of the etchings.

On a more focused level, “Richard Bunkall: A Portrait” shows us the paintings, drawings and sculptures of a Pasadena artist. Bunkall died after suffering from ALS in 1999, but his works have such a gentle appreciation for form and subdued colors that suggest a peaceful life.

“L.A. Raw” and “Fascinomas” both continue until 20 May 2012. “Richard Bunkall: A Portrait” continues until 22 April 2012. All three are at the Pasadena Museum of California Art.

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