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It Happened at Pomona

October 7, 2011

Jillian Raftery
It Happened at Pomona

Hungry for a study break in the middle of the night?  Head over to the Pomona Art Museum for a steaming hot platter of thought provoking culture, since it is now open twenty-four hours a day for the first installment of the It Happened at Pomona art series.

The first exhibition celebrates curator Hal Glicksman who, from 1969 – 1970, helped transform Claremont into a major center for new art.  Recruiting and nurturing young artists, Glicksman created an artist-in-residence program for artists to set up shop right inside the museum during gallery exhibitions.

The exhibit itself is diverse, showcasing pieces from Tom Eatherton, Ron Cooper, Judy Chicago, Robert Irwin, Lloyd Hamrol, and Lewis Baltz all at once.

Walking down into the exhibit, you’ll notice immediately a dramatic montage of photos depicting a landscape covered in smoke.  Then two large smashed car windshields, a looped video of a ball smashing into a glass plate, and a wall of minimalist photography taken around the greater Los Angeles area.

As you try to absorb the images before you, an attendant will come down and guide you into a pitch-black room lit by huge curved panels that seem to extend into the darkness forever.


Current Pomona Art Gallery curator Rebecca McGrew cites their works as prime examples of the Light and Space movement.

“It [Light and Space] captures a really, truly “California” kind of art movement.  Artists who responded to the light and space qualities of living in southern California, in conjunction with a lot of the other art movements at the time, came up with the idea of questioning architecture, questioning art, questioning what an art object actually is,” says McGrew.

The art works at the exhibition really do play with light and with space, like the Robert Irwin display: acrylic lacquer on formed acrylic plastic, essentially a bent plastic disk with a single black line.  At first glance, it’s not extraordinary, but then you might notice that you can’t see what’s holding it up – or even where it begins and ends.

Irwin asked himself if he could “paint a painting without a mark, without a line.”  The result was a work of art that transcended its frame, that didn’t “begin and end at the edge.”

The point of these artworks is not just to show something, but to make the audience ask important questions about what they see, how it is seen, and the nature of art itself.  The real beauty of this artwork is that it isn’t easy to absorb – you have to think about it.

These ideas about art were really radical.  So radical, in fact, that curator Hal Glicksman’s successor, Helene Winer, was fired by Pomona College - reportedly after an artist, during his ritualistic performance art piece, urinated in front of fifty people in the gallery.


In just over three years Claremont had become a focal point for some of the most radical art and ideas in the country, but it didn’t last long.

“Because it was this key moment of a few short years where all the trends in art converged right there… in a way it was just coincidence, and then it all ended in ’73.  It’s hard to get a moment like that back”

Need more of an excuse to visit the Museum?  The Pomona Art Museum hosts weekly “after hours events” with movies, concerts, craft events, and even an appearance by featured artist Judy Chicago this Sunday, October 9th.  “It Happened at Pomona”, the first of three installments in the Pacific Standard Time series at Pomona is open twenty-four hours a day to the public through November 6th, 2011.  The Pacific Standard Time series, a collaborative effort throughout southern California, has more than sixty institutional partners and runs through April 2012.


Looking for more places for art at the 5Cs? Check out Jillian's article on art around the campuses.

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