The Triton Museum of Art in Santa Clara is one of my favorite museums in the Bay Area. While it doesn't hit with the names that The Anderson Collection does, they do an amazing series of exhibits in a building every bit as remarkable at the one Stanford built to house the Anderson's art. The current major exhibition, David Einstein - A 50-Year Retrospective, is the biggest single exhibition I've seen at the Triton, and one of the most incredible I've seen in ages.
I have to say something - I've been aware of Einstein for ages. What I'd encountered along the way, well, it wasn't my favorite. There's a certain feeling to much of his work that feels either flat or simply reflective of the work of other painters (a criticism I certainly have of Raimonds Staprans' work, whose exhibit at the SJ Museum of Art didn't quite change my opinion on that...) but the work showed at the Triton moved me much further into the fan category of Einstein's work. It might be my general malaise towards many color field painters, even though I'm a massive Abstract Expressionist fan, but walking through the three rooms, I discovered a number of amazing works, most notably Bazooka, an amazing assemblage collage piece, and Coney Island, the work shown above from 1968. Those two pieces were amazing in that they felt so amazingly fresh among much of the work I've seen of Einstein's over the years. And to me, neither felt much like a color field work. The placement of both is amazing, considering the location of Coney Island right below the title in the front of the Rotunda. Bazooka is slightly hidden, on the back side of a pillar, but it allows for taken it in while looking into the front section of the Rotunda, which makes it seem more of an integrated piece. It feels of Rauschenberg's work, but not as if it were aping it, but instead synthesizing many of the same ideas and working with a new sort of density.
The other two rooms seem to be more focused on more recent works, which are interesting. They seem to focus on more recent work that that featured in the Rotunda, and some of it isn't my fave, but there is plenty of wonderful works. The Wabi-Sabi works are very interesting in their glyph-like forms, and the Franz Kline work on paper that is currently on display at the Anderson came instantly to mind, but it also seems like Einstein was doing something more with the work, and when taken in along with the wire sculptures, it really comes into focus that these works are of a genus, with the varying methodologies and epochs represented as the species within. While works like Coney Island may feel a bit like a third wave AbEx presentation, you can see how the stripping down of the forms lead to those wire sculptures and later, more glyph-like works. There are artists whose work needs to be appreciated in adjacency, and I believe Einstein is one of 'em!
David Einstein - A 50-Year Retrospective (1968-2018) is on view at the Triton Museum of Art in Santa Clara now through April 22nd. Admission is FREE!!!
Christopher J Garcia - Curator, Fan Writer, Podcaster, and a guy who just loves art.