Chain Reaction: Views from the AJU Collection

Curator: Rotem Rozental

June 30 – January 30, 2019


This exhibition explores works by artists whose practice is defined by the geographical, social and materials landscapes of Los Angeles. Spanning the 1950s to the last decades of the twentieth century, the exhibition highlights the idiosyncratic junctures of materials, colors, light and the city that determines their emergence.

Peter Krasnow, whose family escaped pogroms in Ukraine, settled in Los Angeles in 1922, driven by the pursuit of bright lights and a sense of inescapable freedom. He became part of a community of artists, and a prominent figure in the local milieu. Krasnow’s radiant colors and abstract geometric shapes spoke to his hopes for a better future for humanity, and his concerns about the here and now. Boris Deutsch, a contemporary and colleague of Krasnow, focused on figurative depictions and portraits of emotional terrains. Their works redefined different threads of modernism, as well as its presence in the West Coast and beyond.

In the 1950s, Ynez Johnston’s works began appearing in exhibitions at MoMA and nationwide, spanning a variety of media and perspectives. Her work blends modernism and geometric abstraction with ancient art forms influenced by her global travels. Ed Ruscha notably re-defined the views of the modern, urban city in his photographs and photobooks. Since the 1960s, Max Finklestein has been experimenting with aluminum and its relation to light and reflections, aiming to envelop the viewer, and trigger her body and vision. Andy Warhol embodies the traits that came of define the New York art scene at a particular moment, and yet, the first gallery that identified his commercial appeal was the Ferus Gallery on La Cienega Boulevard. This connection not only jump-started his career, it also helped reformulate bi-coastal exchanges. Brothers Laddie John and Guy Dill were born in Malibu, and Los Angeles remains the focal point of their activity. Laddie John Dill’s earlier work investigated “light sentences” in neon-based installations. Later he was to migrate to earthly materials and space. Guy Dill’s sculptures present vigorous studies of abstraction of movements reflect the transmutations of the everyday. Shown together, these works unravel crucial coordinates in local genealogies, and, more broadly, emphasizing the permutations of modernism.

Rotem Rozental


Virginia Maas, Chairperson of the Board

Rabbi Gary Ezra Oren, Vice President and Dean, The Whizin Center for Continuing Education

Jerome L. Coben, Chair, Fine Arts Advisory Committee

Rotem Rozental, Chief Curator, American Jewish University; Assistant Dean, The Whizin Center for Continuing Education; Director, Institute for Jewish Creativity

Geena Brown, Arts Program Associate

Makenzie Goodman and Adam Stacey, Exhibition Installation