"Rembrandt to Thiebaud: A Decade of Collecting Works on Paper"

Constant plasticity comes to the fore

REVIEW Dada artist Kurt Schwitters maintained that formal elements were second only to an art object's ability to remain in flux — in spite of the static qualities inherent in his own work. No completed artwork could ever be fully finished but rather was kept open for future reinvention. In the current exhibition at the Legion of Honor, "Rembrandt to Thiebaud: A Decade of Collecting Works on Paper," which includes an approximately 5-by-7-inch collage by Schwitters, this constant plasticity of the art object seems to have come to the fore. Not only has the reception of such a variety of works — ranging from Michelangelo to John Baldessari, James Whistler to Richard Misrach — changed drastically since the inception of the art market, around the time of Rembrandt, but what might be considered an artwork and how its production affects this consideration has morphed as well.

The exhibition opens with a few 15th-century engravings by Albrecht Dürer, introducing us to hundreds of pieces from the largest collection of works on paper in the western United States via the golden ratio. This ideal is slowly dismantled throughout the course of the exhibit as it moves toward the contemporary, exemplified along the way by Yves Klein's postage stamp, painted in his signature International Klein Blue. Matted and framed, this initially functional object has been elevated to the status of original artwork, which at this moment is perhaps more original than the Dürer multiple. Similarly, Edward Kienholz's 1969 work For $146.00 was initially a direct illustration of the cost of the piece and has come to illustrate what the work is not worth today. Without making any physical changes, the transformative nature of the collection has led to an intrinsic modification of the artworks contained therein. (Ava Jancar)

"REMBRANDT TO THIEBAUD: A DECADE OF COLLECTING WORKS ON PAPER" Through Oct 7. Tues.–Sun., 9:30 a.m.–5 p.m. California Palace of the Legion of Honor, Lincoln Park, near 34th Ave and Clement, SF. $5–$8, free for 10 and under (free for all Tues.). (415) 863-3330, www.thinker.org/legion

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