I know, I know, I’ve been going on quite a bit about the three shows now on view at the Pasadena Museum of California Art. But that’s because they’re so freaking amazing. And I haven’t yet paid proper due to the one with the deepest roots here — Behold the Day: The Color Block Prints of Frances Gearhart.
The story of how this show came to be is an intensely local one. About a year and a half ago, my neighbor, Susan Futterman, took me to lunch to get some advice about book publishing. She’d recently retired as the head of standards and practices (i.e., the censor) for ABC, and was pursuing her love of the Arroyo arts culture of the early 20th century. A big fan of the artist Frances Gearhart, she had this idea to publish of book of Gearhart’s work, hopefully tied to a show at the Pasadena Museum of California Art, which seemed a logical venue.
Susan had no professional experience as either a curator or publisher, but she threw herself into this project, and all of a sudden (or so it seemed) here she was on opening night, basking in the early-20th-century glow of the remarkable works of Frances Gearhart. Susan did it, curating not only the first retrospective of a significant American artist, but tracking down long-lost color-block prints from the children’s book, Let’s Play, written by Gearhart and her two sisters. Susan shepherded the reissue of this book through production (a limited run is on sale at the PMCA store for $75), and restored 18 linoleum-block prints from the book to the places of honor they held in the 1920s and ’30s in the children’s room at the Pasadena Central Library.
To say the Prospect Park neighborhood is proud of Susan Futterman is an understatement. Gearhart’s meticulous, beautiful work is now there for all of us to see, a lost and treasured book lives again, and one of Pasadena’s great artists finally got her due.
Behold the Day: The Color Block Prints of Frances Gearhart
Through January 31, 2010
Pasadena Museum of California Art
490 E. Union St., Pasadena