It was an hour before Marsha Effron Barron’s LACMA reception when I found myself sitting outdoors in one of the Museum’s restaurants flanked by two attractive female artists, Clara Berta and Lynne McDaniel. On the table, nothing but empty glasses of hot buttered rum; our rum haze an obvious way to render us oblivious to Los Angeles’s June atmospheric diffusion of grays and the flamboyant mega kitsch we had just seen from such as Jeff Koons and Damian Hirst, enshrined for eternity in the Museum’s large room of honor. And now the rum seemed to be working.
A few years ago Marsha Barron had invited me to her studio, so I was aware of what her past work looked like, but now I was in considerable wonderment as to how her current work would appear. I comforted myself in the knowledge that if I didn’t like her exhibit, the rum in my system would no doubt soften the blow.
Eventually, like all the guests, we made our way into the Museum’s underground catacomb hallways where Marsha’s art hung, the Museum’s little way of saying to her that she’s no Jeff Koons or Damian Hirst! Knowing full well that treasures are often found beneath ground, I was eager to find gems. What a relief when I glanced at Marsha’s stuff hanging on the wall, gems, all of them.
These jewels consisted of a series of small pastel and charcoal drawings on 22” x 15” Stonehenge paper. In spite of the fact that they all had a similar appearance, each nevertheless stood out as a separate entity on its own in other words, they all worked well either viewed together or separately, no visual monotony here. Seeing one of the works simply made you want to view the next one, and the next one like who can only eat one potato chip from a bag? Even though the two other exhibiting artists’ works were fairly large, your eye went first to her work because she had established a sense of monumentality out of essentially simple stuff.
This and more were achieved by her absolute mastery of the interplay between forms, lines, and coloration. Her placement and visual balance was right on; total gestalt. And as artists, we know that is not an easy achievement. There is not a sign of gimmickry or pandering in these drawings; they speak only about her personal artistic exploration. They do impress the viewer, but there’s no hint that the artist is creating just to wow us.
Her drawings are not too large and not too small; not too loud and not too soft; not too complex and not too simple. It passes my “Goldilocks” test: art that is just right. Bravo Marsha!
If you find yourself at LACMA, treat yourself to these hidden gems deep, deep down in the bowels of the Rental Gallery.