FIDM- Now You Know

It was mid Monday afternoon and I had the perfect window of time. I took a lighthearted stroll down to FIDM, anticipating the show that was hanging in the foyer. I reached the school only to find it locked. Common sense absent for a moment, I strolled around back through the park to see if they were open in back. Everything was closed. The lights were dark, the security station locked down. I went so far as to even rattle the doors. Perplexed, I rang Stan (The Boss).

“Um, FIDM is closed?”

“Yeah babe…it’s Memorial Day.”

I took a long pause, trying to figure out if there was any way to recover, having spent all morning aware of the holiday and completely blanking when I found the school locked. I murmured a lackluster joke and promised to head back on Wednesday. With that bit of embarrassment over, I took a peek inside the gallery, to see what I could from the closed doors. All I could get a really good look at was a breathtaking alter-like piece hanging front and center. It was three paneled, obviously, coming to a point on each panel. The center painting was biblical in style and in content, very traditional. The two side panels were modern realist, the left side a depiction of a car, the right side a modern day businessman. I strained my eyes against the dark for as long as I could and resolved to come back as soon as possible to drink in this monumental piece. If the one that I could see was this good, the whole collection must be profound.

I finally find myself with a free afternoon and headed over Thursday, a little wary about the time that had elapsed. My sincerest hope was that the pieces were still up. On my way over I listened repeatedly to their recording about current exhibitions. I could only gather that a Wizard of Oz show was on the horizon, nothing about the painter of the altar-piece.

I finally got connected with a very friendly Judy Yaras…. who sadly informed me the show had been taken down. My heart sank and my step slowed. As I contemplated turning on my heels and heading home, Judy offered a private showing of the paintings, which were still in the back, and my step nearly became a run. Not only did I get to view the painting, I scored a private interview with the Museum Store Director while doing it!

I arrived earlier than expected and wandered around the museum store while I waited for Judy to wrap up a quick meeting. When she arrived she was all smiles and ushered me through the gallery.

As we made our way through the foyer, I was sure she would take me through a door at the end of the hall and we would sift through a small back room packed with paintings. To my surprise, we hung a sharp right, past painters scraping at the walls, preparing for the next show. We continued through that room, then through another doorway into a larger room containing the previous shows paintings, standing against the walls. From that room i could see another to the back left cluttered with naked mannequins. This place went on forever! Most school museums, art or not, are merely the size of this galleries entrance. On Monday, peering through the locked glass, I had assumed that, that space was the entire gallery.

Standing in the expanse, Judy began to pull the plastic away from the pieces as she chatted about the upcoming Wizard of Oz show. I didn’t yet know where to focus my energy. This gallery was a jewel, these paintings were astounding, and the new show coming up tickled the little kid in me. This was the best space in L.A. found, surprisingly, in a school.

“He is a fairly well established artist. These were his earlier pieces,” she continued as I remembered the reason I was there. Leaning against the walls were 4-5 very large paintings influenced by a surprising mixture of pop art and classic realism. They were each symbol heavy both with spiritual icons and pop references such as superheroes. They were undoubtedly spectacular, the strongest of the group being the pieces with very heavy handed Christian imagery. When asked if he had any religious background she responded, “he doesn’t discuss that and I bet he does. It may be that this is a style that he adapted to.” We lingered at the altar-piece then wandered over to a painting of Samson and Delilah at ground zero which was about, the decadence in the States. He does make social commentary and that’s what makes it (his work) so interesting,” Judy mused.

Our interview then took a turn for the tragic when she showed me these small journals and drawings mounted on clear boards. Much smaller and more subtle than his giants inhabiting the room, it was quite apparent a drastic shift had taken place with this artist. “These are called the “Left Handed Journals“,” Judy explained. “He’s very open about this.” She went on to recount the story of a cooking accident that rendered Ron Pastucha’s right had, his dominant hand, unusable. Instead of stopping dead in his tracks, leaving his greatest art making days behind him, he created these deeply personal gems. These pieces literally jump of the page with conviction and talent, regardless of your knowledge of the artist’s history. We spent a while with these small drawings, admiring their ability to tell a story and headed back toward the museum store, where Judy gave me a guided tour of each artist and purpose behind their sales, a story I will be bringing you shortly. In the meantime, visit, and let yourself be wowed.


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