By Anthony D'Alessandro
By Catherine Wagley
By Channing Sargent
By L.A. Weekly critics
By Amanda Lewis
By Catherine Wagley
By Carol Cheh
By Keegan Hamilton
The potatoes are the many examples of K-teachers’ (and occasionally K-students’) workbooks that fill the walls and wall-mounted showcases surrounding the gift pedestals. From the flat but intricate maroon-and-gray paper cuttings of Grace Lynde to the remarkable 1875 teacher’s album of Abigail A. Herrick — with its idiosyncratic volumetric tinting, subtle color decisions and tightly oscillating shifts in value — these unrecognized visual virtuosi deliver the goods. H.B. French and Elma Korb emerge as exceptional colorists. Ina C. Getz’s late-19th-century black-and-white studies suggest a confluence of Bridget Riley and Sol Lewitt. In “Inventing Kindergarten”— the book — Brosterman doesn’t extend his thesis past those artists directly impacted by hardcore Froebelian tutelage, but the synchronicities are painfully obvious.
Painfully, mostly because it didn’t take. Certainly, important men took the lessons of kindergarten to heart and translated them into important cultural artifacts. But there is a distinctly grown-up arrogance to much of late-20th-century (and early-21st-century) abstract art: an attitude that screams, “I never pooped my pants!” While kindergartens were educating generations of innovative artists, they were also creating a community of visually informed chemists, plumbers, anthropologists and judges who instinctually embraced Modernist design as part of their own language and philosophy. Those were the days.
The gradual disintegration of Froebel’s visionary kindergarten child-rearing technology into a mishmash of sound-bite-friendly curriculum schedules prefigures the consumption of visual modes of being-in-the-world by their verbal factotums, in both the productive and consumer sectors of society. Modern art and art education have been equally impoverished by the disappearance of this early educational depth charge. The lamented global cultural moment of the ’60s — when unifying political, spiritual and aesthetic cultural currents seemed to peak and dissipate — may have been the last gasp of kindergarten’s influence. Still, if people like Steve “Oops!” Wynn could wake up and kick in their $139 million to help revive sensory-based childhood arts education instead of designating authoritarian status icons, there’s still a chance that our century could look as good as the last.
INVENTING KINDERGARTEN|Alyce de Roulet Williamson Gallery, Art Center College of Design, 1700 Lida St., Pasadena | Through January 7, 2007 | (626) 396-2446 or www.theiff.org