It was a time before cell phones, Starbucks and e-mail, let alone integration. But if there's one thing proven by LACMA's exhibition, “American Stories: Paintings of Everyday Life, 1765-1915,” it's that while certain components of our society have changed over the years, many elements of American behavior have largely remained the same. Children play, people pass the time listening to music, they read, a guy joins the military, romance is in the air, teachers guide their students, a man schleps home with groceries, hubby reads the paper at breakfast while wifey pouts, moms spend time with their kids, voters gather on election day, men get drunk (and some get drunk during Election Day), a baby takes its first steps, girls hang out at the beach, a shopper overspends, folks hang out and schmooze, and a shark attacks a man who's fallen off a boat (well, okay, some days are filled with a few more surprises than others). As the daily wheel of existence spins 'round and 'round, people are hoping, escaping, wanting, waiting, watching, and working. Killing time, striving for happiness, groping for what matters. And the magic of this show is that the generally ordinary somehow comes across as intriguingly extraordinary. You'll recognize some iconic images by such renowns as Thomas Eakins, Winslow Homer, John Singleton Copley, George Caleb Bingham, and Mary Cassatt. Organized by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 75 sublime and compelling pieces have been gathered together in a display that hasn't been seen in over 30 years. Like life itself, enjoy it while it's here.

Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays-Sundays. Starts: Feb. 28. Continues through May 23, 2010

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