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Forever Young

The Brothers Pedersen. At SBCC’s Atkinson Gallery. Shows
through February 28.

Reviewed by D.J. Palladino

The_Brothers_Pedersen.jpgWe sometimes fear the rush of mass
society might be obscuring its own choicest qualities. Who can keep
up? S.B. City College’s Atkinson Gallery, currently our most
adventurous S.B. art site under the sway of Dane Goodman, is now
showing Aage and Jens Pedersen’s first tandem exhibit, partly to
combat a nagging fear for their accidental obscurity. The show also
features deeply felt pleasures that prove why this should not
occur.

The Brothers Pedersen, which is the title of the exhibit as well
as how Goodman refers to them, are passionate S.B. artists who
happen to be in their eighties. Trained in Denmark during the Nazi
occupation, they transplanted themselves to the U.S. after WWII,
and have been working in Santa Barbara since the late 1950s;
weekends mean working on art, and weekdays mean toiling as a
housepainter (Jens) and watchmaker (Aage).

But this is not Sunday painters’ work. Both have shown in
galleries and museums big and small from Los Angeles to San
Francisco. Aage, the more “retiring” of the two, created an
infamous sculpture series from women’s underwear in the late 1980s
that most people assumed was assembled by some bad boy from a big
city. (In a way, they were right: It was Aage from
Danskerland.)

Goodman’s masterstroke was to avoid the cliché of retrospective
and bring out the new stuff. Aage has been painting abstract
canvases for about five years since putting aside his delicates
(which were inspirational to Susie Tibbles), and here he finds a
more direct encounter with emotions inherent in repetitive form.
Reminiscent of early Klee, the canvases feature rectangular
lozenges of unexpected color that suggest a bouquet of geometries,
a marriage of almost eccentric freedom and fine balances. Jens’s
work is now the more adventurous, though, with wood jigsawed into
shapes that seem somewhere between nature and ideogram. Then he
builds up layers of custom-tinted house paint. The resulting
blithe, abstract sculptures hang a few inches off the wall, which
draws the background and the works’ shadows into the expressive
designs.

This is eloquent work that might have blushed unseen without a
curator who cared about it. Let’s hope this sampler of their
current work moves the brothers out of the cultural shadows and
into the many more shows they have always richly deserved.

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