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Skirball Cultural Center

Get lost in the organic forms and vibrant colors of paintings by Peter Krasnow, whose works from our collection are inspired by his Jewish heritage and the shining optimism of Southern California.

This is a past exhibition

This exhibition was on view at the Skirball
May 4–September 3, 2023

About the Exhibition

Get lost in the organic forms and vibrant colors of paintings by Peter Krasnow, a Jewish immigrant from Ukraine who spent more than half a century living and working in Atwater Village, Los Angeles. His works are inspired by the language and folktales of his Jewish heritage, the plant life of his home and studio, and the shining optimism of Southern California.

This exhibition, drawn from the Skirball Cultural Center’s extensive Krasnow collection, focuses on the artist’s post–World War II paintings, which come to life with mysterious, dancing forms in candy-colored hues. Krasnow felt the need to convey a message of resilience to help the world recover from a chapter of despair. His paintings from this post-war period responded to a dark, chaotic time with a powerful antidote: joy, color, and life. 

About Peter Krasnow

Peter Krasnow (b. 1886, Novograd Volynsk, Ukraine—d. 1979, Atwater Village, Los Angeles) was a significant figure in Southern California modern art. Krasnow began his artistic career painting signs in his father’s shop and after immigrating to the United States in 1907, studied art in settlement houses and ultimately graduated from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1915. After five years in New York City, he moved to Atwater Village in Los Angeles in 1922 where he lived and worked for the rest of his life.

His work has been the subject of solo exhibitions at the Whitney Studio Club; the Los Angeles Museum (now LACMA); the California Palace of the Legion of Honor, San Francisco; the Pasadena Art Institute (now the Norton Simon Museum); the Skirball Museum at Hebrew Union College (predecessor to the Skirball Cultural Center); and the Laguna Art Museum. Krasnow’s paintings and sculptures have also been included in group exhibitions at the III Bienal of São Paulo; the Whitney Museum of American Art; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; and the Santa Barbara Museum of Art. 

 Infused with the natural buoyancy of his West Coast surroundings and the Allied victory, Krasnow reignites Jewish joy through his whimsically optimistic declaration of endurance.”—Graydon Carter, Air Mail


Peter Krasnow: Breathing Joy and Light is an original Skirball exhibition curated by Associate Curator Laura Mart, with contributions by former Associate Curator Danielle Killam.

Cultural Collaboration

Art and music mix with an original exhibition soundtrack

Accompanying the artwork is a custom soundtrack created by dublab DJs Alejandro Cohen and Mark “Frosty” McNeill in collaboration with Skirball curator Laura Mart. This carefully considered collection of songs weaves various threads of Peter Krasnow’s character and sources of artistic inspiration and aims to prompt a deeper engagement with the paintings on view.

Listen now or in-gallery

Mart sat down to talk with Cohen and McNeill to discuss how the songs were selected and the fascinating stories of many of the musicians featured—read the artist Q&A here.

More to Explore

Peter Krasnow: Breathing Joy and Light—Skirball Curator Talk

In this recorded talk held at the Skirball, Skirball curator Laura Mart provides insights about Peter Krasnow: Breathing Joy and Light, Krasnow's backstory, and his significance in the Southern California art scene.

In the News

Painting Joy at the Deepest Point of Tragedy
Hyperallergic | May 30, 2023

Donor Support

Peter Krasnow: Breathing Joy and Light and its related educational programs at the Skirball Cultural Center are made possible by generous support from the following donors: 

Nancy Berman and Alan Bloch 
Skirball Cultural Center Volunteer Service Council