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Momen comes to Laguna

Marion Meyer and Endangered Planet Galleries are sponsoring double showings of the work of Karl Momen, considered an environmental master.

October 20, 2006|By Candice Baker

He's embarrassed himself in front of Elvis and been embarrassed by Salvador Dali.

He transitions between discussing opera, architecture and literature with deftness.

And now he's in Laguna.

Two shows featuring works by Swedish abstract master Karl Momen are now on display at Endangered Planet Gallery and Marion Meyer Contemporary Art.

The Endangered Planet show features new works, created especially for the gallery, and the exhibit at Marion Meyer is home to his classic works.

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Charles Michael Murray and Dick Ward of Endangered Planet laughed as they recalled moving $250,000 of his art in a Budget rental truck from Momen's studio in Sausalito to Laguna.

A friend of theirs had known Momen from some years back, and introduced them. Momen came to visit them at their gallery.

"He immediately connected with it," Murray said. "You could see his mind working."

He recalled Momen examining wall space, measuring mentally.

"He wanted to have a show right away," Ward said.

"We [were] talking in minutes," Murray added.

So he went to Sweden and started working on new materials.

At Marion Meyer's gallery, she said, they were told to make a wish list of what they wanted to show; only one item from that list was changed.

Although very popular in Europe, and the subject of an A&E "Biography" show, Momen is best known in the States for his massive, 87-foot-tall "Metaphor: The Tree of Utah" sculpture in the Bonneville Salt Flats, located adjacent to Highway 80.

Millions of drivers are familiar with the sculpture by sight, but know nothing about its creator.

He has also created suites of paintings depicting Shakespeare and Wagner masterpieces; the latter was just bought in its entirety by the Nordic Heritage Museum in Seattle, which plans to build a new wing for the collection.

Born in Iran, near the border of the U.S.S.R., Momen began painting at a very early age; he was asked to paint large portraits of both Stalin and the shah of Iran in his youth.

Momen later moved to Germany to study art and architecture. He worked for surrealist Max Ernst and modernist architect Le Corbusier.

As a trained architect, he designed hospitals in post-World-War-II Europe, which allowed him to access circles of society that became invaluable when he later turned to painting full-time in 1977, he said.

He is now in the middle of planning future exhibitions in Asia and Europe.

The range of geographical influences in his work have made it difficult to describe; some say constructivist, others architectural, others abstract.

"Seeing his stuff live is just so different from in the books," Davis said.

"He's 72, and has the energy of a 30-year-old," Murray said. Momen swims, bikes or walks daily, regardless of his location, and eats oatmeal every morning.

Momen, who holds dual U.S. and Swedish citizenship, divides his time between Stockholm and Sausalito.

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