Three decades of LA art go on show in Berlin
By Geir Moulson, AP
March 16, 2012, 12:49 am TWN
BERLIN--A primer on three decades of post-World War II art from Los Angeles, including iconic images from Ed Ruscha and David Hockney, abstract works by Sam Francis and conceptual pieces from the 1960s and 1970s, is going on show in Berlin.
The show, “Pacific Standard Time: Art in Los Angeles 1950-1980,” is one result of a mammoth project organized by the Getty Research Institute and the Getty Foundation. It stems from a decade of research into southern California's diverse art scene.
“There'll be many names of people, artists you have come to know and associate with Los Angeles, whether it's Ed Ruscha or Larry Bell or John Baldessari,” one of the curators, Rani Singh, said as the show was presented Wednesday.
“But there's also many, many other names and unknown names and people you might not have heard of,” she said. “That idea of bringing all of these artists together was at the core of the research we've been doing.”
Dozens of exhibitions under the Pacific Standard Time banner opened in southern California last year, but Berlin organizers say the show at the German capital's Martin-Gropius-Bau is the only one in Europe.
Peter-Klaus Schuster, a former director of Berlin's city museums who helped secure the exhibition, said Tokyo and London had been possible alternatives but Berlin made sense in part because Germany took notice of Los Angeles' art scene early on, in the 1970s.
“What you see here is the temporary national gallery of southern California art,” he said.
The exhibition offers more than 70 works by some 50 artists, as well as a section offering context on how the art scene in Los Angeles developed and a collection of Julius Shulman's famed photos of Modernist buildings.
Visitors are greeted by Dennis Hopper photos of fellow celebrities including Jane Fonda and Tina Turner, then by bold pop works such as Hockney's “A Bigger Splash” and Ruscha's “Standard Station, Amarillo, Texas.” They rub shoulders with less familiar works including the colorful “dodecagons” of Ronald Davis.
That's followed by a selection of distinctively Californian abstract hard-edge paintings and ceramic sculptures, including John Mason's imposing “Orange Cross.”
Curators also explore the rise of assemblage sculptures and collage, with works from Ed Kienholz and Noah Purifoy among others; and later pieces exploring perceptions of art and artistic processes, including De Wain Valentine's polyester-resin “Red Concave Circle.”
A “Berlin room” shows off works made for or in the city: Francis' huge abstract expressionist painting “Berlin Red,” commissioned for the city's Neue Nationalgalerie in 1969; and Kienholz' “Volksempfaengers,” made up of radios and other objects from Berlin junk shops and flea markets.
The project aims in part to illustrate the importance to contemporary art of Los Angeles, which has sometimes felt overshadowed by New York.
“We didn't want to compete with New York,” said Thomas W. Gaehtgens, the Getty Research Institute's director. “But we wanted to show that LA is there is well.”
The exhibition opens to the public on Thursday and runs until June 10.