I am very tempted today to honor L.A.'s 30-year-old Museum of Contemporary Art, which thinks of itself as the ‘Artist's Museum,' by simply reading -- with much respect and admiration -- the names of all 140 artists whose works are presented in the ambitious new exhibition occupying both of its downtown venues, MOCA Grand Avenue and the Geffen Contemporary. But going through this roster would take all the time and space allotted for Art Talk. Instead, I want to extend my sincere congratulations to the museum, whose triumphs and tribulations we, Angelenos, have witnessed over the past three decades.
More than any other museum in this country, MOCA came into being as a result of a passionate effort by a group of dedicated artists who, in the late 1970's, envisioned a new museum dedicated solely to contemporary art. So it's fitting for the museum to pay tribute to these artists with a huge exhibition honoring many of them. Prepare yourself to be surprised, as I was, to see works by artists you're not familiar with or artists you've somehow forgotten about.
I spent one hour at the Geffen Contemporary, where the exhibition focuses mostly on works by L.A. sculptors, and I was more than happy to spend another three hours at the main building on Grand Avenue, where the second part of the exhibition focuses on works by L.A. painters and photographers. It felt like a welcome reunion with so many old friends -- some of them still part of your everyday life, and others for whatever reason you've lost touch with.
Of course I had a few qualms about why some good artists had been excluded from this exhibition while others, perhaps less-deserving (whose names I won't mention) were honored. And it would be great to hear from you about which L.A. artists you think were overlooked and which artists you think should not have been chosen, considering their rather modest achievements.
Several years ago the Pompidou Center in Paris honored our city with the groundbreaking exhibition "The Birth of an Art Capital: Los Angeles 1955 -1985." I was lucky enough to see it, and I remember whining a little bit about why French curators stopped their story about the Los Angeles art in 1985, at a time when the city's art scene was just beginning to explode. So I'm happy to report that MOCA's current exhibition picks up with gusto where our French friends left off. And it seems that right now, the Los Angeles art scene is getting generous coverage by both local and national media; even the Wall Street Journal paid respect with its report on "The L.A. Art Boom," talking about the billionaire collectors and Hollywood celebrities who sit on museum boards and are helping turn the city into a world-class art center.
If you're among the lucky ones attending MOCA's upcoming lavish gala on November 13, you will hobnob with famous artists and rub shoulders with a ‘who's who' of major collectors from around the world. And if that's not enough, you will be entertained by world-famous performers like Beck and Caetano Veloso. Sounds like a party you will brag about for years to come.
The Artist's Museum, on view at MOCA Grand Avenue and The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA through January 31, 2011
Banner image: (L) detail of John Baldessari’s Two Highrises (With Disruptions); (R) Joe Goode's Untitled (Blue and Orange)