With all the discussion of Pacific Standard Time, the contributions of the Getty Museum and the Research Institute have not really come into focus. As of October 1, the focus will be clear. Crosscurrents in L.A.: Painting and Sculpture from 1950 to 1970 is really the core of the Getty Foundation's larger initiative.
Here are many of the artists considered to be the foundation of this city's art history, big names like Ed Ruscha, John Baldessari and David Hockney, for instance, but they are brought together in a fresh way, not as a traditional chronology. Pop art hangs with abstract painting, chunky ceramic sculpture is adjacent to hard edge painting, assemblage and early Conceptual art. And there is a lot of plastic.
I walked into one gallery an actually gasped at how lovely and vibrant the art looked, much of it acrylic or glass and sparkling under the careful lighting. A giant disc, some nine feet tall, made of burgundy colored cast resin by Dewain Valentine, a large grid of turquoise, peach and cream acrylic by Judy Chicago, a concave disc by Frederick Eversley, a wall striped with vertical white and black reflective glass by Larry Bell.
101.6 x 101.6 x 101.6 cm (40 x 40 x 40 in.)
Object (with base): 152.4 x 203.2 x 203.2 cm (60 x 40 x 40 in.)
Copyright © Larry Bell Courtesy of The Pace Gallery
Photo by Ellen Labenski
This sort of work, once dismissed as beautiful baubles for the rich, now looks like a boldly independent interpretation of Minimalism, that very reductive art executed on the East Coast and elsewhere in industrial materials. This is, of course, only one aspect of the larger exhibition.
The Getty curators are making the case that an alternative modern art developed in L.A., that artists here used different technologies and had different priorities than artists in New York or Europe. This view is supported, I think, by the show, by the many works made from the materials that became available through the aerospace, automotive and film industries here: Plexiglas and resin, sprayed rather than brush-painted surfaces, scenes viewed through the lens of a camera. Not to mention monumental clay sculpture that defied the limited notions about craft. But defying limited notions is the very essence of the L.A. aesthetic. The shimmering silver-covered catalog of the show proves to be an essential and entertaining reference.