Portrait of LA by City's Better Angels

Hosted by

Just in time for an explosion of exhibitions in museums and galleries all over Southern California, two new art fairs were launched in LA last week. It was a great marketing coup for both, for Art Platform, the bigger and more ambitious of the two, and for Pulse Art. Guilty as charged, I had a chance to see only Art Platform, and was impressed by the roster of dealers and the art they had on display. Here, I will join the chorus of people impressed with Art Platform organizers for raising the bar for all art fairs in our city.

at111004a.jpgLured by these fairs, plus invitations to visit homes of major private collectors, art aficionados descended on L.A. in droves. And if that was not enough, how about the groundbreaking exhibitions that opened in our four leading museums? Under the Big Black Sun: California Art, 1974-1981 at MOCA is the most ambitious and thoroughly researched of them all, but in its admirable desire to miss nothing, it veers too close to a university lecture that goes on a little bit too long.

at111004b.jpgAn equally well-researched exhibition at LACMA, California Design, 1930-1965: "Living in the Modern Way," in the most appealing way, tells the story of glamour, seduction and optimism, embedded in the California architecture, furniture, fashion and even home appliances.

at111004c.jpgA smaller but nevertheless feisty exhibition at the Hammer, with its punchy title Now Dig This! Art and Black Los Angeles, 1960-1980, reveals the importance and depth of artistic contribution of African-American artists to the cultural history of our city. Betye Saar's collages and body prints by David Hammons — works by two of my favorite artists in the exhibition — convey complex and somewhat painful stories with the eloquence and passion that makes them, even four decades later, entirely fresh and relevant.

at111004d.jpgBut the biggest and most dramatic revelation of the brilliance and artistic innovation achieved by the Rogue Wave of California artists is on display at the Getty Center, in its stately galleries with their echoes of the Art of the Old Masters usually presented there. With a passion unusual among museum scholars, the Getty curators selected iconic paintings by Ed Ruscha and David Hockney, Richard Diebenkorn and Sam Francis, as well as monumental ceramic sculptures by John Mason and Peter Voulkos, just to name a few. All these impossibly attractive, brimming-with-self-confidence artworks can stand the toughest competition against the best of post World War II art in major museums around the globe. And sure enough, a number of the works in the exhibition have been borrowed from leading museums both in the United States and abroad. Just take a look at the images from this exhibition on the KCRW website. How can anyone not be impressed and inspired by these masterpieces that capture the spirit and soul of our land of Sunshine and Noir.

After this exhibition at the Getty closes, it will travel to Berlin, the only city whose flourishing contemporary art scene rivals that of Los Angeles.

California Design, 1930–1965: "Living in a Modern Way"
Los Angeles County Museum of Art
October 1, 2011 - March 25, 2012

Under the Big Black Sun: California Art, 1974-1981
The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA
October 1, 2011 - February 2, 2012

Now Dig This! Art and Black Los Angeles, 1960-1980
The UCLA Hammer Museum
October 2, 2011 - January 8, 2012

Pacific Standard Time: Crosscurrents in L.A. Painting and Sculpture, 1950-1970
The J. Paul Getty Museum
October 1, 2011 - May 6, 2012

Banner image: Ed Ruscha, The Los Angeles County Museum on Fire, 1965­68. Oil on canvas. 53 1/2 x 133 1/2 in; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC, Gift of Joseph H. Hirshhorn, 1972. © Ed Ruscha. Photo by Lee Stalsworth