Acrylic paintings of sunsets over the Pacific ocean and collages comprised of things you would normally find in a dumpster made the Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s new exhibit, a revival of Los Angeles art from the not so distant past.
SoCal: Southern California Art of the 1960s and 70s is a collection of LACMA’s own pieces from homegrown artists. The show presents a unique combination of the euphoric and iconic images of southern California during the golden age of surfer and car culture mixed with the controversial and relevant issues of environmental awareness and legalized abortions.
“The threads lead into today,” said artist Roy Thurston, who has a piece on display in the gallery. His 1984 work, titled #D, is a 5-foot by 2-foot plywood plank with a brownish-red stain finish. Proving that you could find art in almost anything, #D could easily pass off as a part of desk that has not been assembled yet. However, it demonstrates the broad and varying classifications of art in the southern California art community.
LACMA is presenting SoCal as another way to try and get recognition for their home team of artists, while also gaining credibility as an art museum in the shadows of New York’s institutionalized monopoly over United States’ art scene.
The local artists reflect back the feelings, controversies, light and landscapes, and euphoric paradise that Los Angeles is, and often is not. SoCal runs Aug. 19, 2007 through March 30, 2008.
Some of the pieces focus on spatial and abstract images, which were popular during the 60s and 70s. Llyn Foulkes, who has several pieces on display, focuses his oil paintings on rock formations. Resembling monochrome snapshots, the images he presents are representative of the fleeting chastity of the Los Angeles Mountains as development encroached on the natural environment.
Other pieces focus on controversial topics such as Edward Kienholz’s 1962 assemblage piece, “The Illegal Operation.” Kienholz puts forth his rendition of a shady abortion conducted in a secret makeshift operating room. During this time period, abortions were outlawed in most states and only legal in the case of rape or incest. To demonstrate the harsh realities of underground abortions, the artist uses commonly found objects to evoke strong emotion from his audience.
Complete with corroded surgical instruments, a filthy bedpan, a rusted brass lamp to provide lighting, and cigarette butts scattered around, “The Illegal Operation’s” centerpiece is a violently punctured burlap sack sitting on the iron skeleton of a chair without cushions.
LACMA’s curator, Dr. Carol Eliel, says these kinds of pieces are definitely strong and personal, but there are benefits to these types of works. Art should be appreciated as a point of view, no matter what a person’s own beliefs are. Art is created to bring emotions out of people, that is how you know you have art, said Eliel.
According to Thurston, Los Angeles has always been a haven for aspiring artists because of the cheap rent and the openness of the art community to accept innovating and often outlandish works of creative artists. He says that the art scene in Los Angeles is much more open and lively than other American cultural centers, such as New York or San Francisco.
“The 60s and 70s are still powerful today,” said Eliel. With about 50 pieces on display, the SoCal exhibit reverberates the soul of the era in the familiar sounds that stay constant throughout our present day.