L.A. Art and PST at Martin-Gropius-Bau

by Devon Caranicas // Mar. 30, 2012

As Los Angeles’ artistic reputation is shifting into the spotlight, the city remains an anomaly for many. Known for a culture whose biggest export is Hollywood, it’s easy to assume that celebrity and superficiality rule supreme in the west coast capital. It comes as no surprise then, when the global art world harbors feelings of superiority over L.A. on little more than stigma and principle. But for those who have lived or worked in the city of angeles, one quickly comes to realize the slick veneer of the entertainment industry and insipid morals of reality television are far removed (albeit often influential) of the unique aesthetics and possibilities in the artistic wild west.

In an effort to contextualize the city among its peers The Getty Foundation, in cooperation with various organizations across Southern California, launched Pacific Standard Time: Art in L.A., 1945-1980. This 6-month long initiative stretching across Southern California began last October and will run through the end of April 2012. Close to 70 museums and galleries are participating in a joint effort to expose current art production, legitimize the city within an international arena and canonize L.A.’s role in post WWII art history.

In a very exciting partnership, Berlin is now the only foreign soil to host Pacific Standard Time. On view at Martin-Gropis Bau an abbreviated version of PST derived from two of The Getty’s main exhibitions, Crosscurrents in L.A. – Painting and Sculpture, 1950-1970 and Greetings from L.A. – Artists and Publics, 1950-1980 is now on view until June 10th. Divided into three parts (Crosscurrents, Greetings from L.A. and Julius Schulman) Martin Gropius Bau contextualizes the grandfathers of West Coast visual art – Baldessari, Hockney and Rucha, just to name a few- in an exhibition that thematically breaks down the varied intellectual and creative narrative that arose during the mid 20th century in Southern California.

The choice to exhibit PST in Berlin is particularly compelling. Although having garnered a neo-New York reputation thanks to the plentiful industrial space, creative pulse and androgyny (all urban characteristics that evade Los Angeles), Berlin has more in common with Los Angeles than one might think. The comparatively low cost of living, iconic casual attitude and open space are constants for those who choose to head west and, for many, the draw to Berlin is quite similar. Each of these sister cities represent a certain creativity coupled with untapped possibilities.

My personal affection for Los Angeles runs deep, and I often refer to the city as America’s best kept secret. While I pay homage to L.A.’s substantial lineage, I believe the current climate of the art scene is also worth noting. An old professor of mine once refereed to the city as “a landscape of fictions.” The phrase held resonance with me for a multitude of reasons but, most importantly, I was struck by the simplicity of its implication that Los Angeles is a place where one has authorial control. Predicated on illusion, your role in the city can become anything you want it to be. It is a place where regulations are still fluid. For the arts, this is crucial.

Propelling itself forward by gold seekers, followed by fame seekers and now art seekers, a new bubble of art initiatives have cropped up on the West Coast. LAND, West of Rome and LAXART have all opened their doors to growing interest and an eager audience. Simultaneously, pioneers such as philanthropist Eli Broad, LACMA director Michael Govan and ex-New Yorker Jeffrey Deitch seem to have made the revitalization of the Los Angeles’ visual arts a personal mission. They, among others, are continually pouring money and innovation into spaces, projects and research. It is this recent surge of creative practitioners and institutional infrastructure that has propelled Los Angeles into a 21st century cultural hotbed.

While it remains a fact that so little of the sprawling low-slung metropolis resembles the vertical, dense design of any other post-industrial revolution art hub, it also remains a fact that this disparity can no longer be regarded as a bad thing. L.A. is horizontal and sun baked and barefoot with perimeters defined by arterial freeways that carve their way between mountain, beach, desert and film set. It is precisely this unique geography, proximity to “pictures” and ethos of underdog that defines the Los Angeles art community, and is exactly why Pacific Standard Time is a must see.

Additional Information

“Pacific Standard Time. Art in Los Angeles 1950-1980” – GROUP SHOW
Exhibition: Mar. 15 – Jun. 10, 2012
Niederkirchnerstraße 7 (click here for map)

Devon Caranicas is an artist and arts writer from New York. She received her BA in Fine Arts from the University of Southern California in Los Angeles and is a regular contributor to BerlinArtLink, Berlin Art Journal and ARTslant.com.

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