“American Society—Always Mostly Shallow And Reactionary”

Pacific Standard Time:  Art in L.A, 1945-1980 (PST)–the “unprecedented, six-month series of exhibitions detailing an era in city art history that has been largely untold” so says Los Angeles Times Art Critic Christopher Knight.  Knight’s statement raises an intriguing question though.  How could a city as large and culturally significant as Los Angeles have a 35-year gap in its rich back-story as an urban art incubator?  The J. Paul Getty Trust stepped forward at the beginning of the 21st century with a 10 million dollar scholarly initiative “to historicize the contributions to contemporary art history of artists, curators, critics, and others based in Los Angeles.”  Through 60 shows/exhibitions/installations housed in museums, university galleries and nonprofit spaces ranging from Santa Barbara to San Diego, from Santa Monica to Palm Springs, the inappropriate and very conservative template forcefully overlaid upon the Southland’s period art was finally removed! Through the Getty Trust’s initiative, Los Angeles’ curious and unorthodox iconoclasm emerged and was finally recognized.  Regarding the importance of PST to Los Angeles’ initial post WWII culture, Christopher Knight, the L A Times art critic stated:  “It recognized the wildness of individual personality and the social messiness of life, and it celebrated the power of heterogeneous hybridity over purity.”

PST stripped away the now tired notion that aesthetic progress is driven only by the concept of an avant-garde and, as a consequence, replaced the existing hole left behind by the vision of a “multivalent L. A. School which was an international cultural model for this new norm.  With luck, that’s the back-story Pacific Standard Time will clarify.”

What are your thoughts on the Getty Initiative to fund such a refreshing look at So Cal post WWII aesthetics for the period 1945-1980?

Alison and Andrew Perchuck, Deptuty Director of the Getty Research Institute at opening of PST, October 2011.

Author: roberttracyphd

Academic professor at the University of Nevada Las Vegas. I teach theory courses in Art and Architecture History. In addition, I also curate exhibitions on campus as well as in other venues nationally and internationally.

16 thoughts on ““American Society—Always Mostly Shallow And Reactionary””

  1. It is beneficial to numerous people that this type of art be shown and more accessible. By funding such an initiative an essential part of history is revealed for people to both appreciate and learn from it. I am not completely sure how to interpret the statement regarding the “inappropriate and conservative template” placed on the art, but I will say that art should not be “censored” or “withheld” in anyway. So overall, it was an admirable endeavor to have the opportunity to show this period of art in an environment where it would be properly appreciated.

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  2. Their move to fund this initiative could be seen as risky at first since many believed there wasn’t much there. Especially since all thing relevant to the art world seems to always only exist on the east coast. However, this can be seen as the perfect example of something made FOR the people; art that is not elitist or reserved for those fully indoctrinated, but for the regular people, and about the regular people.

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  3. I believe that the Getty Initiative’s funding of such a refreshing look at SoCal’s post WWII aesthetics was not only a smart move, but a necessary one as well. While many people are familiar with old styles of art from the east coast and beyond, the period of 1945-1980 seems to be left in the shadows. The period of Abstract Expressionism is an important part of art history and has the right to be shown to the world. The period in which artists let loose of the binds placed upon them by the old masters and truly let their creative juices flow onto canvas and installation is a beautiful period. I am thankful that the Getty Initiative is allowing more people to recognize this point of history and the personalities and styles of the artists from that time.

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  4. I think that the Getty Initiative had the right idea to show more people the art from 1945-1980. It wouldn’t be right to deny the people such a large and important period of art. It’s also not right to deny the artists of that period the chance to show their work and possibly make an impact or inspire new artists.

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  5. My thoughts about the revised look doing Cal post-WWII in 1945 to 1980 that the period needed it. However, people did not flock to the new look right away and the artist themselves been experimenting and trying to get funds to stay a float. Though throughout the artist they at least had fun with the new style and enjoy themselves.

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  6. I strongly believe that the Getty Initiatives funding was crucial to art history today. All forms of history, bitter or sweet, should be accounted for and the Getty did just that. While it may have been a financial gamble at the time their investment has definitely paid off. It is the publics freedom to choose if they appreciate a piece of work or not and the Getty gave the public the platform to do that.

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  7. It is very fortunate that the Getty initiative decided to fund art during this time period. As we learned in class, this art was in danger of being lost and forgotten. However, forgetting art in LA would truly be a tragedy. Because of Getty, this art will not be lost and it will be given the recognition that it deserves and the public will not have to miss out on such an important time in artistic history. I think Knight’s comment perfectly summed up the spirit of art from the post WWII era and why it is so important – it celebrates diversity and individual personality. It is interesting how we are all taught that this is what art is all about (individual expression/diversity), yet the art that first embraced that idea was in danger of being forgotten forever.

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  8. What are your thoughts on the Getty Initiative to fund such a refreshing look at So Cal post WWII aesthetics for the period 1945-1980?

    The Getty Initiative was a fantastic initiative. Many artists felt as though it was finally time to move on from the classic art that were always shown at museums. They wanted to show people art that was much edgier, sometimes where it could be considered inappropriate at the time. The Getty’s Initiative was to make sure that people would not forget about the history of this movement in art. The new era of art should have the right to be known where it all really began and its reign.

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  9. It’s heartwarming to see such a fund set aside specifically for the arts and a project like this. Often times there’s so much good art out there but no place or opportunity to gather and display it to where it can be rightfully appreciated. This project allowed for the collection and preservation of new creative works that represented a prominent culture and way of life. Art is a valuable window into history that can give viewers a better idea of what life was like in a certain time period and without funds like the Getty Initiative or even archives like UNLV library’s special collection, these artifacts could be lost after a single generation.

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  10. Having this fund made art from this era more accessible. It made it so that artworks produced from the time period were not hidden away. People were exposed to new styles; styles that celebrated individual personalities and portrayed life from a whole different perspective. The Getty Initiative funding is a vital part of art history. Without it, there would be a huge gap of missing information about artists, artworks produced, and art history from that time period. The funding by the Getty Initiative told the story of how art emerged from Los Angeles and how its emergence has changed the world of art.

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  11. I think the Getty should be applauded for this initiative – something other cities should model. This “refreshing look” allows us to appreciate and gain a different perspective on the creative art process, aesthetics, and materials used. Learning about the events and social climates during that time adds another layer to how significant LA was, and is, to the art world.

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  12. I think that is great, avant-garde was dominating the art game for so long. I’m glad that they “purged” it out as a regulatory thing. I’m sure it was really refreshing, because avant-garde isn’t the only type of art out there, and it shows how significant LA was to showing the artwork of someone else.

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  13. I think it was a smart and well thought out move on the J. Paul Getty Trust to provide that 10 million dollar scholarly initiative. That was, and still is, a lot of money, but they knew that something big had to be done in order to show the true art of Los Angeles and its people. There was more to L.A. than just the avant garde and in order to make a change in what was being seen, the J. Paul Getty Trust knew that this was what needed to happen. Every now and then you have to clean the windows in order to see what’s inside. The things inside are always changing, but can’t be seen if something is covering it up. They cleaned up the avant garde in order to show the new and true version of L.A. Clean your windows often to see what new beauty may lay inside.

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  14. I believe it to be a vital part of the growth in the progression of art and the direction that it takes. It also creates an opportunity for such artists which were presented during the time a chance to grow and display themselves. In a way, it allows for a window into what was being done at the time just as art before it, causing and creating something truly unique for L.A just as the Renaissance had done so for Italy. It was a smart move for Getty to do such a thing and create such a window. It captures what was truly special about that era which would have otherwise have been brushed aside or forgotten.

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  15. I feel that is was a good achievement by the Getty trust to help spread the word of this art period and all it had to offer. Art of any kind should not be held from public view or kept away as if it never happened. I believe that it is people like the Getty’s who step up and put some of there earning to good use, are the public factors that help further the growth for future generations. At the same time it helps preserve history, which should be shown and studied, not erased. We need more people like the Getty’s in the world to help preserve our Art History, because it is art that tells the story of where humanity came from and how far we have progressed over the years.

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  16. I believe The Getty Initiative’s funding was more than refreshing for the period in question, it was also very necessary. They believed in the artist and the art produced, a risky moved that paid off big time. They understood that even thought change can be frightening, it is also very necessary. They felt that it was important that these new art movements should be seen and recognized and so do I. The post World War Two period is a new era with new ideas that should be seen by all.

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