LOS ANGELES - “Rebels in Paradise” recounts the story of how adventurous contemporary art developed in Los Angeles in the late 1950s, and how an “art scene” took off in the city during the ’60s. Savvy members of ARTKABINETT social network will be intrigued by the beginnings of this important art movement, many of whose artists are shown in our uploaded collections.
Hunter Drohojowska-Philp is especially interested in the “scene” part — of how little-known artists joined together to form a cool cohort, ultimately achieving L.A.’s grand prize: celebrity.
She tells us just a little about their work: how Ed Moses busted the borders of the gallery format, how Ed Ruscha integrated words into his paintings, how Robert Irwin and James Turrell discovered light as their medium, and how Judy Chicago explored sexuality and gender in this macho atmosphere.
But we learn more about who was sleeping with whom, about prices for art when it was cheap, and about how these West Coast artists came to understand their careers in relation to the entrenched interests in the other art scene they sought to supplant: New York’s.
Those were heady times, and the author captures them in a swift-paced, cheerful romp as she guides us through the decade, pausing long enough to make her entertaining story at once human and informative; she fleshes out the often cocky, combative personalities of her major players, evoking their friendships and their sometimes intense rivalries.
The artists, some native to Southern California, others attracted by the promise of beaches, gorgeous girls (or, in David Hockney's case, the boys!) and, principally, of freedom from all the old ways of doing things, are at the center of everything.
We know them through their work: the Eds -- Ed Moses, Ed Kienholz and EdRuscha -- Robert Irwin, Craig Kauffman, Billy Al Bengston, Joe Goode, John Altoon, Wallace Berman, George Herms, Lloyd Hamrol and many others, including, later, John Baldessari, whose influence has been more powerful than theirs in succeeding generations; and through the generally familiar lore of the Ferus Gallery, Barney's Beanery, Artforum, the Pasadena Art Museum, Chouinard and Otis, and so on. So far as contemporary art was concerned, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art was barely past its birth throes.
Rebels in Paradise: The Los Angeles Art Scene and the 1960s (Henry Holt and company/on sale: July 19, 2011), by Hunter Drohojowska-Philp, is the first definitive look at the rise of the Los Angeles art scene.
In the 1960s, L.A. was the epicenter of cool. Sharing anecdotes from the artists and gallerists themselves, Rebels in Paradise reveals L.A.’s importance in the canon of art history.
Freed from the European establishment and the pressures and expectations of New York, the artists in L.A. cultivated their own compelling aesthetic and style.
This new era spawned countless innovations, including Andy Warhol’s famed Campbell’s Soup Can exhibition; the work of Ed Ruscha, David Hockney, Robert Irwin, and John Baldessari; the architecture of Frank Gehry; and even the music of the Beach Boys, the Doors, and countless others.
As the contemporary art scene flourished, L.A. established itself as a hotbed for contemporary art. Today many of these artists are considered founders or innovators of the pop, minimal, and conceptual art movements, and many of their paintings and sculptures continue to define contemporary art throughout the world. REBELS IN PARADISE opens the door to this madcap era and shares the stories, the relationships, and the exhibitions that propelled this group of artists to international fame.