Art Journal: City of Angles

By Jennifer Doyle
Art Journal (CAA)

Auther_west coverOne recent critical project offers a vocabulary shift to neutralize the disciplinary policing that has excluded some of the most exciting art practices from art-historical view. In the introduction to the anthology which accompanies their exhibition West of Center: Art and the Counterculture Experiment in America, 1967–1977, Elissa Auther and Adam Lerner argue that contemporary art history has relied heavily on the term “avant-garde” as the primary framework for recognizing interventionist art practices. Much work from the West, however, is not in dialogue with art-historical modernism or official spaces of art. The absence of a Los Angeles museum culture throughout nearly the first three-quarters of the twentieth century affirms the practical reality observed by Auther and Lerner. This artistic vanguard is much closer to counterculture than to a historical avant-garde. It is more bohemian, in other words, than avant-garde. This much is already visible in the shape of discourse about Los Angeles art—conversation about Ferus turns into gossip about Hopper, meditations on surfing, the Beats, and so on. (This cross-pollination between art and California countercultures is the subject of Drohojowska-Philp’s Rebels in Paradise.)

Read the full review (West of Center is the third book down).

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