Creating the Future: Art and Los Angeles in the 1970s

Creating the Future: Art and Los Angeles in the 1970s

Michael Fallon

Language: English

Pages: 400

ISBN: 1619023431

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

Conceived as a challenge to long-standing conventional wisdom, Creating the Future is a work of social history/cultural criticism that examines the premise that the progress of art in Los Angeles ceased during the 1970s—after the decline of the Ferus Gallery, the scattering of its stable of artists (Robert Irwin, Ed Kienholz, Ed Moses, Ed Rusha and others), and the economic struggles throughout the decade—and didn’t resume until sometime around 1984 when Mark Tansey, Alison Saar, Judy Fiskin, Carrie Mae Weems, David Salle, Manuel Ocampo, among others became stars in an exploding art market. However, this is far from the reality of the L.A. art scene in the 1970s.

The passing of those fashionable 1960s-era icons, in fact, allowed the development of a chaotic array of outlandish and independent voices, marginalized communities, and energetic, sometimes bizarre visions that thrived during the stagnant 1970s. Fallon’s narrative describes and celebrates, through twelve thematically arranged chapters, the wide range of intriguing artists and the world—not just the objects—they created. He reveals the deeper, more culturally dynamic truth about a significant moment in American art history, presenting an alternative story of stubborn creativity in the face of widespread ignorance and misapprehension among the art cognoscenti, who dismissed the 1970s in Los Angeles as a time of dissipation and decline.

Coming into being right before their eyes was an ardent local feminist art movement, which had lasting influence on the direction of art across the nation; an emerging Chicano Art movement, spreading Chicano murals across Los Angeles and to other major cities; a new and more modern vision for the role and look of public art; a slow consolidation of local street sensibilities, car fetishism, gang and punk aesthetics into the earliest version of what would later become the “Lowbrow” art movement; the subversive co-opting, in full view of Pop Art, of the values, aesthetics, and imagery of Tinseltown by a number of young and innovative local artists who would go on to greater national renown; and a number of independent voices who, lacking the support structures of an art movement or artist cohort, pursued their brilliant artistic visions in near-isolation.

Despite the lack of attention, these artists would later reemerge as visionary signposts to many later trends in art. Their work would prove more interesting, more lastingly influential, and vastly more important than ever imagined or expected by those who saw it or even by those who created it in 1970’s Los Angeles. Creating the Future is a visionary work that seeks to recapture this important decade and its influence on today’s generation of artists.

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energy. Grounds were unplanted and mostly sand, which blew around the campus and annoyed everyone. When the administration finally got around to installing plants, most 44 CREATING THE FUTURE of them died. One prominent figure on campus that year was a young acting student named Paul Reubens. He was known for his penchant for dressing up like Carmen Miranda and dancing through the school’s corridors.40 The campus’s manic energy was infectious. Space was tight and amenities were few (the

recolonization or reterritorialization of the site where they are located.”54 In other words, the effort to establish and then decorate a place like Chicano Park was, as the scholar Jo-Anne Berelowitz put it, a struggle by Chicanos “for territory, for representation, for the constitution of an expressive ideological-aesthetic language, for the recreation of a mythic homeland, for a space in which Chicano citizens of this border zone could articulate their experience and their

of performance art activities in Los Angeles was stunning to behold. Throughout the 1970s, CalArts student Matt Mullican continued his investigations into 142 CREATING THE FUTURE performance by making a series involving a stick figure named Glen(n), whom the artist set about trying to prove was “real.” That Mullican pushed local investigations of being and non-being (in relation to art) to an extreme is evident in his performative visit to a cadaver at the Yale University School of Medicine

up from the floor, walked into 146 CREATING THE FUTURE the next room, returned with a hammer and an envelope, and smashed the clock, stopping it at the forty-five-hour mark. Only upon opening the envelope did anyone understand the mechanism that drove the performance. On a sheet of paper, Burden had written the three main elements of the work: The clock, the glass, and himself. The performance would continue, he wrote, until someone on the museum’s staff acted on one of the three elements.

regard Lacy’s Feminist performances in L.A. as redressive measures against some deep-seated problems that have plagued the city’s multicentric and polarized cultural environments.”34 Lacy’s “Car Renovation” is a good example of her Kaprow-like approach to taking the stuff of life, such as the omnipresent car, and transforming it into a fancifully provocative sculpture. As a result of Lacy’s interventions, according to Cheng: “The wrecked convertible in ‘Car Renovation’ is at once raw material and

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