Art Hash: Fine, Decorative, Design, Photography

Art Hash: Art, Blended

Art Bit and Photography: SoCal’s Art Scene–The Yin to NYC’s Yang (and an ode to the swimming pool)

When I think of art, contemporary art, art in general–working artists, avant-garde exhibitions, groundbreaking experiments–I used to knee-jerk straight for New York City. After all, Manhattan was Pollock’s stomping ground, inspiration for Warhol’s factory, and home of today’s John Finneran. The art scene is at once polished and gritty, much like the city itself (Lou Reed and Mick Jagger seem to sum it up best with their various odes to the same).

But Los Angeles’ art scene has steadily gained ground–and then some–since the late 1950s when trailblazing shows exhibiting Warhol and March Duchamp put LA on the map. Now an international art capital in its own right, Tinsel Town is the yin to New York’s yang when it comes to edgy art exhibits and twittering  critics. Galleries of importance and museums of stature compete for some of the very best exhibits, while the sheer diversity of Los Angeles’ landscape and neighborhoods feeds artistic imagination.

Something uniquely SoCal permeates imagery coming out of LA–there’s an effort to capture the laid-back, the nonconformity, the unabashed and sometimes hedonistic mindset that comes from days of sun without end (yes, it can be disorienting and transportive), and the light–that special light that seems to bounce off the prism of the ocean and the canyons to create something magical. Singing these praises (along with me) is Pacific Standard Time (PST): Art in LA, 1945-1980s, whose sole raison d’être is a celebration of all that is grand about SoCal art. A Getty-helmed and sponsored grand-scale collaboration between art and cultural institutions in Los Angeles, PST showcases everything from photography to painting and work in clay.

Now on tap at the Palm Springs Art Museum, Backyard Oasis: The Swimming Pool in Southern California Photography, 1945-1982, is an example of PST’s success in bringing together ideas– artistic voice and commentary–on an ethos unique to a region. This one’s far from edgy, but nothing screams post-WWII hedonism and juxtaposition like California’s backyard pools and the lifestyle that sprung up around them. Backyard Oasis takes a look at the swimming pool as a man-made totem of SoCal expectations and values, mixing social commentary with the history of photography and in the process taking the viewer on a trip through time to a seemingly alien and all the more so pleasurable world.

Palm Springs Art Museum Backyard Oasis Exhibit

Backyard Oasis runs through 5/27/2012–more information is available at http://www.psmuseum.org.

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