Conceived as a response to the Getty’s “Pacific Standard Time (PST)” survey of Los Angeles art from 1945-1980, “What’s New, Pussycat?,” curated by Tim Nye and Max Presneill for the Torrance Art Museum, shows how the pioneering work of Angeleno artists in the Sixties continues to influence local artists to the present day.
Though the premise is taut and articulate, there is nothing slick and polished about the installation. Not only does the show demonstrate stylistic and conceptual threads from one generation to another, its installation suggests what such shows must have looked and felt like: sparse and gritty, experimental, not averse to the taking of risks. It recreates the sense of walking into a Venice gallery in the Sixties, when these artists who came of age in the Sixties were simply names, not art-stars; names who made work, not masterpieces.
Just as the first generation artists have become household names, so too have their materials become commonplace. Though we take for granted the use of polyester, resin, spray paint, hyperbolic concave canvases, and video, their use was not always so prevalent. The effect of these materials in their original, historical “What’s New, Pussycat?” moment must have seemed iconoclastic.
Consider how Larry Bell used spray paint on his “AAAAA 102,” Laddie John Dill created “Red Tide,” with sand, neon, and argon with mercury, and Peter Alexander fabricated “Clear Wedge,” and “Royal Blue Drip,” with polyester and resin. How John McCracken’s made “Warp Line” with resin while Paul McCarty contributed to the genre of video with “Black and White Tapes,” while he created “Blow Blow,” “Ass Hole,” and “Camera Hole,” with opaque paint markers on vellum. How Bruce Nauman also utilized video in “Manipulating a Fluorescent Tube” while Andy Moses made “Uluru” and “Uncompahgre” with acrylic on concave canvas.
This groundbreaking work paved the way for subsequent generations of Angeleno artists who, if they didn’t stand on the shoulders of their predecessors, at least borrowed from their palette and work table, as it were, to continue their spirit of investigation. Claudia Parducci’s “Savemeandiwillfuckyou,” gouache on indian rag, Brian Wills’s various “Untitled” pieces, oil, rayon thread, linear, polyurethane on wood panel, Walead Beshty’s piece with an incredibly long title, laminated Mirropane, a FedEx shipping box, accrued FedEx shipping and tracking labels, tape, metal, and silicone. Kristin Klosterman’s “Untitled,” oil and phosphorescent paint on canvas, Lisa Vartleson’s two “Vessel” pieces, natural pigment in resin. Edith Baumann’s two “Jazz Series” pieces, pigment on canvas.
Incisive, informative, and interesting, the show suggests that art evolves through a process of innovation, dissemination, and influence. That the process is organic and alive, not clinical like the study of dead butterflies pinned to the specimen board of an exhibition caalogue or an auction price list. That, as this investigative exhibition attests, it does so without losing the kernel of its original identity.