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Lots of art people are talking today about two stories in big East Coast newspapers that jab at the Getty-instigated “Pacific Standard Time” show I’ve been writing about.
The New York Times’ Adam Nagourney, the paper’s Los Angeles bureau chief, suggests off the top the effort is “overcompensation.” Here’s the first person he quotes:
“It’s corny,” said Dave Hickey, an art critic and a professor in the art and art history department at the University of New Mexico. “It’s the sort of thing that Denver would do. They would do Mountain Standard Time. It is ’50s boosterish, and I would argue largely unnecessary.”
But organizers have said the effort is less about branding itself to the outside, and more about making sure its Southern Californian neighbors know this piece of their history. As LA Times art critic Christopher Knight wrote on Twitter about this story:
NYers assume that Pacific Standard Time is out to show something to them, not show something to LA
Nagourney does acknowledge the role the effort is hoped to have:
In many ways, this multi-museum extravaganza goes against type, or at least stereotype. “It’s a coming of age for a city that sometimes doesn’t think of itself as having an art history,” said Michael Govan, the executive director of the (Los Angeles) county museum. That novelty alone seems likely to feed curiosity about what is taking place here.
And the story quotes Jeffrey Deitch, the director of L.A.’s Museum of Contemporary Art:
“There is now enough critical mass of galleries, of places where artists meet, blogs, magazines,” he added. “There is enough of a strong community in places for artists to see each other’s work that it now makes sense to be here. L.A. is increasingly central to the art dialogue.”
But the idea of this unprecedented cultural collaboration as boosterism extends to the beginning of a Wall Street Journal story circulating today, too — suggesting this is one in a long line of slick marketing campaigns that leave L.A. with an inferiority complex.
With that out of the way, though, writer Peter Plagens comments on a few of the highlights he found on a recent trip to visit, including the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego’s “Phenomenal” show, which he deems “the most visually satisfying meal on the PST menu.”
Here’s more from the WSJ:
That’s partly because of the nature of the art — lovingly austere and mystically colorful abstract sculpture and atmospheric environments — and partly because the artists … were so talented. … (Robert) Irwin, (James) Turrell and (Doug) Wheeler, in particular, manipulated light and space to create experiences, instead of objects, as works of art. Their pieces were, in my opinion, Southern California’s greatest contributions to art before 1980.
What do you think? In the comments on the NYT story, a reader named Allen Manzano from Carlsbad challenges that quote about the show’s corniness:
I don’t think most Southern Californians think of this as boosterism or an ego fix. Some of this stuff is a revelation, some a revival of attention on artists and arts that has been made here over the decades. I am thinking of the San Gabriel Valley focus of a small show at the Huntington in Pasadena. It was a charmer of both small stuff like pottery and wonderful stuff like Sam’s beautifully handmade furniture with its spare and elegant shapes and surfaces. One forgets the taste that inspired them and the way we incorporated it into our lives.
Relax, oh sage of New Mexico, it’s a cool event. Come see it, the welcome mat is always out. And why not Denver and Mountain Time, close enough to visit and something to learn.
And here’s another protective comment from a San Diego local, “faelanae:”
By treating Pacific Standard Time as a quaint curiosity, this article marginalizes the efforts of hundreds of curators and thousands of staff who have devoted years to making this innovative, collaborative experiment a reality. When was the last time you saw sharing and cooperation between many NY museums and galleries, particularly on this scale?
Instead of celebrating the history of the Southern California art scene and the efforts of those involved, Mr. Nagourney sneers at the West Coast peons, as if they were trying to diminish the importance of New York. PST is not a shot across the bow; it is a celebration of the diversity and culture of the region, done in a grand scale never before imagined. Stop being so defensive, Mr. Nagourney, and try to experience it without NYcentricity.
What do you think? Leave a comment below or on Facebook.
I’m Kelly Bennett, the arts editor for VOSD. You can reach me directly at email@example.com or 619.325.0531.
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