We’ve started diving in to San Diego’s two museums taking part in a giant Southern California effort. The decades following World War II produced artists, art movements and ideas that are major forces in art history.

The Getty’s trying to tell that story, and the two local museums onboard are the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego and the Mingei International Museum. As our photos show, one show can trick your eyes; the other can make you feel at home.

Reader Bill Harris has been thinking about that dichotomy and how San Diego’s mix of art and science help inform the way we look at these shows. The self-professed “advanced layman” with “a long-term love for the visual arts” wrote to share his initial perspective.

And to throw down the gauntlet: He’s trying to get to all of the 60-plus shows in the Getty’s endeavor. He’ll be dropping in to Behind the Scene with occasional dispatches about what he sees over the next few months.

Here’s Harris:

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I was born near the middle of Pacific Standard Time — at least as the Getty has it measured.

Both shows, MCASD’s “Phenomenal” and the Mingei’s “Craft” (which I’ve so far only viewed from the ropes after reading through the catalogue) capture that time here in San Diego quite well.

They are great compliments to what’s being shown in Los Angeles and help put our history in context with the broader (Southern) California experience of my era.

I have enjoyed living in San Diego and watching the artistic shift from the elite and distant — like the Putnam Collection — to the common and close-at-hand — like the Hubbell house and the craft fairs of the ’70s.

It has also been a pleasure to be near UCSD, Salk and our other campuses as the minds there taught us about cognition, variable perception and neurosciences — helping us to better appreciate the work of Robert Irwin, James Turrell and their lot.

For the past 18 months I have been plowing through the literature, remembering previous shows (“Made in California” at LACMA, “Los Angeles 1955-1985” at the Pompidou Center) and doing what I can to reconnect with my own history in art.

I have also been comparing notes with my partner. She grew up in Pomona during the late ’50s and through the ’60s playing with the children of Karl Benjamin and Ed Kienholz in their homes and studios (the “House that Sam Built” at the Huntington is a great tight exhibition and we’ll be at Pomona College and the Maloof House this weekend).

The local shows are strong examples of our continuing place in the creation and collection of California art.

It is my intent to see all 60 PST exhibitions between now and May. I will report back on what I see and remember as I go along.

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Have questions for Harris? Want to file your own reactions to the shows here in San Diego or the ones you might go see in L.A.? Leave us a note below.

I’m Kelly Bennett, the arts editor for VOSD. You can reach me directly at kelly.bennett@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.325.0531.

And follow Behind the Scene on Facebook.

Kelly Bennett is a former staff writer for Voice of San Diego.

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