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Made in California: Art, Image and Identity, 1900-2000 [Paperback]

S Barron

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Book Description

11 Dec 2000
This opulent and expansive volume, published in conjunction with the Los Angeles County Museum of Art's monumental exhibition Made in California: Art, Image, and Identity,1900-2000, charts the dynamic relationship between the arts and popular conceptions of California. Displaying a dazzling array of fine art and material culture, "Made in California" challenges us to reexamine the ways in which the state has been portrayed and imagined. Unusually inclusive, visually intriguing, and beautifully produced, this volume is a delight throughout - both in image and in text - and will appeal to anyone who has lived in, visited, or imagined California. Drawn from the exhibition, which gathers more than 1,200 artworks and pieces of ephemera from many public and private collections, "Made in California" is an image-driven look at the past century, featuring more than 400 works in a range of media, from painting, sculpture, prints, drawings, and photographs to furniture, fashion, and film. The book also includes more than 150 cultural artifacts such as tourist brochures, posters, labor union tracts, personal letters, and government reports that convey the richness and complexity of twentieth-century California. Arranged provocatively by theme, these objects take us on a visual tour of a state that was promoted as a bountiful paradise early in the century; as a glamour capital by Hollywood in the 1920s and 1930s; as a suburban utopia in the late '40s and '50s; as a haven for counterculture in the '60s and '70s, and as a multicultural frontier in the '80s and '90s. The book's exploration of how these themes were reflected and contested in California's visual culture deepens our understanding of the state's artistic traditions as well as its fascinating history. The volume is divided into five twenty-year sections, each including a narrative essay discussing the history of that era and highlighting topics particularly relevant to its visual culture. Two overarching themes emerge that have been crucial for how we imagine and understand California: first, the landscape, including both the natural and built environment, and second, the multifaceted relationships California has had with Latin America and Asia. Geographer Michael Dear has contributed a sweeping overview of the social history of California that examines the vibrant and sometimes turbulent conditions out of which the culture emerged. Essayist Richard Rodriguez closes the volume with a uniquely personal meditation on the Golden State.

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"This handsome--and hefty--exhibition catalog about California culture provides from one to three photographs on virtually every page. By perusing it, one can almost experience the visual event."--"Choice

About the Author

Stephanie Barron is Senior Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art and Vice President of Education and Public Programs at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Sheri Bernstein is Exhibition Associate. Ilene Susan Fort is Curator of American Art. Howard N. Fox is Curator of Contemporary Art. Michael Dear is Director of the University of Southern California's Southern California Studies Center and author most recently of The Postmodern Urban Condition (2000). Richard Rodriguez is author of Days of Obligation (1992) and Hunger of Memory (1982), and is a frequent contributor to Harper's,The New York Times,and The News Hour on PBS.

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Customer Reviews

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Amazon.com: 5.0 out of 5 stars  3 reviews
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful and important catalog and exhibition 18 Nov 2000
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Finally, an expansive and critical, although bewildering, survey of California's visual culture and its impact on American culture at large! Beautiful in its design and generous in illustrations, the catalog offers insight into the complexities of America's "wild frontier." What makes this catalog/exhibtion most intriguing is its inclusion of ephemera, framed by the organizers as important historical and cultural documents of life in California. Often overlooked, these items are often more telling than the cultural productions of visual artists and offer interesting juxtapositions to the art also presented. In addition to the discourse between hi and low culture, is the discussion of the cultural and racial diversity of California's population and its effect on culture and identity. The writers and curators bring together important documents, visuals, and art that construct diverse racial, gender, and sexual identities and also offer critical insight to these.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Warm California Nights 8 Nov 2006
By Kevin Killian - Published on Amazon.com
It's pretty massive, this book, and it feels like a lot of work went into it, but it's best thought of as a compendium of previous critical thought on the subject. On that basis it would be a good primer for students who are just beginning their work in cultural studies of "Californization," for the editors have done a fine job of summarizing and recommending the best books on the subject. Curatorially, the show was pretty vast, and like many LACMA productions, it was more Hollywood than Hollywood. Yet what works in a museum's large gallery spaces doesn't always translate onto the necessarily smaller page, and some of the best painting (if I may restrict myself to just one genre) that we saw up on the walls looks a little silly here: Agnes Pelton and Henrietta Shore in miniature look like prog-rock LP cover designers of the "Yes" era, suffering the indignity of having their twelve inch album designs shrunk down to CD size for the postmodern era. Something of the hazy beauty of Stanton Macdonald Wright still remains, though . . . What works best here is oddly what didn't really work in the show: the presence of a huge variety of topical items and ephemera, everything from signs that said, "Let's Keep California White," to that humorous can of "Los Angeles Smog" that you could buy as a souvenir if you went to LA in the 1950s (it's a great can with a full color comic book label--it might have invented all of pop art all by itself!) For sometimes in the exhibition so much ephemera seemed to hog your attention away from the more culturally approved "master works," where here in the catalogue, they assume point position in the continuing argument of the curators and the essayists charged with making California visible to us, step by step.

Sometimes this is done in wearisome detail, so that by the Cold War era I was like, oh for goodness sake, I've had enough history, and some of it seemed like rote. None of the scandals of history were omitted, from the Japanese internment camps to the Manson murders, from Upton Sinclair to the cuttings on Cathie Opie's back. Representative? In every way they could think of. And yet for some reason it wasn't one of those life changing exhibitions, probably because its thesis was so unoriginal.
4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A chance stroll into the LA County Museum 2 Jan 2002
By "abfab420" - Published on Amazon.com
The exhibit was astounding - this museum is HUGE! The works of art featured are very diverse, both in theme, style and culture. The book really is a nice tribute to this grand exhibition. Any Californian who likes both popular art and "marginal" or underground art would be satisfied with this book.
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