The Getty kicked off Tuesday a six-month series of art exhibits and performances with 82 partner organizations that include the region’s largest museums and small galleries. The series is called “Pacific Standard Time” and documents art-making in Southern California between 1945 and 1980. It includes the big names in Los Angeles art such as Ed Ruscha and Ed Kienholz as well as little known artists who left a lasting imprint on the regional and national art scene.
At the opening ceremony organizers made efforts to connect the old with the new. The few hundred people in attendance at the opening saw a video of Red Hot Chili Peppers frontman Anthony Kiedis riding through L.A. with painter Ruscha. Minutes later artist George Herms, who in the late 1950s broke ground on found object art called "assemblage," took the stage with a wide brimmed hat and cardboard guitar. The 76-year-old Herms played a chime instrument and a horn as he delivered a spoken word performance that was part racetrack announcer, part Oracle of Delphi, and tribute to the Beat generation artists he admired.
Afterward Deborah Marrow, director of the Getty Foundation, said the exhibitions are about resurrecting and showing to general audiences some little-known and legendary artists whose work continues to resonate regionally and worldwide. “The exhibitions confirm that modern art developed differently in L.A. than it did in Paris or New York or other major art centers of the world,” she said. "There are discoveries waiting for all of us at museums large and small, public and private, up and down the coast, from Santa Barbara to Los Angeles, to Orange County, to San Diego and out to Palm Springs."
Marrow asked dozens of artists, curators and museum administrators to the stage. Annie Philbin, director of the Hammer Museum, was one of them. “Our contribution to Pacific Standard Time is ‘Now Dig This! Art and Black L.A., 1960 to 1980,’ and basically it tells the largely untold story of a community of black artists, and their extended friends, by the way, because it’s not all black artists in the exhibition,” Philbin said.
Philbin said her museum received about $300,000 in grant money from the Getty Foundation to carry out scholarly research on black artists and to organize the exhibit. The Getty’s given out a total of $10 million in grants to museums, galleries and other art groups participating in Pacific Standard Time. The research, scholarly essays and the catalogues in which they are published give this series art world gravitas.
The Getty’s showing four art exhibits for Pacific Standard Time. Andrew Perchuk, of the Getty Research Institute, walked a group through the exhibit “Crosscurrents in L.A. Painting and Sculpture 1950–1970.” These are L.A.'s Mona Lisas.
“This of course one of the masterpieces of the 1960s, Ed Ruscha’s 'Los Angeles County Museum on Fire,' a painting that took him three years to paint, incredibly meticulous. You’ll see that the painting actually changes as you walk around it,” he said.
Arts administrators praised the Getty for doing what they said hasn’t happened in other major art centers around the world, the cooperation of most of the region’s visual art institutions around a central theme. The Getty’s deep pockets helped.
Independent curator Carole Ann Klonarides said the Getty’s come a long way since it located its philanthropic, museum and research divisions at the same hillside campus in 1997.
“When they first built this building I know many people said that 'Oh, the white castle up on the hill,' that it was going to be somewhat elitist, and I think this kind of initiative is dispelling that," she said. "It’s basically saying, yes the Getty is really concerned with our history, what our community wants and the diversity of this community, which is the beauty of L.A."
Pacific Standard Time also includes a performance and public art series that’ll begin in January. Institutions in San Diego, Orange County, Pomona and Palm Springs will also participate in exhibitions; most of those will remain open through next spring.