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“The Cool School” presents a cinematic take on the explosion of the Los Angeles art world at midcentury. Director Morgan Neville discusses the film, its significance, and why he chose to point his lens at SoCal.
A half a century ago, Los Angeles emerged from its origins in the artistic blasé to become the embodiment of art world hip. Billy Al Bengston, Ed Ruscha, Dennis Hopper, Larry Bell and Ed Kienholz, to mention some of the coolest cats, threw the art world for a loop, managing to nudge the NewYork crowd off its perch at the art world mountaintop.
As his monumental retrospective at San Francisco’s de Young Museum comes to a close, Dale Chihuly sits proudly at the art World’s Pinnacle.
As the morning sun rises above the dramatic San Francisco skyline, streams of warm light begin to penetrate the patterned, porous, copper façade of the mighty de Young Museum, pointing the way to an historic exhibition that owes its genesis to an orange molten substance and its brilliance to the illuminating powers of light. This shared companionship of red-hot energy and the inherent properties of transparent colored glass has been a constant force and inspiration to Dale Chihuly, as evidenced in the de Young’s newest show—the largest museum exhibition of this artist’s career.
Over the past 50 years, Edward Ruscha’s incisive portraits of American culture have transformed American painting, offering new signs, language, processes, and perspectives. The artist, born in 1937 in Omaha, Nebraska, lives and works in Los Angeles. As his official web bio states, “Ruscha has consistently combined the cityscape of his adopted hometown with vernacular language to communicate a particular urban experience.” In paintings, prints, photographs, drawings, light installations, films, and books, the artist has transparently focused on the ways that varied media deliver messages. His imagery, ranging from street signs to busted glass to pools, parking lots, gas pumps, and mountains, has influenced American and world art. Ruscha’s language paintings show us the hard edges of words and how words become signs whose meaning may shift in different contexts. Ruscha has also experimented with a range of substances, including gunpowder, blood, vegetable pigments, axle grease, and grass stains on a variety of materials.
Bruce Nauman’s Topological Gardens earned him the Golden Lion at the 53rd Venice Biennale in 2009—the first Golden Lion for Best National Participation awarded to an American since 1990. This mixed media, multi-site investigation into the American psyche and culture includes his famed, subversive neon work Virtues and Vices along with a series of works that weave in and out of the themes of heads and hands, fountains and neons, and sound and space. At the awards ceremony, Paolo Baratta, president of La Biennale Foundation, stated that Nauman’s work “reveals the magic of meaning as it emerges through relentless repetition of language and form.” Michael Kimmelman of the New York Times wrote, “Bruce Nauman commands center stage unlike any American representative since perhaps the young Robert Rauschenberg, 45 years ago.”