We Are LA: Contemporary Art from the Frederick R. Weisman Art Foundation
Date: August 1, 2022 – October 22, 2022
Visiting Hours: Monday – Friday, 12:00 pm – 5:00 pm
Curated By: Billie Milam Weisman
Venue: Ronald H. Silverman Fine Arts Gallery
California State University, Los Angeles
5151 State University Drive, LA CA 90032
Lita Albuquerque, Peter Alexander, Charles Arnoldi, Larry Bell, Billy Al Bengston, Kelly Berg, Tony Berlant, Beau Bradford, Casper Brindle, Gisela Colon, Mary Corse, Ronald Davis, Guy Dill, Laddie John Dill, Roy Dowell, Doug Edge, Peter Erskine, Ned Evans, Charles Fine, Sam Francis, Jack Goldstein, Joe Goode, Channing Hansen, James Hayward, Scott Heywood, Charles Christopher Hill, David Hockney, Stephen Robert Johns, Craig Kauffman, Edward and Nancy Kienholz, Gary Lang, Peter Lodato, John McCracken, Joel Morrison, Andy Moses, Ed Moses, Manfred Müller, Evan Nesbit, Eric Orr, Helen Pashgian, Ruth Pastine, Ed Ruscha, Paul Rusconi, DeWain Valentine, Vasa, Roger Weik, and Tom Wudl.
For longer than most of us realize, Los Angeles has maintained a distinctive and self-generating discourse about artmaking – a discourse that has relied heavily on the concept of genius loci, that is, the sourcing of artistic invention in the place itself. In the case of southern California the very concept of “place” is intricate and multi-layered: it refers to the physical – topography, ecology, climate, light – the social – the relative newness and ongoing metamorphosis of Los Angeles as an American and world metropolis – and the cultural – a unique confluence of peoples, industries, and attitudes – all of which serves to maintain an enduring ethos of experimentation.
That ethos pervades the collection-within-a-collection sampled here. Frederick R. Weisman did not begin his profound and dedicated art-collecting activity with artwork from his home region; but it did not take him long to embrace the intellectual and aesthetic challenge – and, often, beauty – of the contemporary art of his time and place. As far back as the 1960s Weisman was patronizing California artists right along with New Yorkers and Europeans. And since his death in 1994 his Foundation has maintained that support for local artists, compiling one of the richest and most diverse collections of southern California art in non-institutional hands.
As might be expected of an exhibition seeking to highlight “typical” art of the region, this presentation of nearly 60 works, selected by Foundation Director Billie Milam Weisman, displays the earmarks of the twinned Los Angeles Finish/Fetish and Light & Space movements as well as that of their successor tendency, Material Abstraction, and the recondite, conceptual form of Pop art peculiar to L.A. There are more than a few outliers here, however, fitting into no category – except the broad rubric of “perceptualism.” If there is an overriding sensibility that unifies these works, and characterizes the general mindset of Angeleno artists, it is one that seeks to challenge what we and how we see, or think we see, and even what we know by seeing. There are odd objects here that fool the eye. There are pictures that aren’t really “pictures.” There are various artworks that wriggle free of the labels we bring to them, oddly pretty artworks, artworks skirting invisibility or conversely exploding in your retina.
“We Are L.A.” seeks first and foremost to put in front of us a varied sampling of locally produced art – arguing thereby both for the continuing responsivity of the Frederick R. Weisman Foundation to contemporary art in Los Angeles, and for certain qualities shared by L.A. art in general, despite its expansive variety. Most of all, it argues for the ability of the Los Angeles art scene to generate as well as maintain a discourse of great depth and sophistication. Well-known artists share space here with their less prominent peers, but everyone has a legitimate stake in the discussion – and a legitimate claim to the status of genius loci.