Out of Sight
The Los Angeles Art Scene of the 1960s
By William Hackman
(Other Press, Hardcover, 9781590514115, 256pp.)
Publication Date: April 14, 2015
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Histories of modern art are typically centered in Paris and New York. Los Angeles is relegated to its role as the center of popular culture— a city of movie stars, tan lines, and surfers—but lacking the highbrow credentials of the chosen places. Until 1965, there was no art museum, few notable collectors, and—especially in terms of modern and contemporary work—even fewer galleries. Yet in the 1950s and 1960s, L.A. witnessed a burst of artistic energy and invention rivaling New York’s burgeoning art scene a half-century earlier. As New York Times art critic Roberta Smith has noted, it was “a euphoric moment,” at a “time when East and West coasts seemed evenly matched.”
Out of Sight chronicles the rapid-fire rise, fall, and rebirth of the L.A. art scene—from the emergence of a small bohemian community in the 1950s to the founding of the Museum of Contemporary Art in 1980— and explains how artists such as Ed Ruscha, Robert Irwin, and Ken Price reshaped contemporary art. William Hackman also explores the ways in which the L.A. art scene reflected the hopes and fears of postwar America—both the self-confidence of an increasingly affluent middle class, and the anxiety produced by violent upheavals at home and abroad. Perhaps most of all, he pays tribute to the city that gave birth to a fascinating and until now overlooked moment in modern art.
William Hackman, longtime arts journalist and former managing editor for public affairs at the J. Paul Getty Trust, has written extensively about the visual and performing arts. His essays, articles, and reviews have appeared in major American newspapers and magazines, including the Chicago Tribune, the Philadelphia Inquirer, and the Los Angeles Times. His books include Los Angeles County Museum of Art, for the Art Spaces series (Scala, 2008), and Inside the Getty (J. Paul Getty Trust, 2008). He lives in Los Angeles.