Out of Sight
The Los Angeles Art Scene of the Sixties
By William Hackman
(Other Press, Hardcover, 9781590514115, 320pp.)
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.
"Enjoyable and well-researched." —Publishers Weekly
“William Hackman’s Out of Sight is an intelligent, incisive, never-facile account of the California art scene and its romantic beginnings in the ’50s and ’60s. Read this book if you want to know about Ken Price, Vija Celmins, Ed Ruscha, and Bruce Nauman or, in other words, if you want to know about America’s coolest artists.” —Deborah Solomon, author of American Mirror: The Life and Art of Norman Rockwell
“When I started reading this beautifully crafted study of L.A. art from 1950 to 1975, I worried that this would be yet another celebratory account. William Hackman’s book surprised and delighted me as the story grew darker and explored the many tragic turns that sapped the creative explosion of the postwar years. Seldom has a history of art in California captured so well the conflict of egos that grand ambitions quickened. Rooted in the particulars of Los Angeles, the story is relevant for understanding cultural movements in communities across the country, and perhaps in other countries as well. Hackman shows how much what was genuinely new in what artists, curators, and collectors did in Los Angeles expressed the uniqueness of place, but could what they discovered find acceptance on the international stage? Ultimately, this is a study of how, whatever one might want to believe in the universality of the creative process, the local and the global failed to synchronize. The book ends in the mid-1970s, but so much of what Hackman tells his readers points to later developments. It is a book that can be profitably read for what it tells us about culture today.” —Richard Cándida Smith, author of The Modern Moves West: California Artists and Democratic Culture in the Twentieth Century
“Los Angeles has always been the art world’s great white hope. William Hackman’s Out of Sight does a wonderful job of conveying the roots of that promise.” —Richard Polsky, author of I Sold Andy Warhol. (Too Soon)
“A great read . . . passionately argued.” —Patricia Albers, author of Joan Mitchell: Lady Painter
Praise for Inside the Getty:
“Informative text graced by full-color photos takes you on an in-depth tour of the Getty Villa in Malibu and the Getty Center in Brentwood.” —Pasadena Star News