During the 1960s and 1970s, California experienced an era of significant social change.
A youth-oriented counterculture demanded educational reform igniting the Free Speech Movement of 1964. Inequality and racism led to the Watts Riots in South Central Los Angeles in 1965. And, that same year, Cesar Chavez organized the grape strike in the San Joaquin Valley.
In 1966, the Black Panther Party was founded. The Stonewall riots of 1969 in New York City galvanized the Gay Rights Movement in San Francisco.
And, in 1970, Chicano students in Southern California led the Chicano Moratorium, one of the largest off-campus anti-war demonstrations in the country.
This awareness of social liberation inspired artists to come up with new methods for art making.
Whether or not they were active in the cultural, political and environmental movements, many young artists yearned to move away from the art as object towards art as an idea.
Enter the birth of Conceptual Art, a new, non-commercial form of expression that included video, sound, performance, installation and photographic documentation.
Paying tribute to what is now commonplace in the Art World is “State of Mind: New California Art Circa 1970,” Orange County Museum of Art’s contribution to “Pacific Standard Time,” the Getty Foundation’s area-wide collaboration of approximately 60 Southern California cultural institutions focusing on Los Angeles’s place in Modern/Contemporary art.
Co-organized with UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, the exhibit — on view through Jan. 22, 2012 — is the most comprehensive accumulation of Conceptual art and related new genre from this crucial period in art history.
More than 150 works are on view and include well-known names of the movement such Chris Burden, Allen Ruppersberg and Bonnie Sherk.
Other artists in the show include Asco, Gary Beydler, Nancy Buchanan, Paul Cotton, Lowell Darling, Stephen Laub, Darryl Sapien, Susan Mogul, Ilene Segalove, Fred Londier and Robert Kinmont.
Installations, works on paper, photographs, video and film, artists’ books, performance documentation and other ephemera — as well as newly-discovered works and other materials from various archives — come together to create one of the best exhibits honoring a movement that was truly ephemeral.
A few highlights from the exhibit include Barbara T. Smith’s “Field Piece,” a phallic-inspired installation of 16 fiberglass resin stalks resting on Ethafoam that light up when you step near them; Chris Burden’s early surveillance installation “Being Photographed, Looking Out, Looking In, February 4-20” which has not been exhibited since the 1970s; and Bonnie Sherk’s “Sitting Still” series featuring the most complete documentation of the artist’s street performances.
“State of Mind” is a wonderfully over-the-top visual powerhouse that reminds its viewers of art’s limitless capabilities.
Through the convergence of various media, the exhibit reaffirms its founders’ underlying premise of “concepts as art,” culturally liberated from the canvas and the great white cube.
The Orange County Museum of Art is at 850 San Clemente Drive. For more information, call (949) 759-1122 or visit www.ocma.net.