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Made in California: Art, Image, and Identity, 1900-2000 Paperback – October 2, 2000

5.0 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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One of the most ambitious art shows the Los Angeles County Museum of Art has ever mounted, the recent "Made in California: Art, Image and Identity 1900-2000" came with all the marketing trimmings, such as mugs, mouse pads, and a music CD (predictably containing tracks like "Valley Girl" and "California Dreamin' "). The two books that accompany the exhibition stand out, however, as especially edifying adornments to the marquee. Each book in its own way addresses the question, "What contribution has California made to the world's visual culture in the last 100 years?" The catalog presents more than 500 illustrations documenting the largest art exhibition ever mounted surveying California art and culture, a show comprising over 1200 examples of art and ephemera in a wide range of media. Opening with the words "Which California? Whose California?" the book demonstrates that the Golden State's image is of a contested Eden. Apart from being the capital of the film and television industries (a fact underemphasized in this catalog), the state has become identified with several iconographic threads that are herein extensively and entertainingly illustrated. The exhibition has come under blistering criticism for ignoring aesthetic considerations while epitomizing a trend among curators to blur the boundaries between artworks and historical artifacts. While at times this tendency results in the sublime sitting next to the ridiculous (e.g., a Frida Kahlo masterpiece shares space with a 1940s model wearing a sombrero-themed swimsuit), we also see outstanding art within a historic and geographic context from which it ordinarily is quite divorced. Also, a show this size inevitably exposes the works of lesser-known artists. Thus, along with the de rigueur Diebenkorns and Ansel Adams, we are treated to the work of countless other, lesser-known artists such as John Marshall Gamble and Enrique Chagoya, to name two separated by almost a century. Reading California collects 19 scholars' descriptions of different aspects of California's cultural identity, viewing each as elements of larger mythical notions of the state. The individual authors cover a broad range of topics, from the birth of auto tourism to "Beat Art." Most interesting are an essay by state librarian Kevin Starr describing the seminal influence of Angelino historian Carey McWilliams upon the state's self-image, a telling analysis of the important role played by art schools in fostering culture, and Peter Selz's succinct study of West Coast political art. This erudite composite history is recommended for academic and large public libraries; the fine catalog to this important exhibition is highly recommended for all collections. Douglas F. Smith, Oakland P.L., CA
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.


"This handsome--and hefty--exhibition catalog about California culture provides from one to three photographs on virtually every page. By perusing it, one can almost experience the visual event."--"Choice

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 344 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press; n edition (October 2, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520227654
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520227651
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 1.2 x 12 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,264,215 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Paperback
Finally, an expansive and critical, although bewildering, survey of California's visual culture and its impact on American culture at large! Beautiful in its design and generous in illustrations, the catalog offers insight into the complexities of America's "wild frontier." What makes this catalog/exhibtion most intriguing is its inclusion of ephemera, framed by the organizers as important historical and cultural documents of life in California. Often overlooked, these items are often more telling than the cultural productions of visual artists and offer interesting juxtapositions to the art also presented. In addition to the discourse between hi and low culture, is the discussion of the cultural and racial diversity of California's population and its effect on culture and identity. The writers and curators bring together important documents, visuals, and art that construct diverse racial, gender, and sexual identities and also offer critical insight to these.
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Format: Paperback
It's pretty massive, this book, and it feels like a lot of work went into it, but it's best thought of as a compendium of previous critical thought on the subject. On that basis it would be a good primer for students who are just beginning their work in cultural studies of "Californization," for the editors have done a fine job of summarizing and recommending the best books on the subject. Curatorially, the show was pretty vast, and like many LACMA productions, it was more Hollywood than Hollywood. Yet what works in a museum's large gallery spaces doesn't always translate onto the necessarily smaller page, and some of the best painting (if I may restrict myself to just one genre) that we saw up on the walls looks a little silly here: Agnes Pelton and Henrietta Shore in miniature look like prog-rock LP cover designers of the "Yes" era, suffering the indignity of having their twelve inch album designs shrunk down to CD size for the postmodern era. Something of the hazy beauty of Stanton Macdonald Wright still remains, though . . . What works best here is oddly what didn't really work in the show: the presence of a huge variety of topical items and ephemera, everything from signs that said, "Let's Keep California White," to that humorous can of "Los Angeles Smog" that you could buy as a souvenir if you went to LA in the 1950s (it's a great can with a full color comic book label--it might have invented all of pop art all by itself!) For sometimes in the exhibition so much ephemera seemed to hog your attention away from the more culturally approved "master works," where here in the catalogue, they assume point position in the continuing argument of the curators and the essayists charged with making California visible to us, step by step.Read more ›
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Format: Paperback
The exhibit was astounding - this museum is HUGE! The works of art featured are very diverse, both in theme, style and culture. The book really is a nice tribute to this grand exhibition. Any Californian who likes both popular art and "marginal" or underground art would be satisfied with this book.
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