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California

John Baldessari, Sam Durant, Richard Jackson, Paul McCarthy, Mike Kelley, Raymond Pettibon, Sterling 

Ruby, Jason Rhoades, Ed Ruscha, and Jim Shaw. 

 

CALIFORNIA seeks to draw a red line through a collection of works that take the city 

of Los Angeles and its often entropic character as their point of departure. The city 

itself carries multiple connotations that delineate the practices of the artists in 

CALIFORNIA. As a ‘last frontier’ of the American Dream, California’s relationship to 

both film and popular culture has always been conspicuously undermined by its urban 

sprawl; its myth of prosperity juxtaposed by its barren post-industrial landscape and 

loss of individualism underscore much of the sentiments found in works by the likes of 

Ed Ruscha and Jason Rhoades. Indeed, it is the Southern Californian relationship to 

consumerism and the subsequent derision which accompanies this, that seems to be 

most abundantly present in the general scope of the paintings, sculptures, 

photographs and drawings in the exhibition.   

 

Indeed, there is undoubtedly a subversive sub-text to the contemporary Los Angeles 

art scene – whether it be through John Baldessari’s subtle cajoling of his conceptualist 

contemporaries, Ed Ruscha’s cool appropriation of commercial one-liners, Mike Kelley 

and Paul McCarthy’s protean ability to slip in and out of roles and positions, or Sam 

Durant and Richard Jackson’s colourful - almost disarming – socio-political critique. 

This is equally apparent when denoting the significance of punk rock music in the 

exhibited artists’ oeuvre, from Raymond Pettibon’s early graphic design for his 

brother’s band Black Flag, to Mike Kelley, Jim Shaw, and Paul McCarthy’s noise and 

punk music endeavours, such as Destroy All Monsters. As a logical evolution of their 

predecessors’ ripe interest in American materialism, artists such as Jason Rhoades and 

Sterling Ruby would be similarly influenced by punk music and youth subculture as 

well as the more recent contemporary obsession with manic accumulation and 

information overload. 

 

These artists’ are united by the ease with which they are able to transcend mediums 

and in their interpretations of a dystopic American cultural and historical identity. 

CALIFORNIA attempts to trace this theme. 


PUBLICATIONS
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California, Brussels
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California Dreaming
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