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
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.