LEARN: FYA Asks the Curators of Pacific Standard Time

Rebecca McGrew Discusses the Three-Part Exhibition It Happened at Pomona: Art at the Edge of Los Angeles 1969-1973 at Pomona College Museum of Art

Throughout Pacific Standard Time, ForYourArt is asking curators of the more than 60 exhibitions for insight into their shows. Leading off with why their lead image is important, they will give us topics to discuss as you go through the exhibition and where you can learn more afterward. Visit Part 1 of It Happened at Pomona: Art at the Edge of Los Angeles 1969-1973 through Nov. 6th.

How does the above image represent your exhibition?

Hirokazu Kosaka’s photograph of a 1972 performance at Pomona College is included in the second part of It Happened at Pomona, Part 2: Helene Winer at Pomona, which focuses on the cutting-edge curatorial programs that Helene Winer presented from 1970 through 1972. This image represents the first performance Kosaka staged before a live audience. It was a simple action that contained deep cultural references. As Kosaka recalls in the catalogue interview with co-curator Glenn Phillips: “I went back to the electric blanket. I wanted to do a projection piece, to astral project my body. I had the electric blanket on really hot. I was under the blanket, and on top of that I had a couple hundred pounds of dirt over me. When the audience came in, they saw me lying on the floor. I was trying to project my body to someplace else. About forty minutes later, I got out of the dirt and the blanket, and I lay down in another location. An assistant, I think a student, used a big industrial sifter to sift that same dirt over my body. I laid there for another ten minutes or so. Then I got up, and I had projected myself to a different place. I had a line of my body to a different space. That was the piece. About a week later, Wolfgang [Stoerchle, and also in the exhibition] called me. He said, ‘We’ve gotta talk. I want to know what you did there.’ It was just prior to his performance [at Pomona]. He said he saw a photograph of the atomic bomb in Hiroshima. Someone was standing in a bank, and the atomic bomb blasted, and the shadow was there, burned onto the wall. He said it reminded him of that. I said, ‘Yes.’ He said in Germany, there was a guy who jumped from a thirty-story building onto the cement, and it just flattened him. The image of his body was still on the concrete asphalt. He said, ‘That was a very powerful thing you did,’ sort of congratulating me. I think that conversation made me really happy.”

What do you hope visitors will think about or consider while they are at the exhibition? What are some discussion topics they could raise?

I would hope visitors will think about the legacy of Helene Winer’s curatorial vision and how she showcased the post-Conceptual work of a group of Southern California artists working in the early 1970s; her support of early performance art in the 1970s; the connections between the work in Part 2: Helene Winer at Pomona and more theoretically-informed investigations of post-modernism that followed in New York in the later 1970s; and the thematic and art historical connections between the three parts of the It Happened at Pomona project. Other topics could include the role of smaller, university galleries in the support of cutting-edge art in Los Angeles’s art history; the role of California’s art schools as hosts for experimental ideas about art; and the role of socially engaged art practice in performance. A final topic might be to try and identify audience members in the photograph. Allen Ruppersberg and William Leavitt, for instance, attended Hirokazu Kosaka’s 1972 performance.

Where would you direct someone who wanted to learn more about this topic?

The accompanying catalogue It Happened at Pomona: Art at the Edge of Los Angeles 1969-1973 explores these issues in depth and examines the interconnections between artistic developments in Los Angeles and New York of the 1970s. The book contains scholarly new essays by Thomas Crow, Rebecca McGrew, Glenn Phillips, and Marie Shurkus; new interviews with curators Hal Glicksman and Helene Winer; and 18 new interviews with artists of the era, including Kosaka interviewed by Phillips. The Pomona College Museum of Art includes excerpts from the catalogue on our website.

by Ruth Chun

Also see some of ForYourArt’s #livetweets and pictures from the opening of It Happened at Pomona: Art at the Edge of Los Angeles 1969-1973, Part 1: Hal Glicksman at Pomona.

Image Captions:

1) Michael Asher, Installation, 1970, Photograph courtesy of the Frank J. Thomas Archives © Michael Asher

2) Hirokazu Kosaka, Untitled Performance, 1972, Photograph of performance at Pomona College Museum of Art, Photograph courtesy of the artist

3) Lloyd Hamrol, Situational Construction for Pomona College, 1969, Balloons, lead wire, water, colored light, Variable dimensions, Photograph by Lloyd Hamrol

4) Chris Burden, Untitled, 1966, Bronze, 6 1/2 x 5 in., Collection of the artist, Photograph courtesy of the artist © Chris Burden