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Art, California

This Sunday, October 22, LACMA opens its doors to its ”mid-century indoor-outdoor and lifestyle room with patio overhang.“ No, the museum hasn‘t ventured into real estate. The ’50s display is one of three ”period rooms“ filled with era-specific furniture and decorative arts, and is just the tip of the largest and most ambitious exhibition in the museum‘s history -- ”Made in California: Art, Image and Identity, 1900--2000,“ a survey of the arts in California and their relationship to the state’s ever-changing popular image. Organized into five chronological sections, each spanning 20 years, this collaborative effort between nine museum departments incorporates more than 800 works ranging from painting, sculpture and photography to decorative and graphic arts, costumes and video. ”We‘re trying to reflect the diversity of California and show how images of [the state] have varied tremendously throughout the century,“ says LACMA exhibition associate Sheri Bernstein. The show offers a near-comprehensive view, from the early-20th-century ”booster images“ of California as a ”pre-modern paradise“ (unpopulated, bountiful landscape), to the conflicting 1950s ideas of California as both a sunny haven for post--World War II suburban lifestyle and an alternative to that cookie-cutter conformity. And beyond.

”If you’re looking at the show as a whole, you‘re moving from the early years -- a fairly cohesive, Edenic image of California, through to the ’80s and ‘90s, where there’s this panoply of coexisting images, both positive and dystopian,“ Bernstein explains. ”Made in California“ also provides historical context through myriad cultural documents -- tourist brochures, rock posters, labor pamphlets, even the first Barbie, issued in 1959 by Mattel. ”It‘s a retrospective on California more than it is a retrospective on the art itself,“ notes Bernstein.

In addition to the exhibition, LACMA hosts a related film-and-music series at the museum, and a revolving program of ”satellite events“ -- readings, live performances, concerts and lectures -- will be held around the city. For a complete schedule, go to www.madeincalif.com.


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