Pacific Standard Time Is 'Overcompensation' for L.A.'s Cultural Inferiority Complex, Says New York Times | The Informer | Los Angeles | Los Angeles News and Events | LA Weekly
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Pacific Standard Time Is 'Overcompensation' for L.A.'s Cultural Inferiority Complex, Says New York Times

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Thu, Oct 13, 2011 at 2:45 PM

click to enlarge From Ed Ruscha's "Standard Editions."
  • From Ed Ruscha's "Standard Editions."
Dude. New York can't stand to see us happy! Here we were, totally lit on our 1960s selves, museum-hopping in our California sundresses whilst trying to forget the "hopping" part took 30 minutes in traffic, and the East Coast's Times of record has to jump in all misinformed and catty to remind us we're not NYC.

Well, good -- 'cause we don't wanna be.

Just as the Wall Street Journal completely missed the point, earlier this year, in assuming the tacky (yet quarantined) influx of moneyed developments into the L.A. Live area somehow signaled a wannabe "Manhattanization" downtown (WTF)...

... The New York Times has stupidly interpreted Pacific Standard Time as "a statement of self-affirmation by a region that, at times, appears to feel underappreciated as a serious culture center."

The article's main example of said underappreciation: "a reputation of being more about tinsel than about serious art, and where interest in culture starts and ends with movie grosses and who is on the cover of Vanity Fair." (Note: Vanity Fair is based in New York, and only comes out here to poach our red carpets and write let-them-eat-cake spreads on our Malibu beachfronts. Think the Times might have just scored a goal on its own team there.)

Anyway, this assumption -- that L.A. resents L.A. stereotypes -- is the first major misstep. We can't speak for every last bitter NYU reject with Brooklyn posters wallpapering her USC dorm, but uh -- We love plastic. We love glitter sweat. We love sixteen-year-olds with fake boobs taking walks of shame down Sunset Strip. Fuck guilty pleasures!

click to enlarge "Wallace Berman in an abandoned building on the Speedway in Venice, California." - THE GETTY
  • The Getty
  • "Wallace Berman in an abandoned building on the Speedway in Venice, California."
Take one look at a PST exhibit, and you'll see a mass embrace of our billboard gardens, neon ghettos and bleak gas-station lots. New York was clearly the last thing on the mind of the underground artists in the 1950s-70s throwback show.

Many of them, for instance, were squatting in the abandoned theme park that was Venice, completely drunk on unexplored territory. (Including the virgin Pacific waters, which they navigated on surfboards.) Forget "art capital" -- see Times excerpt below -- these were conquistadors wanting wasteland.

"No one is suggesting that Los Angeles is about to supplant New York as an art capital; it is not lost on people here that the executive directors of three of the four biggest museums in Los Angeles came here from New York. James Cuno, the president of the J. Paul Getty Trust, which is financing the event, noted the abundance of galleries, auction houses and money in New York."

OK, whatever. In the end, we pretty much just don't think this is something worth fighting over. (For more of a punch-by-punch, see LAist's extensive comeback.) And indeed, those same transplanted art moguls tell the Times that this is not about competition -- New York has simply been over-saturated, and artists need a cheaper place to live and work.

"I drove around Echo Park, Silver Lake, Highland Park, and a lot of this reminds me of New York in the 1970s, where artists lived in real interesting neighborhoods near each other, and the rents aren't really that high," said Mr. Deitch, director of the Los Angeles Modern. "Compared to New York City, compared to London, the rents here are affordable. A studio space that in Brooklyn would be $6,000 a month you can get here for $1,000."

But shit, AS LONG AS WE'RE MEASURING DICKS HERE -- we think the particular 1960s minimalist joy recaptured by PST is something New York couldn't pull off if it tried.

click to enlarge "Cloud Box" by Peter Alexander - THE GETTY
Below is a clip from an excellent review of "Primary Atmospheres: Works From California 1960-1970," a recent show in New York featuring many of the same artists now at the center of PST. (Oh, and it's written by a New York art critic. Burn!)

Christian Viveros-Fauné tries to wrap his head around how L.A. made minimialism into something so much sweeter:

"In New York, where the movement set up its HQ in the 1960s, this temperateness meant scissoring out art's heart plus a lung along with dreaded ornament. What high-church minimalism prescribed was the perfectly machined object--mute, weirdly antiseptic, and expressive as a Viking stove. In the post-Pollock laboratory of shiny surfaces, only the husk of content need apply.

... So we are grateful for a galvanizing (and literally) enlightening January exhibition at David Zwirner gallery. A show that makes clear that minimalism's New York crew never did, in fact, possess the last gospel word on the aesthetic of reduction, this expert survey of what has alternately been called "California Minimalism," "Light and Space," and, condescendingly, "Finish Fetish" charts a key decade in the development of another pared-down strand of minimal art. This time, rather than obscure theory and stacked slabs of concrete, we get perceptual meditations on light and hedonistic color. Put into Jay Leno-speak: In the separated-at-birth sweepstakes, the gang profiled in this exhibition are, most definitely, the sunny, laidback ones."

As author Will Self once described it, "the surly gravity of L.A. -- pickled in its own nastiness of pollutants."

Sigh. Think we just fell in love all over again. You can have your walking distances and high societies, New York. We'll stick to our open space and lightness of being. Most of all, though, quit worrying your pretty little head about it. And next time you review an L.A. art show, you might think about discussing the work itself -- instead of our perceived inferiority complex, which sort of just becomes your own.

For more on Pacific Standard Time, see LA Weekly's "Celebrating the Freaks and Weirdos of L.A. Art." Also, "Eight Reasons Why L.A. Art Is the Way It Is."

And if you haven't ducked into the car show on La Cienega yet, it's right time you did.

[@simone_electra/swilson@laweekly.com]

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