Weisman Museum to Celebrate 25th Anniversary with “California Dreaming” Exhibition

August 22, 2017  | 3 min read

The Frederick R. Weisman Museum of Art at Pepperdine University will celebrate its 25th anniversary through the new exhibition, California Dreaming: Selections from the Frederick R. Weisman Art Foundation from August 29 through December 10. To mark the occasion, a preview opening reception will be held on Sunday, August 27, from 4 to 6 PM. A 25th anniversary party will be hosted on Tuesday, September 26, from noon to 8 PM.

The selected pieces will focus on California art from the 1960s to the present, with an emphasis of the historic period of the 60s through the 80s. Businessman and art collector Frederick Weisman believed in supporting the art in his own city, and during this time became an important patron to many of the region’s up and coming artists. The work on view reflects his deep personal relationships with many of the painters and chronicles the period when Los Angeles emerged to become one of the nation’s leading art centers.

The exhibition title is taken from the 1965 hit pop song first made famous by The Mamas & the Papas, and later covered by the Beach Boys, which came to epitomize the California Sound. It reflects the optimism of Los Angeles in the early 1960s and the newly emerging beach culture, filled with sunny skies, sand, surfing, and fast cars. Artists responded to this cultural dynamic by using bright, shiny materials and colorful, optimistic imagery to create a new aesthetic that celebrated a direct sensory experience. 

This heady mix of powerful inspirations spawned a number of related art movements that established the look of the time. Some artists—such as Billy Al Bengston, Tony Berlant, Joe Goode, and Ed Ruscha—responded to the popular imagery of the emerging beach culture and created a new type of California Pop Art.

Surfboards and hotrods became the new cultural icons of the era. Inspired by their slick, polished surfaces, artists began making art using resin and fiberglass, creating the Fetish Finish movement. Ron Davis, Craig Kaufman, and John McCracken crafted perfectly smooth minimal sculptures with glowing, vibrant colors and shiny, reflective surfaces that captured the nonchalant attitude of the alternative culture.

California became celebrated for its brilliant light and wide-open spaces. Artists began to explore these qualities, using real light and actual space, creating the Light and Space movement. Artists such as Lita Albuquerque, Larry Bell, Mary Corse, Laddie John Dill, Helen Pashgian, and De Wain Valentine crafted art using translucent, transparent, or reflective materials that capture and incorporate natural or artificial light into the fabric of the work.

Many of these artists were referred to as The Cool School, because of their casual, nonchalant approach to both art and life. The new California art of the 60s was reductive and dispassionate, with a slick and sophisticated look. This work was championed by The Ferus Gallery, which operated for less than a decade—from 1957 to 1966—but exhibited the most challenging and experimental art. The California look soon began to influence art and culture across the nation, and even had an international impact.

Although the exhibition emphasizes historic work from the 60s through the 80s, it also includes younger artists such as Andy Moses, Gary Lang, Joel Morrison, Evan Nesbit, and Ruth Pastine who continue a dialogue with their elder colleagues. Together this exhibition offers a fascinating overview of the powerful currents in the art of our time.

California Dreaming was curated by Billie Milam Weisman and is supported by the Frederick R. Weisman Art Foundation and an anonymous donor.

The museum is open Tuesday through Sunday, from 11 AM to 5 PM, and admission is free.

For additional information about this exhibition, visit the Weisman Museum website.

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