Beyond Rebels is a cultural history project by Hunter Drohojowska-Philp, artist-in-residence at Grand Central Art Center. Her new website, beyondrebels.com, is meant to expand upon the narrative of her popular book, Rebels in Paradise: The Los Angeles Art Scene and the 1960s. In interviews, articles and photographs, she will continue to explore issues of post-war modern and contemporary art in Southern California. Her first blog concerns the history of the L.A. County Museum of Art with an in-depth interview with Michael Govan, its director since 2011, who discusses architect Peter Zumthor’s design for the new building.
Why A Website? Rebels in Paradise was published by Henry Holt in 2011, the same year that the Getty debuted their initiative Pacific Standard Time initiative. Though unconnected, both evolved from a similar motivation: The need for a more subtantial understanding of the cultural history of Southern California after 1950.
Even ten years ago, it was difficult to put together the scraps and pieces, the anecdotes and timelines, to make sense of the unbridled, eccentric, inventive art being created in Los Angeles and the environs. Even with all the exhibitions and books that have appeared since 2011, it is still a challenge.
Hopefully, this site will offer additional contributions.
My first offering on Beyond Rebels has to do with the the L.A. County Museum of Art and includes the first long-form interview with museum director Michael Govan.
It is worth recalling that L.A. did not have an independent art museum until 1965. Art exhibitions, some of great interest or value, took place in a wing of the 1913 Museum of Natural History, Science and Art in Exposition Park. The dramatic rise in post-war financial success led civic leaders to raise funds for the downtown Music Center and Hancock Park based LACMA, both built in the popular mid-‘60s style of a cultural shopping mall with open plazas and reflecting pools, pavilions for concerts and pavilions for art.
The very first director of LACMA, the highly respected Richard Brown, quickly found himself at odds with the board over his choice of architect for the new museum: Mies van der Rohe. He lost the battle and L.A.-based William Pereira was chosen instead.
Museum directors everywhere are confounded by the fact that they are both leaders and servants, caught between seemingly ungrateful constituencies: wealthy patrons and waspish artists, curators and critics.
The battle continues as Govan faces baffling criticism for the demolition of the outmoded Pereira building, long disliked by artists, critics, curators and the general public. Exhibit A? Ed Ruscha’s painting of the building going up in flames, which he started in 1965, the year the museum opened.
Hence, I sensed it might be worth asking the man bearing the brunt of this weight to clarify a few questions.