Culture Watch: 'Charles Brittin: West and South,' by Kristine McKenna, Lorraine Wild, Roman Alonso, Lisa Eisner
(Hatje Cantz, $66)
The title couldn't be more blunt: Charles Brittin, who died in January at 82, photographed mostly in California, Louisiana and Mississippi, chronicling Beat generation artists, writers and enthusiasts centered around Venice Beach and the great Wallace Berman, as well as the Black Panther movement and assorted civil rights activities. If his name is not well-known, his work's distance from New York and mainstream publishing is surely the reason why.
Still, some of the 150 images in this book -- 138 never before published -- are familiar, including those showing Berman's arrest on a trumped-up obscenity charge for a Ferus gallery art exhibition and the 1966 anti-Vietnam War "artist's tower" built on Sunset Boulevard. If you recognize the pictures but didn't know the photographer's name, you will now; and expect that circle of appreciation to expand in the fall, as the series of museum exhibitions about L.A. art between 1945 and 1980, "Pacific Standard Time," brings Brittin to countless new eyes.
-- Christopher Knight