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Here comes Pacific Standard Time: Art in L.A., 1945-1980

September 17, 2011 |  7:00 am

The Los Angeles County Museum on Fire, 1965 - 1968
Is Pacific Standard Time: Art in L.A., 1945-1980, the Getty-sponsored extravaganza of some 60 museum exhibitions that officially kicks off on the first weekend in October, too much of a good thing?

Big and small, conventional and quirky, the shows will unfold all over Southern California over the next six months. (Nine are open now.) A large-scale public sculpture and performance art event will take place during an 11-day festival in January. Commercial galleries are on board, mounting 70 shows that fit the post-Second World War/pre-Age of Reagan time frame. Even a new art fair will piggyback on the opening weekend. PST's interactive website has the avalanche of details.

Seeing all of it will be next to impossible, even for die-hard enthusiasts -- which, ironically, is not such a bad thing. The years between 1945 and 1980 were a remarkable period of social and cultural transformation in Los Angeles,  as they also were in the nation as a whole, and henceforth pretending that not much of significance happened in L.A. art will no longer be possible. The documentary record has always been hard to come by, but the tall and teetering stack of exhibition catalogs will put a serious dent in that long-standing deficiency. The historic scale of the shift is being restored.

Sunday's Arts & Books will have a full-package of stories on what to look for in PST in coming weeks. And I'll have some thoughts on why the period has been under-studied, as well as how the 1945-1980 back-story set up the city to take off as a production center for new art in the last 30 years; you can read my story here.

--Christopher Knight

@twitter.com/KnightLAT

Photo: Edward Ruscha, "The Los Angeles County Museum on Fire," 1965-68, oil on canvas. Credit: Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington D.C.

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