In This Issue: Art, History, and Criticism

Article excerpt

It can seem as if recent changes in how we learn do little more than facilitate a quantitative randomness. But the centrality of the Internet to intellectual work has made visible one under-recognized and revolutionary truth: the collective nature of creating knowledge. Bringing new information and new narratives into existence is an enormous and enormously difficult undertaking, best attempted by many people working together. This shared activity still happens largely with the support and under the umbrella of institutions. (Although, as I write this, it occurs to me that it is conceivable to do it without them, and I wonder why we don't attempt this more often.) Institutional resources and focus are one reason that major museums have become central to scholarship and even to creating art, as well as displaying it; I hope that Art Journal has acknowledged this development, pointing to ;the dangers of agendas, but also to the possibilities of scale.

Over the past several years, any number of large art initiatives have taken shape, including Former West's exploration of contemporary art in the context of a post-1989 world; the International Center for the Arts of the Americas at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; and the investigation at the Haus der Kunst in Munich of the social landscape during and after World War II. Many of these .projects--all of them curatorial, archival, and discursive in scope--revisit and 'revise understanding of late-modern geographies and politics, emphasizing the global or the transnational in place of national histories, in concert with the local., iSeen from constantly changing present perspectives, history also changes. In this 'vein, one project in particular has promised to unsettle the understanding of art in the United States: Pacific Standard Time, the Getty-sponsored initiative exploring art in Southern California between i945 and 1980.

This special issue on Los Angeles and Southern California art took shape in a bar in Brooklyn, where I met with Allen Ruppersberg in 2011. Despite his 'bicoastal status, Ruppersberg (who originally came to L.A. to study graphic design' at Chouinard) is often seen as the classic Los Angeles artist. His early art, most famously Al's Cafe (1969) and Al's Grand Hotel (1971), but also his photographic books, was determinedly site-specific, capturing the structure as well as the affect hof L.A. Highly influential, his work ended up constructing as much as reflecting 'its setting and the art produced there.

Ruppersberg's project for Art Journal is essentially two hundred-odd images culled by the artist from his personal archive of art and lifestyle magazines with a focus on Southern California, primarily from the 196os and early 1970s. (Art journal's covers feature the earliest image in that archive, from 1947.) His collection ranges from special issues of art magazines that fetishize the novelty of L.A, to the Sunday magazine of the Los Angeles Times, to early issues of Artforum, whose masthead and subscription cards reveal its initial location in San Francisco and subsequent move to Los Angeles (easy to forget). The pictures often oscillate weirdly between provinciality and glamour, as if uncertain whether Los Angeles would assume its own legitimacy as a place to make and see art, or remain a curiosity for the delectation of those who lived in "real" centers of culture, in Europe and New York. …