Gunnar, can you tell us about the initial idea behind the exhibition Los Angeles – A Fiction?
If we look at it in a wider context first, the Western concept of art and the Western artistic language has become universal over the past ten to fifteen years. This means that today, artists worldwide are working from the same premises in terms of artistic concepts and languages, even though they emerge from different cultural and linguistic contexts. During these years, Astrup Fearnley Museet has researched how contemporary art has been developing within these different cultural fields, as represented through the exhibitions Uncertain States of America, China Power Station, Indian Highway, Imagine Brazil and Europe, Europe, to name a few.
In this exhibition, we primarily sought an exhibition concept that would reflect L.A.’s varied, rich and contradictory society through visual art and authorship. In doing so, we created a fictional view of L.A., yet a view that originates from reality – a reality connected to the city’s great, mythological entertainment Industry, but also containing complex relationships between the different social classes and a range of demographics that might be surprising in a society that from a distance seems to be an idyllic place.
While the exhibition concept is a "fiction" and not a survey of the art history of Los Angeles, the curatorial team has selected some of the most significant artists who live and work in L.A. The selection also illustrates some of the art-historical traditions in L.A. such as 1960s Pop art, the Conceptual art of the 1970s, Minimalism with its Finish Fetish, the Light and Space movement, the great and important post-conceptual movements, and not least all the artists with a social and political engagement.
Alongside the visual arts, we’ve also included a selection of literary texts, presented in the form of a book. This selection doesn’t represent an exhaustive anthology of Los Angeles, but the chosen extracts are organised so that they tell a story that complements the artworks. Collectively, the visual and text-based narratives provide an insight into the great diversity of subjects prompted by Los Angeles, but also of the sheer number of communities, characters and landscapes that make up the city.
Why is Astrup Fearnley Museet focusing on Los Angeles now?
During the past five to ten years, all eyes in the art world have been on the art market in Los Angeles and we’ve been following the city’s art scene carefully for years. Due to prestigious Californian-art programmes at universities and art schools, and the close relationship with these educational institutions enjoyed by the many iconic artists who’ve worked there as professors, the art scene in L.A. has been considered the most significant part of American contemporary art on an academic level. The city’s artists from the 60s and 70s, such as Larry Bell, Ed Ruscha, Kenneth Anger, have gained an iconic status in art history, while artists from the generation after them, such as Charles Ray, Paul McCarthy and Henry Taylor, have been receiving great international recognition since the 1980s. Over recent years, several young and aspiring L.A. artists have received great attention internationally.
The reason why Astrup Fearnley Museet is focusing on Los Angeles now is because the city’s art and cultural community has never been presented in Norway, or in the Nordic countries in general, on a large scale the past 20 years, and we thought it was about time we took a closer look at the extraordinary development that’s occurred in California and Los Angeles the past 60 years.
This exhibition gives us an opportunity to present for the first time important works by significant artists such as Larry Bell, Ed Ruscha, Robert Irwin and John Baldessari, and at the same time to present mid-generation artists like Charles Ray, Stayna Kahn, John Divola, and also today’s young, aspiring artists, such as Jonas Wood, Brian Calvin and Nancy Lupo.
In the larger art world – with all its different art capitals spread across different continents – Los Angeles has an important status and has played a significant role in the development of the Western concept of art. So it’s been an exciting project to collect and present some of the most interesting art that’s emerged from this dynamic context.
The exhibition Los Angeles – A Fiction is on view at Astrup Fearnley Museet until 22 January 2017.