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Mapping an Art World: Los Angeles in the 1970s-80s at MOCA

Mike Kelley, Manly Craft #3, 1989.

Mapping an Art World: Los Angeles in the 1970s-80s revisits the decades leading up to the founding of The Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) in 1979 and the opening of MOCA’s Grand Avenue building in 1986. Through the presentation of works from MOCA’s collection, the exhibition aims to reconsider the pivotal decades of the 1970s and 1980s, and to explore the spirit of experimentation and collaboration and the unique cultural and social landscape that contributed to and firmly established Los Angeles as one of the most dynamic art capitals in the world, and MOCA as an enduring presence for the city’s artists. The exhibition is on view June 18, 2023 till March 10, 2024.

Before the city’s first dedicated contemporary art museum was established, Los Angeles was home to disparate, heterogeneous art scenes with artists forming different nodes and establishing tight networks throughout the city—from Venice to East LA, and from the California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) in the north to the Brockman Gallery in Leimert Park. In the absence of a contemporary art museum, artists utilized unconventional contexts including the street, the studio, the art school, and other public spaces to show and present their art, while embracing performative and ephemeral actions to engage their publics in more immediate ways. In doing so, artists were responding to the possibilities of a burgeoning art scene and the urban sprawl and dispersed landscape of LA.

Featuring more than 200 artworks and pieces of archival ephemera—including beloved works by Eleanor Antin, John Baldessari, Mike Kelley, Claes Oldenburg, and Ed Ruscha alongside more rarely-exhibited works and new acquisitions by Carole Caroompas, Alonzo Davis, Ilene Segalove, and Joey Terrill, among others– Mapping an Art World examines MOCA’s origins as an artist-founded museum as well as its commitment developing a world-class collection.

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