California Takes New York

In a new exhibit at the Bronx Museum of Art, Independent Curators International brings 1970’s California to life and all of its quirky approaches to its era.

What do First Lady Pat Nixon, the chicken dance, a yellow room and a war ritual performance have in common? Apparently, the California art scene in the 1970’s.

Beginning on Sunday, June 23, State of Mind: New California Art circa 1970 makes its only East Coast stop at the Bronx Museum of the Arts. The exhibition captures the far-flung nature of an art world where anything goes, and is organized into various themes that era touched on, including feminism, war, psychology and the art of making art.

Exceptionally curated by Constance Lewallen and Karen Moss, the exhibition features well known artists like Paul McCarthy, Bruce Nauman and Lynn Hershman, but also lesser known artists whose work still shaped an art culture that may have unwillingly left a huge imprint.

Of particular note in the exhibit are the works that touch on issues of politics and feminism. Pictured above is Martha Rosler’s First Lady (Pat Nixon) from her series House Beautiful: Bringing the War Home. In this series, Rosler attempted to juxtapose the complacency of domestic American life with the horrors of the world, and the Vietnam War in particular. In this work, the painting behind Mrs. Nixon is replaced by the iconic final scene in Bonnie and Clyde, where Bonnie is riddled with bullets, and was meant to symbolize the excessive violence in our culture. Other photomontage works by Rosler also stand out, including Bowl of Fruit, in which she took soft-core porn from men’s magazines and transposed them onto scenes of domesticity—an unmistakable criticism of the role of women in society.

The exhibition also opens with a nod to the rise of performance art during this time with a reenactment, nearly 40 years later, of War Games, which was done by Darryl Sapien and Michael A. Hinton at Third and Howard Streets in San Francisco in 1973, and was meant to recall an era in which disputes were handled in a more personal manner. On Sunday, the performance will be completed by their sons, Joaquin Sapien and Jeffrey Hinton.

This exhibition, which runs through September 8th, is well worth the quick subway ride this summer.