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Pomona College Museum of Art Presents an Artist Conversation Hosted by Helene Winer with John Baldessari, William Leavitt, Allen Ruppersberg

Helen Winer artist conversation flyer

Pomona College Museum of Art is pleased to announce an artist conversation moderated by Helene Winer, and featuring “It Happened at Pomona: Art at the Edge of Los Angeles 1969-1973”artists John Baldessari, William Leavitt, and Allen Ruppersberg, on Sunday, February 19, at 3 p.m. in Pomona College’s Rose Hills Theatre (170 E. Sixth St., Claremont), followed by a reception at the museum. Both events are free and open to the public.

The event is being held in conjunction with the exhibition “It Happened at Pomona: Art at the Edge of Los Angeles: Part 2: Helene Winer at Pomona,” which documents Winer’s curatorial vision and her recognition of a uniquely Southern California interpretation of post-minimalism and post-Conceptualism that would alter the course of art history. Winer championed a group of artists, among them Baldessari, Leavitt and Ruppersberg, who were channeling the experiential qualities of minimalist and post-minimalist sculpture into performance art, video, and, most significantly, conceptual photography featuring staged scenarios, realistic environments, and innovative, often wryly humorous, uses of language.

Helene Winer began her career as a curatorial assistant at LACMA. She was in London at The Whitechapel Gallery as Assistant Director in the late 60s, returning to Los Angeles in 1970 as the Gallery Director/Curator at Pomona College. After Pomona, she wrote briefly for the Los Angeles Times before moving to New York, where she did freelance projects before becoming Director of Artists Space in 1975.  In 1980 Winer, in partnership with Janelle Reiring, started Metro Pictures.

“Part 2: Helene Winer at Pomona” focuses on the cutting edge curatorial programs that Winer presented as gallery director and curator at the Pomona College Museum of Art from the fall of 1970 through the spring of 1972. During this time, Winer organized exhibitions of Bas Jan Ader, John Baldessari, Ger van Elk, Jack Goldstein, Joe Goode, William Leavitt, John McCracken, Ed Moses, Allen Ruppersberg and William Wegman. She also presented performance work by artists such as Chris Burden (’69), Hirokazu Kosaka, Wolfgang Stoerchle, and John M. White. Winer gave Goldstein and Wegman their first solo exhibitions, provided significant early exposure for Ader, Ruppersberg, Leavitt, van Elk, and Stoerchle, and offered exhibitions to established Los Angeles artists such as Goode, McCracken, and Moses.

The influence of John Baldessari on the development of appropriation art in New York has been well documented; however, rarely is this influence explored in depth and across the horizon of the Southern California landscape. In fact, as Baldessari has acknowledged (in Richard Hertz’s Jack Goldstein and the CalArts Mafia), he regularly took his CalArts students on the 60-mile journey from Valencia to Claremont to see the exhibitions that Winer curated at Pomona College: “she would show work no one else was interested in.” This exhibition includes two early works by Baldessari, including Evidence: A Potential Print (1970), which scatters, in a corner, ashes from Baldessari’s 1970 Cremation Project. In the summer of 1970, Baldessari burned all of his pre-1966 paintings that were still in his possession in a mortuary crematorium and published a death notice in the local San Diego newspaper. Several months later, in December, he used some of those ashes for two pieces in Helene Winer’s “Monoprints” exhibition. Through his work he was attempting, in his own words, “to avoid both ink and paper, but also the ACT, or at least delay the act or stretch it out in time.” The act he refers to is the creation of art and the process of printmaking, which he replaced with the concept of leaving behind evidence to mark one’s presence.

Winer was particularly interested in Bas Jan Ader, Ger van Elk and William Leavitt because of their innovative use of imagery, humor, cultural references, and wide-ranging content in varied mediums, and included them in a three-person exhibition in early 1972. Leavitt’s California Patio—essentially the construction of a “real” California-style patio inside the museum—was first shown at Pomona College in 1972. Leavitt recalls, “I was fascinated by suburbia. I had a catalog of swimming pools that was put out by a big swimming pool company in Los Angeles, and it had these great shots of people’s backyards with their pools. I would just study it, as a kind of amateur sociologist. I was looking at all the different possibilities, and I was also interested in what was generic, or reduced. I wanted to see what I could do in terms of not being particular, maybe take from all of these backyards and present something that embodies all those middle-class patios. So I think I wanted to recreate something of that backyard suburban feeling, which was California Patio.”

Calling Allen Ruppersberg “the ultimate Los Angeles artist,” Winer notes that he perfectly fit a new direction in Conceptual art that she saw emerging in Los Angeles in the early 1970s. She cites his use of the city—its popular culture, history, and locations—and his ability to move around without a standard studio as emblematic of a new generation of L.A. artists. Ruppersberg’s exhibition at Pomona College opened on October 31, 1972, the anniversary of Houdini’s death. Ruppersberg produced several works around the great escape artist and the subject of magic, sleight of hand, or visual trickery. He describes The Disappearing Chinese Theatre as “a fake magic trick…a magic trick where you see the wires.” Other works exhibited at Pomona reflected his recent interest in humorous, but obliquely open-ended narratives.

About It Happened at Pomona: Art at the Edge of Los Angeles 1969-1973

From 1969 to 1973, a series of radical art projects took place at the far eastern edge of Los Angeles County at the Pomona College Museum of Art. Here, Hal Glicksman, a pioneering curator of Light and Space art, and Helene Winer, later the director of Artists Space and Metro Pictures in New York, curated landmark exhibitions by local artists who bridged the gap between Conceptual art and postminimalism, and presaged the development of postmodernism in the later 1970s.

Providing unprecedented and revelatory insight into the art history of postwar Los Angeles, the project It Happened at Pomona: Art at the Edge of Los Angeles 1969-1973 consists of three distinct, but related, exhibitions curated by Rebecca McGrew and Glenn Phillips—“Part 1: Hal Glicksman at Pomona” on view August 30 to November 6, 2011; “Part 2: Helene Winer at Pomona” on view December 3, 2011 to February 19, 2012; and “Part 3: At Pomona” (studio art faculty and students) on view March 10 to May 13, 2012.

The catalogue for It Happened at Pomona: Art at the Edge of Los Angeles 1969-1973 chronicles the activities of artists, scholars, students, and faculty associated with the College. Featuring interviews with Hal Glicksman and Helene Winer, archival reprints, and eighteen new interviews with artists of the era, the book contains 280 images. The catalogue is available for purchase for $49.95 through D.A.P./Distributed Art Publishers and Artbook.com.

Support for It Happened at Pomona: Art at the Edge of Los Angeles 1969-1973 generously provided by the Getty Foundation.

The Pomona College Museum of Art (330 N. College Ave., Claremont, CA) is open to the public free of charge. For more information, call (909) 621-8283 or visit www.pomona.edu/museum.