In the decentralized mega-sprawl of the Los Angeles basin, the Inland Empire — the vast region that extends from the eastern edge of the San Gabriel Valley out to Palm Springs — more often than not, gets credited with being an amorphous hinterland. Rather than being a cultural backwater, the IE is populated with many venues for contemporary art. Although it is impossible in the limited scope of this article to cover all the galleries and museums that serve the Inland Empire, here is a brief introduction to three curators and three venues that comprise a vibrant contemporary art core by providing consistently high quality programming.
Since it was commissioned in 1958, the Pomona College Museum of Art has split its attentions between the historical and the contemporary. Even so, observes the museum's curator, Rebecca McGrew, programming for contemporary exhibitions was inconsistent prior to 1969. In the years from 1969 through 1973, two successive curators, Hal Glicksman and Helene Winer, focused the museum's efforts to support emerging art in Southern California. This dynamic period in the museum's history featured experimentation from some of the leading exponents of light and space art, conceptual practice, Finish Fetish and performance.
In 1999, McGrew formalized the museum's commitment to fostering new, risk-taking work when she initiated its current Project Series. At the time, other institutions in Southern California exhibited emerging artists, but programming was intermittent, and in many cases, no publication accompanied the exhibit. Since its start, the Project Series has shown 42 artists — three each year. McGrew works with each artist in the series to design a unique publication that, McGrew says, serves to "provide critical scholarly information and extend the artist's and the museum's ability to reach a broader audience."
One of the most compelling aspects of the museum's dual focus is the way it allows for discourse between artists, and across the historical/contemporary