I went to the opening of California Video at the Getty Center, which will be up until June 8, 2008.
I thought I'd type up a few first impressions of the show. It doesn't appear to be traveling, so this will be your only opportunity to catch this survey of California video art curated by Glenn Phillips.
The foundation of the show is the video collection of the Long Beach Museum of Art which ran an impressive video program for artists, offering the use of equipment and editing facilities, and collecting video art. For almost twenty years LBMoA was in the vanguard of collecting and promoting contemporary art, so it was somewhat depressing knowing that the museum is now saddled in debt, and has shifted its focus to the decorative arts collected by the blue-hairs that live in the museum's Bluff Park neighborhood.
Before I mention some of the works, I have to give kudos to the exhibition designers. Video art is not like hanging static work. Most of the art makes noise, and the designers have created some innovative displays to overcome any potential cacophony. For works on monitors, the sound is set low, so one can have a sense of what's taking place in the video. There are two attached headphones for better sound quality, and also headphone jacks for the audiophile who might want to bring their own headset. Ant Farm's Eternal Frame is set in a period 60's living room, stocked to the hilt with JFK memorabilia. The Getty did a great job of tracking down period CRTs for the works that require it.
They've also done a great job of making excerpts of the video works available on-line, and they produced an extensive and reasonably priced catalog. There's also a video study room and special screenings taking place throughout the exhibition run. Probably one of the most refreshing aspect of the show is that they haven't censored the exhibition, like so many public institutions that rely on public funding. One can stumble upon Howard Fried's Fuck You Purdue, and watch The Kipper Kids simultaneously piss in a jar.
The show begins with John Baldessari's "I will not make any more boring art," (1971) an early post-painting work that captures a time when irony was new. There's some Diana Thater eye candy, and then a large area with lots of little monitors and installations that show the early video works that showcase the Long Beach video treasure trove. Some of my favorites are William Wegman's Selections from Spit Sandwich, Reel 1 - 3, Suzanne Lacy's Learn Where Meat Comes From, and Joe Rees' Target Video '77, a precursor to MTV.
The good thing is that the Getty has put excerpts of work on line, so folks can revisit about 50 of the works at their leisure. After a few dozen of these smaller works, one rounds a corner to see Jennifer Steinkamp's Oculus Sinister (left eye), and then the larger, more recent, and installation-type work.
Meg Cranston's Volcano, Trash, and Ice Cream suffers from having to edit out the publicity shots of original presentation in Chinatown, I presume because she couldn't secure the photo rights for the images she "trashed." A much better presentation of Martin Kersels' Pink Constellation is up at the Orange County Museum of Art, along with another chunk of Mike Kelley's Day is Done. Rounding out the CalArts corner is Jeff Cain's Radar Balloon.
Rather than have people shuffle out like TV-watching zombies, the show ends with some crowd pleasers like Jim Campbell's Home Movies 920-1, Paul Kos' Chartres Bleu, Bruce and Norman Yonemoto's Framed, and Bill Viola's The Sleepers. Also at the end of the tour is video screening room showing six videos by six artists in a continual loop (not the best solution, considering the Getty's technological ingenuity shown in the rest of the show). If you hit it at the right time, check out Cathy Begien's Black Out.
If you had some favorites I left out, feel free to post them in the comments.