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The Art of the City: Modernism, Censorship, and the Emergence of Los Angeles's Postwar Art Scene

From: American Quarterly
Volume 56, Number 3, September 2004
pp. 663-691 | 10.1353/aq.2004.0043


"The Art of the City" asks how Los Angeles's world-renowned 1960s art scene, a scene celebrated for its youth, dynamic use of new industrial materials, regional specificity, and sexy masculinity, emerged in the face of decades of municipal censorship and anti-modernist politics. Despite years of elite self-promotion and civic boosting of the city as a center for high art, it was not until the beat counterculture made headlines that Los Angeles attracted international attention as a significant site for art production, exhibition, and collection. Yet it was never inevitable that Los Angeles would host an innovative and commercially successful modern art scene. Rather, Los Angeles's 1960s art world benefited from complex social and spatial struggles between diverse creative communities and Los Angeles's conservative authorities, including the City Council, the Los Angeles Police Department, and the County Board of Supervisors.