Cover

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Title

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Copyright

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Contents

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List of Illustrations

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pp. ix-x

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Introduction: Dilemmas of Professional Culture

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pp. 1-15

In a passionate, often angry article published in 1963 in Artforum, a new journal dedicated to critical discussion of West Coast art, painter Fred Martin expressed his outrage at the conception of art history embodied in recent exhibition programs at the San Francisco Museum of Art, the nation’s oldest modern art museum west of Manhattan.1 He viewed the...

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1. The Case for Modern Art as a Distinct Form of Knowledge

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pp. 16-30

The foundations for a newly conceived institution of art developed in France during the second half of the nineteenth century, although observers in other countries quickly absorbed and reinterpreted new ideas and new practices that took root first in Paris. After the innovations of painter Gustave Courbet and poet Charles Baudelaire, overlapping...

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2. Modern Art in a Provincial Nation

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pp. 31-58

The linkage of painting with modern conceptions of knowledge found a particularly positive reception in the United States after the Civil War. Taine’s Philosophy of Art, published in English in New York City shortly after the original French volume appeared, went through several editions, unusual, if not extraordinary, for a book of its nature. For decades...

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3. Modern Art and California’s Progressive Legacies

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pp. 59-74

For the first sixty years of the twentieth century, California’s political culture committed the state’s resources to building a public education system second to none, culminating in state-funded college and university programs intended to make quality liberal arts and professional instruction accessible to the state’s residents. California raced far ahead of the...

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4. From an Era of Grand Ambitions

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pp. 75-97

As a prominent figure in California’s countercultural movements of the 1950s and 1960s, Jay DeFeo has often been associated with, at times celebrated for, a supposed Dionysian irrationality that in fact had little to do with the deeply intellectualized project that guided the development of her painting, works on paper, and photography. She shared a widespread...

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5. Becoming Postmodern

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pp. 98-129

On a theoretical level, the postmodern turn after 1960 involved intensive critiques of systems of representation, subjectivity, and the formation of identity. These discussions, largely based in philosophy and the humanities disciplines, came from a broad range of theoretical and methodological perspectives. At no point has there been a unified ‘‘postmodern’’...

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6. California Assemblage: Art as Counterhistory

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pp. 130-153

Ironically, prior to the 1960s, the relative poverty of arts institutions and the paucity of support available allowed for a more transparently democratic arts world, for all suffered to varying degrees from the isolation and lack of resources. Underdevelopment fostered ad hoc community-based improvisations such as the Six Gallery for the sole purpose of...

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7. Learning from the Watts Towers

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pp. 154-181

While well aware of the precedents that Picasso, Schwitters, Picabia, and others in the pre–World War II European modern arts movements had provided for the use of found objects, artists in California cherished their own indigenous source for assemblage art—Sam Rodia’s Watts Towers.1 As she was growing up, Betye Saar often visited her grandmother...

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8. Contemporary Art Along the U.S.-Mexican Border

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pp. 182-207

The problem of how to expand and deepen the relationship of contemporary artists to a broader public, the problem that Purifoy tried to address through his twelve years on the California Arts Council, continues as an unsolved puzzle sparking a variety of improvised responses. Artist-in-community programs have grown since his retirement, and several foundations have collaborated in an initiative to expand support...

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Conclusion: Improvising from the Margins

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pp. 208-214

In the first decades of the twentieth century, the San Francisco Bay Area had only a handful of places regularly showing modern art. At the beginning of 2009, publics with an interest in art had more than 250 possible venues, offering highly diverse programs with distinctive approaches to contemporary art practices.1 Three new museums were in the planning...

Notes

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pp. 215-244

Index

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pp. 245-250

Acknowledgments

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pp. 251-252