Los Angeles County Museum of Art

Los Angeles, CA


left: Main Museum Complex, right: LACMA West, photos, ©1999 John Hazeltine




Made in California: Art, Image, and Identity, 1900-2000

Section 1: 1900 - 1920

October 22, 2000 - March 18, 2001


Section 1 of Made in California examines the years 1900 to 1920 and establishes the conceptual foundation for the exhibition. The myths by which California is most often identified formed at this time, as the state's boosters in industry, regional government, and the press promoted California to a largely white middle-class constituency. Section 1 begins on the plaza level of the Hammer Building and includes three media stations, one with period footage of California, another presenting early depictions of California's Latino and Asian communities, and the third featuring a commissioned documentary on Hollywood glamour that serves as a prelude to Section 2, which covers the 1920s and 1930s. This section also features an Arts and Crafts period room. A golden vision of California as an unspoiled paradise dominated the popular consciousness during this period. The arts played a pivotal role in shaping and popularizing this Edenic image. Works such as Moonrise over San Diego Bay (1915) by Maurice Braun offered a welcome antidote to the modern city as Easterners and Midwesterners sought to escape the effects of immigration and industrialization, although California was actually becoming urbanized and industrialized as well. A strong market existed for paintings such as Granville Richard Redmond's California Poppy Field, (n.d.), which depicts wild poppies seemingly forming royal carpets to welcome newcomers to the state. (left: Maurice Braun, Moonrise over San Diego Bay, 1915, oil on canvas, 22 x 28 inches, Collection of Joseph Ambroise, Los Angeles)

At this time, the l9th-century conception of California as rugged, sublime geography was being replaced with images of its agricultural richness. In addition to fine art, popular media such as orange crate labels and postcards were showcasing this bounty, though rarely intimating the labor required to cultivate the natural terrain by a largely immigrant and minority work force. (left: Redlands Orange Growers' Association, Rose Brand Oranges, c. 1910, crate label, 10 x 11 inches, McClelland Collection)

Although California was largely promoted in the early part of the century as a haven for whites, the state's official boosters and many of its artists cultivated myths about the region's cultural character. Its Spanish mission history was romanticized in such works as Helen Hunt Jackson's novel Ramona and John McGroarty's Mission Play (1928) which became perhaps California' s most famous theatrical performance of the period. One of the most beloved paintings in the collection of The Bowers Museum of Cultural Art, Confirmation Class, Mission San Juan Capistrano, by Fannie Eliza Duvall is emblematic of artistic interest in the mission mystique from this period.

Also frequently portrayed by boosters and artists at this time were California' s Asian communities, present in the region since the Gold Rush. The famous German photographer Arnold Genthe cast the inhabitants of San Francisco's Chinatown in shadows, creating an unreal sense of mystery, In addition to works of art, the exhibition will display a variety of literature that includes racist flyers disseminated by the Asiatic Exclusion League, as well as travel booklets like Coronado as Seen Through Japanese Eyes.

From early on, California attracted many new residents searching for more holistic, alternative lifestyles. At the beginning of the century, spiritual communities such as the Lomaland Theosophical Colony in San Diego were established, Included in the exhibition will be a ceremonial chair designed by Theosophist Reginald Machell for Lomaland's founder, Katherine Tingley. Exhibition visitors will also see the enigmatic painting Dream of Youth by Mabel Alvarez. (left: Alvin Langdon Coburn, Giant Palm Trees, California Mission, 1911, platinum print 15 7/8 x 12 1/4 inches, Internation Museum of Photography, George Eastman House, Gift of Alvin Langdon Coburn (67.0157:0049) Courtesy George Eastman House)

Many of the myths cultivated about California at this time found expression at two international expositions that occurred in 1915: The Panama Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco, and the Panama California Exposition in San Diego. Both of these fairs will be featured in Made in California with film footage, photographs, brochures, and other souvenirs.

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