New Exhibit: Beth Rudin DeWoody at Parrish
by stacey goergen
Select works of California-based sculptor DeWain Valentine, installed at the Parrish Art Museum
The concept for the whimsically titled exhibition EST-3: Southern California in New York: Los Angeles Art from the Beth Rudin DeWoody Collection, at the Parrish Art Museum, came about during a discussion this past October between Beth Rudin DeWoody and Parrish director Terrie Sultan. DeWoody, art collector and occasional curator, had recently returned from visiting Pacific Standard Time: Art in L.A. 1945–1980, a series of simultaneous exhibitions by more than 60 galleries and museums in the Los Angeles area. Celebrating the rich history of post-war art in Southern California, the ambitious undertaking introduced and, in some cases, re-introduced a large number of Los Angeles artists to the world.
DeWoody owns work by many of these artists, including Frederick Hammersley, John McLaughlin, and Ed Ruscha; she began collecting in the early 1970s when she was living in Southern California. During her conversation with Sultan, “almost simultaneously, we thought that doing a show from her collection would be an interesting take on the theme,” says the Parrish director. DeWoody, who had been thinking about exactly such a show, told Sultan, “I already have a title—Eastern Standard Time minus three.”
“We thought of EST-3 as being a way to extend the conversation about the importance of artists working in Los Angeles at the time, from the point of view of the East Coast,” says Sultan.
The Parrish’s adjunct curator, Los Angeles–based David Pagel, worked closely with DeWoody to select more than 150 works from her extensive collection. “What I really love is that she didn’t look at California as a place that started in the 1960s with the Venice beach boys,” says Pagel, referring to artists such as Ed Ruscha, Larry Bell, Craig Kaufman, John McCracken, and Robert Irwin. While DeWoody’s collection includes these artists, it isn’t a cookie-cutter-representation of what art historians believe to be important art from the region and period. “She managed to do PST on her own—ahead of PST!”
With the Parrish show, DeWoody gives visitors the opportunity to see her view of art in Los Angeles during this period, while reflecting PST’s goal of introducing viewers to the fullness of the region’s art (it provides a solid crosssection of what was on view at the LA exhibitions). “She started a little earlier, in the 1950s, and she linked these artists with McLaughlin, [Karl] Benjamin, [Lee] Mullican, and Hammersley,” says Pagel. “Even pushing it back to the 1940s. I just love that. She included that as a continuum rather than follow the standard view of it starting in the 1960s. The mythos around here is that everything started with Ferus Gallery, and she got around that.” (Ferus, the renowned gallery on La Cienega Boulevard, operated from 1957 to 1966 and fostered the careers of many of the most celebrated Los Angeles artists.)
One of PST’s intentions was to re-examine the notion that Los Angeles was a cultural backwater until this emergence, bringing earlier artists, as well as those operating outside the historical canon, into the picture. “The East Coast didn’t know about many of these artists when I started collecting them,” says DeWoody. After she moved from Southern California in 1973, she continued to build this collection and is still adding to it today.
Divided into three simple themes—People, Places, and Things—EST-3 focuses on the immediacy of its works and invites the viewer to come to his own interpretation. This well-installed show also displays pieces by Eleanor Antin, John Baldessari, Billy Al Bengston, Dennis Hopper, and Ed Kienholz, to name a few. Pagel emphasizes that the collection includes clean, minimalist work, as well as messy assemblages, attesting to DeWoody’s wide-ranging tastes.
“You get a view of a real individual, looking at this collection,” says Pagel. “I am familiar with loads of collections where it looks like they are buying from the same company. Beth’s collection isn’t like that at all. In a way, it’s sort of an old-school collection. The job is discovering things yourself and doing things yourself. You get a sense of an individual doing something.” EST-3: Southern California in New York: Los Angeles Art from the Beth Rudin DeWoody Collection is on display through June 17 at the Parrish Art Museum, 25 Jobs Lane, Southampton, 283-2118
photography by Gary Mamay (opener, art); Ginger Propper (sultan)