West by Midwest

"West by Midwest" documents artists’ complex networks of collaboration and friendship through the lens of westward migration.

West by Midwest documents artists’ complex networks of collaboration and friendship through the lens of westward migration.

West by Midwest Video Transcript

Michael Darling:

This exhibition is called West by Midwest and it is an exploration of our collection through the lens of artists that had some connection to the Midwest, maybe they were born here, maybe went to school here, but eventually made their way west and helped really define what we now know of as West Coast art.

Charlotte Ickes:

In 1956 Ed Ruscha and Mason Williams set out on Route 66 due west, where they joined other artists to work, study, hang out, and show at the young galleries emerging and cropping up on La Cienega Boulevard in Los Angeles.

Alternative spaces and practices were also appearing along the West Coast. Artists involved with the group Studio Z would come together to improvise and experiment. They staged Senga Nengudi’s performance under a freeway overpass in Los Angeles.

Social movements of the 1960s and 1970s also directly affected many artists’ work. They became involved with the Black Power, Chicano, and Free Speech movements, to name a few.

Up north in Fresno at Cal State, the Feminist Art Program provided an important space for the self-proclaimed “California Girls” to develop their art practice separate from the male-dominated art scene.

Across the five sections of the show, we look at the places where artists met, gathered, studied, and collaborated; the people that composed their personal and professional circles; and, of course, their overlapping approaches to art making.

This exhibition approaches westward movement through artist networks spanning generations and geographies. We hope to show how artists’ interconnected relationships, be it social, political, artistic, or intellectual, have helped shaped the course of contemporary art and practice.