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State of Mind: New California Art circa 1970

February 29, 2012 - June 17, 2012

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Robert Kinmont: 8 Natural Handstands (detail), 1969/2009; nine black-and-white photographs; 8 1/2 x 8 1/2 in. each; courtesy of Alexander and Bonin, New York. Photo: Bill Orcutt.

“A dense, seemingly encyclopedic presentation of Conceptual art from up and down the coast, shot through with various forms of satire, political fury, and emotional vulnerability."—Roberta Smith, New York Times


State of Mind: New California Art circa 1970
offers the first in-depth survey of Conceptual art and related avant-garde activities in both Northern and Southern California during a pivotal period in contemporary art. Organized as part of Pacific Standard Time, the exhibition showcases more than 150 works of art—installations, photographs, videos and films, artists’ books, and extensive performance documentation—that demonstrate the critical role of California artists in the development of Conceptual art and other new genres.

California attracted artists seeking alternatives to traditional modes of art making because the state was emerging as an incubator for social change and a youth-oriented counterculture. New York represented tradition, California the future. The distance from the New York art press, commercial galleries, and museums gave artists greater freedom to experiment as they challenged the definition of art, the role of the artist, and the academic and institutional structures of the art world. Key aspects of contemporary art practice—collectivity, ephemerality, body-oriented performance, the merging of art and life, political commentary, and social interaction—appeared in California Conceptualism and related practices during this formative period and have continued to influence artists for more than forty years. Perhaps the most enduring legacy of early California Conceptualism, however, was its diversity, which impressed upon succeeding generations a broader understanding of what art could be.

State of Mind features works by sixty artists and collectives, some of who are now internationally known—Ant Farm, John Baldessari, Chris Burden, Lynn Hershman, Bruce Nauman, Martha Rosler, Ed Ruscha—and others who are less recognized but merit renewed attention. Organized thematically, the exhibition brings together artists whose works are not usually seen together to underscore their related interests and to provide a fresh perspective on the development of Conceptual art in California.


State of Mind: New California Art circa 1970 is supported by a grant from the Getty Foundation as part of the unprecedented collaborative initiative Pacific Standard Time: Art in L.A. 1945–1980.

Additional support for State of Mind has been provided by the National Endowment for the Arts. Support from Ms. Robin Wright and Mr. Ian Reeves has made possible the presentation of the pressured air work of Michael Asher. The catalog is supported in part by the Getty Foundation and by Furthermore: a program of the J.M. Kaplan Fund.

State of Mind is co-organized by the University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAM/PFA) and the Orange County Museum of Art (OCMA). The exhibition is co-curated by Constance M. Lewallen, adjunct curator at BAM/PFA, and Karen Moss, adjunct curator at OCMA.

Significant funding for the OCMA presentation of State of Mind is provided by Dr. Rosalyn M. Laudati and Dr. James Pick.

The presentation of State of Mind at BAM/PFA is made possible in part by the continued support of the BAM/PFA Trustees.