Keeping it strictly old school
LA teaching is still top for next generation of artists
By Charlotte Burns and Helen Stoilas. Focus, Issue 242, January 2012
Published online: 16 January 2013
Los Angeles’ art schools are the stuff of legend. Since the 1960s, students have flocked to the city to study under the likes of Allan Kaprow, Chris Burden, John Baldessari and Paul McCarthy. The system of artists teaching artists has made the city into a mecca for creative talent, although the local art market has struggled to establish itself as a major hub, and the city’s museums have yet to attract the visitors and patronage enjoyed by other centres such as New York or London. Such is the schools’ wealth and reputation that the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (LA MoCA), recently embarked on discussions to create a partnership with the University of Southern California (USC), which is in the middle of an aggressive $6bn fundraising drive.
“LA is first and foremost a city where the schools dominate,” says Paul Schimmel, the former chief curator at LA MoCA. “The best and the brightest apply to LA because the schools have unprecedented success—if you get in, then you’re one step closer.”
“The MFA programmes attract a lot of talented young artists, but also established artists, fostering an intergenerational conversation. It is very Californian—the casual absence of hierarchy,” says Mieke Marple, the co-director of the Night Gallery.
The not-so-secret ingredient to the success of LA’s art schools is that the teachers are working artists themselves. “When you had people like Robert Irwin and Ed Moses teaching at UC Irvine in the 1960s, it demonstrated to the other schools that bringing in strong personalities creates a fulcrum around which you can build a programme,” says the director of the LA Louver gallery, Peter Goulds, who came to the West Coast as a University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) visiting lecturer in 1972.