Will we ever know how much we’ve missed by largely ignoring everything created outside New York City after World War II?

Perhaps not without a time machine, but “L.A. Raw: Abject Expressionism in Los Angeles 1945–1980, From Rico Lebrun to Paul McCarthy” at the Pasadena Museum of California Art traces the development of art imbued with the politics that so many taste-makers seemed adverse to in the decades after World War II. Like many exhibitions organized under the auspices of the Pacific Standard Time festival, the show offers another slice of American history that mainstream art history scholarship often ignores.

"The exhibition’s significant contributions," wrote Greg Cook in the May/June issue of Art New England, “are to tease out links between [painter Rico] Lebrun and the present, as well as to illuminate another regional perspective in the often-untold history of the past century of American art outside of New York.”

As usual, Cook doesn’t pull any punches regarding the modern art myopia of the New York money machine, but this quote he includes from a 1959 Time Magazine article is a gem: “While abstract expressionism rules the cash register in Manhattan’s prospering art galleries, young artists across the land are turning back to images—but with a difference.”

Art and activism in the heyday of Greenberg-ian modernism. Who knew?
Rico Lebrun, Untitled (Three figures), 1960, ink wash on paper. 18 × 18½". Private collection.
Pictured: Rico Lebrun, Untitled (Three figures), 1960, ink wash on paper. 18 x 18½”. Private collection.


L.A. Raw" was on view at the Pasadena Museum of California Art From January through May 2012 as part of the Pacific Standard Time festival.