Where Art Might Happen: The Early Years of CalArts

Aug. 30 - Nov. 10, 2019

CalArts about 1971-1972
CalArts, unknown, about 1971-1972, California Institute of the Arts Archives Photographic Materials Collection

Artists in the exhibition: Michael Asher, David Askevold, John Baldessari, Ericka Beckman, Ross Bleckner, Barbara Bloom, Troy Brauntuch, Sheila Levrant de Bretteville, Klaus vom Bruch, Judy Chicago, Dorit Cypis, Eric Fischl, Simone Forti, Jack Goldstein, Douglas Huebler, Stephan von Huene, Allan Kaprow, Mike Kelley, Alison Knowles, Suzanne Lacy, Matt Mullican, Daniel Joseph Martinez, John Miller, Susan Mogul, Ann Noël, Tony Oursler, Charlemagne Palestine, Stephen Prina, Anthony Ramos, Ulrike Rosenbach, David Salle, Miriam Schapiro, Mira Schor, Jim Shaw, Wolfgang Stoerchle, Mitchell Syrop, Carrie Mae Weems, James Welling, Faith Wilding, Christopher Williams and Emmett Williams.

“Where Art Might Happen: The Early Years of CalArts“ focuses on the legendary founding years (1970–1980) of the California Institute of the Arts, which has produced numerous well-known artists. This wide-ranging group exhibition presents a variety of perspectives on the school: parallel movements from the milieus of Conceptual Art, feminist art, and Fluxus as well as the school’s radical pedagogical concepts will be brought together for the first time.

A Radical Model for a School

CalArts, which was founded by Walt Disney, opened near Los Angeles in 1970. In its early years, the school developed a radical, groundbreaking model whose interdisciplinary nature was based on previous European and American examples such as the Bauhaus and Black Mountain College. It put teachers and students on equal footing and dispensed with a grading system. With the institutional establishment of conceptual and feminist concepts in John Baldessari’s “Post-Studio“ course and Miriam Schapiro and Judy Chicago’s “Feminist Art Program“, CalArts played a pioneering role. Even then, the focus of the artistic debate was on current social issues such as the questioning of authorship, making artistic working methods more flexible, and the critique of patriarchal power structures.

The Exhibition at the Kestner Gesellschaft

“Where Art Might Happen: The Early Years of CalArts“ focuses on the first ten years of the art school and for the first time brings together the school’s teaching concepts and the artistic practices that developed out of them in a group exhibition. The exhibition features some 100 works by around forty artists, including works that will be presented to the public for the first time.

In addition to artworks and archival materials, the exhibition also includes oral history interviews with thirteen CalArts artists who, as contemporary witnesses, provide individual insights on the situation at the time. In this way, the teaching methods, historical context, and the interdisciplinary connections between the artistic practices will be made visible in an exhibition for the first time. The zeitgeist of the 1970s will also be conveyed through stories of legendary pool parties, courses such as “Advanced Drug Research“, and the abandonment of grades and curricula as fixtures of life at the school. Furthermore, the interviews will reveal a range of personal and interpersonal details.

The Exhibition and Research Project

The exhibition Where Art Might Happen: The Early Years of CalArts is the result of a three-year research project in cooperation with the Free University of Berlin (Prof. Dr. Annette Jael Lehmann), metaLAB (at) Harvard (Prof. Dr. Jeffrey Schnapp, Kim Albrecht), and IMAGE und CONTENT in Zurich (Reto Caduff, documentary filmmaker).

The group show was shown in the Kunsthaus Graz from March 13th to June 7th, 2020.

Curators: Philipp Kaiser and Christina Végh
Assistant curator: Julika Bosch

As part of the research project, an accompanying booklet will be published by Spector Books.

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Patrons / Partners

We thank our patrons for the support of this exhibition.


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