October 4, 2013

The University of Chicago’s Smart Museum of Art is presenting State of Mind: New California Art Circa 1970, an exhibition investigating the origins of seminal conceptual art and related avant-garde activities in the 1960s and 1970s.

In the 1970s, California was an incubator of social change and counter-culture that attracted artists seeking alternatives to traditional modes of art making. Artists began freely experimenting and upending traditional art in search of forms more suitable to the concerns of the moment, including the Civil Rights Movement, the Chicano students’ protests against racism and inequality, and the Vietnam War. These artists moved out of museums and galleries and into the streets, aspiring to create a community that fostered an exchange of radical forms and ideas.

State of Mind focuses on Conceptualism’s examination of public and private space through installations, a relatively unexplored area of study, and also juxtaposes the practice of northern and southern California artists. The exhibition centers on 10 themes: the street, the environment, politics, feminism, domestic space, public space, perceptual and psychological space, the body and performance, art about art and artists’ books and ephemera. The exhibition showcases Conceptualism’s use of ideas, language and systems of meaning.

Organized thematically, the exhibition includes video, film, photography, installation, artists’ books, drawings and paintings as well as extensive performance documentation and ephemera. The artists featured include a range of major international figures to lesser-known artists who nonetheless made important contributions, including Ant Farm, John Baldessari, Chris Burden, Lynn Hershman, Bruce Nauman, Martha Rosler and Ed Ruscha.

As a counterpoint to the main exhibition, the Smart will present a selection of the Museum’s rich holdings of Chicago Imagist and self-taught artists from this same time period. This adjoining display in the Smart’s contemporary gallery will feature newly produced artist interview videos with Karl Wirsum, Sue Ellen Rocca, and Barbara Rossi.

State of Mind is curated by Constance Lewallen and Karen Moss and co-organized by the Orange County Museum of Art and the University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive. Independent Curators International, New York, organized the tour. State of Mind will be exhibited until Jan. 12, 2014.