Let’s Go To This: Birth of the Cool

I think my addiction to the television series of Mad Men has led me to believe this will be good.

Do you like hard-edge paintings? Molded plywood? The color “avocado”? Of course you do.

Birth of the Cool:
California Art, Design, and Culture at Midcentury
Running now through August 17
Oakland Museum of California
1000 Oak @ 10th Street

Birth of the Cool [yes, it is inspired by the Miles Davis album] looks at the painting, architecture, furniture design, decorative and graphic arts, film, and music that launched mid-century modernism in the United States, and established Los Angeles as a major American cultural center.

So, this SF girl is going to Oakland to an exhibition that celebrates LA? I know, right? I’m so there. Among the 150 pieces, apparently there’s a “jazz lounge” (of course, I don’t know what kind of 1950s era jazz lounge prohibits smoking), which should be suitable strange. I think the people most into this will be coming to see the Van Keppel-Green and Eames furniture. Is there a word for furniture-nerds yet? They have a neighborhood (the Deco Ghetto) in SF, so there should be enough of a presence for nomenclature.

Anyway, there’s also…wait for it…an interactive timeline that “highlights examples of California, national, and international culture and history in the 1950s.” Were I around in that time, I’d like to be in either Prague or Paris, or Berlin. Just saying.

Some of the artists in the exhibit:
Karl Benjamin paintings
William Claxton record covers, photography
Charles and Ray Eames furniture and designs
Craig Ellwood architecture
Van Keppel Green furniture
Frederick Hammersley paintings
Lorser Feitelson paintings
Pierre Koenig architecture
Helen Lundeberg paintings
John McLaughlin paintings
Richard Neutra architecture
Julius Shulman photographs

Most of my knowledge of art in the 50s and 60s is informed by the Black Mountain College, so I think it will be interesting to see the resonances and differences between the coasts. And a big up to the museum’s Chief Curator of Art, Philip Linhares, for doing something interdisciplinary, and based as much on place as era. That’s the way the conversation that is making art develops.

So, let’s go to this.


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