Explore the Era

Delve into the postwar Los Angeles art world in this online archive, which provides additional material related to the exhibitions on view at the Getty Center. Learn about hipsters and happenings, and the venues across the city where all the action took place through images from the archives and first-hand accounts with the artists.



Freeway, 1966, Vija Celmins. Oil on canvas. 17 1/2 x 26 3/8 in. Collection of Harold Cook, Ph.D. © Vija Celmins. Image courtesy McKee Gallery, New York

In the 1950s and 1960s, the rapid expansion of Southern California’s freeways confirmed the reputation of Los Angeles as a city delineated by the car. Vija Celmins’s painting Freeway, included in her exhibition at the David Stuart Gallery in 1966, depicts the 405 Freeway (the first section of which opened in 1961), which Celmins regularly took from Venice to her job at the University of California, Irvine. Based on a photograph taken through the windshield of Celmins’s car, Freeway looks out onto a public realm from a place of private solitude. Though Celmins’s paintings differ significantly from those of New York pop artists concerned with identifiable brands and the bright graphics of mass culture, Freeway undoubtedly epitomizes one of L.A. pop’s defining, and perhaps its most obvious, feature: the centrality of the automobile, whether as a literal subject, a point of view, or a material technique.

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Exhibition audio: Celmins’s experience of Los Angeles

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Explore the Archive

  • Video: Vija Celmins

    Video: Vija Celmins speaks about her work, February 2011

  • Video: Riko Mizuno, Vija Celmins, and Ed Moses

    Video: Riko Mizuno, Vija Celmins, and Ed Moses speak about the Mizuno Gallery, 2009–11

  • Poster for Vija Celmins exhibition

    Poster for Vija Celmins exhibition at David Stuart Galleries in Los Angeles, February 28-March 26, 1966. © Vija Celmins. The Getty Research Institute, Gift of Michael Asher, 2009.M.30.13

  • Vija Celmins

    Vija Celmins in her studio in Venice, California, 1966. Photo by Tony Berlant. Art © Vija Celmins