On View at the Getty Center: Pacific Standard Time: Crosscurrents in L.A. Painting and Sculpture, 1950-1970
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.