By Anna Reser
The Getty Conservation Institute has published a new book by one of its associate scientists, Rachel Rivenc, about the craft and materiality of West Coast Minimalism in the 1960s. The institute employs a staff of scientists to develop new approaches to science and art conservation. Made in Los Angeles: Materials, Processes, and the Birth of West Coast Minimalism is thus an interesting hybrid of art history and science writing that investigates the deep connections between the formal and conceptual concerns of the so-called “Finish Fetish” artists of the Los Angeles scene.
Made in Los Angeles focuses on four pioneers of West Coast Minimalism — Larry Bell, Robert Irwin, Craig Kauffman, and John McCracken — whose working methods often borrowed from other mechanical industries by using synthetic paints and resins to create mixed-media hybrids. Along with industrial processes, the “LA Look” burgeoned objects that were both painting and sculpture.
Chapter one is available to read in a Google books preview and is a great primer on the LA scene in the 1960s. The book details the common associations with the aerospace industry and Southern California car and surf culture. As research for the Conservation Institute, one of the book’s central questions is about the difference between the appearance of an artwork and its fundamental and particular materiality as well as which should be prioritized in conservation—the material or the finished artwork itself.
Made in Los Angeles is a fascinating reversal of the SciArt relationship that insists on the value of science and scientist’s perspective for both the conservation of artworks and for their interpretation.
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