Looking for the "There There" California Art from the Collection, 1950-2000
Visiting her hometown of Oakland, California, after many years in Paris, the writer Gertrude Stein famously observed that “there is no there there.” Yet beyond the casual slight it first appears to be, her remark is a reflection on the concept of place, and the role of memory and time in understanding it. It is also an idea that cuts to the heart of representing California more generally. Existing in the popular imagination as the land of the perpetually new, and better known through images in movies, television, and advertisements than through actual experience, California has proven an elusive subject. Artists attempting to give form to the ever-changing environment around them have had to reckon with a place that symbolizes both the bright American dream as well as its dark underside, with an identity grounded in nature yet artificial in the extreme. For many artists, this challenge has evoked larger questions about how we know, understand, and picture the world. This exhibition, drawn from the Corcoran’s permanent collection, highlighted the work of modern and contemporary artists who developed new visual languages in response to California’s landscape and culture. It included the work of the painter Richard Diebenkorn, the Pop artist Wayne Thiebaud, and the Los Angeles conceptualists John Baldessari and Ed Ruscha, among others.