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Old and new meet cool

Exhibit at Orange County Museum of Art hosts exhibition of new experimental works created by five intergenerational pairs of artists.

October 06, 2011|By Imran Vittachi
  • Artist George Herms works with found objects on an untitled piece that will be part of the assemblage/sculpture Lemon Bar, to be shown in an installation created with Sarah Cain.
Artist George Herms works with found objects on an untitled… (Sue Henger )

George Herms has poured most of his 76 years into making art out of found objects.

His 1960 work, "The Librarian," currently on display at the Getty Center in Los Angeles, is considered an icon of California's school of Assemblage Art, which broke new terrain at the time by challenging the canon of traditional sculpture. Abandoned books and other unwanted objects that Herms had rummaged from a Bay Area dump were grist for his artistic hommage to a small-town librarian.

"The sculptors wanted to use everything they saw out on the street, and that was called Assemblage Art," said Herms, who is noted as a founder of that school as well as a leading visual artist who emerged from the 1950s Beat movement.

"My whole trip is about values," added the artist, who has been living at a friend's house in Irvine for the past two years. "The things that are thrown away, I feel, still have life in art. They may not be functional but they still have another life — an aesthetic life."

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Herms is one of five acclaimed members of an older generation of Southern California artists who have joined with a quintet of younger contemporary artists in an unusual collaboration this weekend at the Orange County Museum of Art in Newport Beach. "Two Schools of Cool," an exhibition of new experimental works created by five intergenerational pairs of artists, opens at OCMA on Sunday.

The exhibition, lasting through Jan. 22, will run parallel to "State of Mind: New California Art circa 1970," a separate exhibit that the museum is presenting under Pacific Standard Time, an unprecedented regional collaboration among arts and cultural institutions across the Southland.

"Two Schools of Cool" is the fruit of an idea proposed two years ago by the museum's curator, Sarah Bancroft, who won a Fellows of Contemporary Art Award to put an exhibition together around that idea.

"The exhibition is a creative laboratory where I asked artists to collaborate together in pairs," Bancroft said. "So there is, in each pair, an older artist who came to the fore in Los Angeles in the '60s or '70s. Each of them [is] part of the fabric of the Los Angeles art world and really the history of Los Angeles coming to the fore at that time and becoming a powerhouse in a kind of way that hadn't been before."

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