In 1960, what was then the La Jolla Museum of Art dedicated its focus to contemporary art. Fifty years later, the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego (as it is known today) boasts powerful examples of work by visual artists that helped define the second half of the 20th century.
High Fidelity features selections from the sixties and seventies, formative decades in the Museum’s own maturation, as well as a period of artistic ferment in the United States. High Fidelity showcases more than 50 works by notable artists such as Ellsworth Kelly and Agnes Martin, and others who call California their home including Billy Al Bengston, Ed Ruscha, and Alexis Smith. Together, these “greatest hits” announce the Museum’s own history even as they chart contemporary art trends.
High Fidelity will honor the late Murray A. Gribin (1923-2011), an inspired trustee and patron of the MCASD since the 1970s. A passionate advocate for the arts, Gribin and his wife Ruth settled in California in the 1940s. Together they built a lively collection of recent art from the West Coast. At MCASD, the collection was the subject of a 2006 exhibition La Dolce Vita. The show highlighted the range of Gribin’s collecting even as it underscored his dedication to certain artists over time. In his lifetime, Gribin donated more than 75 works to MCASD. High Fidelity will feature selections of these gifts with an emphasis on his early acquisitions including works by Sam Francis, Joe Goode, and Ed Ruscha.
While reflecting different styles, such as minimalism, pop art, and assemblage, the works on view all reflect the experimental spirit of the period. Artists continued to challenge long-held stylistic conventions and allow room for contemporary content. Primarily an exhibition of paintings, High Fidelity includes many works which hone their focus on the formal components of art. Abstraction is represented in many variations from gestural efforts, reflecting the pull of mid-century abstract expressionism, to refined monochromes, which rejected that very approach.
Exhibiting artists, including Helen Frankenthaler, Robert Irwin, and Frank Stella, explore surface tension, positive and negative space, and limits or edge of painting. Other artists such as Sol Lewitt, Alfred Jensen, and Donald Judd employ systems to determine their compositions.
Alongside the refinement of such approaches, other works on view reflect a grittier, often informal quality. Artists such as Vija Celmins, Bruce Connor, Edward Keinholz, and John Baldessari use found materials, expanses of text, and prosaic imagery to reference the real world as much as the art world. Together, these images and references recall and represent a period of recent history with “high fidelity.”
High Fidelity: Selections from the 1960s and 1970s is organized by the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego and is made possible thanks to a generous lead gift from Faye Hunter Russell. Additional support for the exhibition is provided by Barbara Bloom and by the Cochrane Exhibition Fund, the San Diego County Neighborhood Reinvestment Program Fund and District 3 Supervisor Pam Slater-Price, and the Mandell Weiss Charitable Trust.
Related programs are supported by grants from The James Irvine Foundation Arts Innovation Fund, the County of San Diego Community Enhancement Fund, and the Institute of Museum and Library Services.
Institutional support for MCASD is provided, in part, by the City of San Diego Commission for Arts and Culture.