Keepers of the Frame

Los Angeles

Left: Artist Martin Kersels with curator Glenn Phillips. Right: Curator Rosanna Albertini and artist Paul McCarthy. (All photos: Annie Buckley)

More than a thousand people made their way to what one visitor termed “the Mount Olympus of the art world” on Thursday night to attend the opening of “California Video” at the Getty Museum. The crowd included nearly all of the fifty-eight artists in the exhibition, many of whom recalled making work in the 1970s at the Long Beach Museum of Art, a creative hub for video when the now-ubiquitous medium was still a burgeoning art form. Collector Pam Kramlich, curator Steven Seid, and curator and author Rosanna Albertini were among those gathered to celebrate the first museum exhibition to survey video art from California and many of the pioneers who created it, including Ant Farm, the Kipper Kids, Tony Labat, Jay McCafferty, and Tony Oursler. At a more intimate reception held earlier that evening for the artists in the Getty’s restaurant, artist Hildegard Duane surveyed the room with a smile and remarked, “This is the reunion to end all reunions.”

The familial vibe reverberated throughout the evening. Service included numerous buffets and several bars; surveying the spread, a curator from Dallas observed, “We reserve this kind of food for donors!” But it wouldn’t be Mount Olympus without platters of ambrosia. The Getty appeared more than happy to roll out the red carpet for artists, an enthusiasm echoed by staff in the evening’s few short speeches. Welcoming guests, Getty director Michael Brand noted the presence of many “living, breathing artists.” Later that night, staffer Chris Jacobs elaborated: “Usually you have to be dead to be on these walls.” Actress Jo Harvey Allen surveyed a crowd that included Skip Arnold, Bill Viola, Suzanne Lacy, Howard Fried, and Nancy Buchanan and marveled, “You see people you haven’t seen in years. It’s like, just the other day you had been wondering about someone, and now you turn around, and here they are!”

Left: Artist Terry Allen and actress Jo Harvey Allen. Right: Artists Danial Nord and Bill Viola.

Introduced to enthusiastic applause as “the hero of the evening” was curator Glenn Phillips, the man largely responsible for sorting through box after box of aging video tapes and crumbling documents in the Long Beach Museum of Art Video Archive, acquired by the Getty in 2006. The impressive contents of these sagging cartons included little-known works from the Women’s Building and early videos by Paul McCarthy, Bruce and Norman Yonemoto, Bruce Nauman, William Wegman, and Eleanor Antin, together with performance tapes and audio recordings, many of which have found their way into “California Video.” At the artist reception, Chip Lord, of Ant Farm, remarked that the various elements of that collective’s iconic video installation The Eternal Frame, 1975–76, “were likely in a Dumpster somewhere” before arriving at the Getty. With graciousness typical of the evening, Phillips thanked the artists, his staff, and colleagues from Long Beach, several of whom, including Carole Ann Klonarides, David Ross, and Kathy Huffman, were present.

Not all guests actually made it up the marble staircase to see the exhibition. The time-based nature of the work, not to mention crowds of artists reminiscing and guests queuing up for space at consoles, created a situation in which, as artist Terry Allen observed, “We saw other people seeing the show.” But the night was more about reconnecting with old friends and celebrating a medium that, although currently in vogue, was once relegated to second-class status.

Left: Artist Norman Yonemoto with curator Carole Ann Klonarides and artist Bruce Yonemoto. Right: Artist Nancy Buchanan.

With many revelers still gathered under the stars, the numerous, polite Getty staff began efficiently folding up the patio umbrellas right above our heads, prompting Los Angeles dealer Angela Jones to warn a still-chatting New York dealer, Ed Winkleman, “Be careful, they’ll snap you right up in that thing!” He wasn’t convinced, but this is Los Angeles, and the event was already running over its scheduled 10 PM end time. Sure enough, the umbrella snapped shut and guests headed back down the hill to the city below.

Annie Buckley

Left: Getty Research Institute director Thomas Gaehtgens. Right: Artists Annetta Kapon and Suzanne Lacy.

Left: Dealer David Quadrini and curator Suzanne Weaver. Right: The Getty Research Institute's Andrew Perchuk and artist Hilja Keading.

Left: Artist Skip Arnold with the Getty Research Institute's Catherine Taft. Right: Artist Howard Fried.

Left: Artists Jordan Biren and Ursula Brookbank. Right: Artist Jim Campbell.