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Ed Moses: The Problem of Regionalism

LOS ANGELES ART BEARS a peculiar, ambivalent, and unfortunate relation to New York ever since, in the late ’50s and early ’60s, this city was promoted, inside and outside, as a peer or at least a strong second to the Big Apple. (The broader, weirder problem of the mystic critical necessity for diverse artists across this whole bountiful land to sort the same soot as vanguard Gotham kunstmeisters is perhaps the overriding issue; I’m dealing only with one aspect of it.) Until the ’50s, Los Angeles was a thinly spread bantamweight—no history, no culture, just a string of defense plants and movie studios—with isolated practitioners of comatose styles (Lebrun, Surrealist Lundeberg, Merrill Gage, et al) copping the “new” market. Abstract Expressionist’s overall freedom prompted the area to suppose it could manifest something of its own; since then quality modernists have traveled one of two

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