In anticipation of the dual surveys being mounted this summer—“EDWARD RUSCHA” at the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, D.C., and “WAYNE THIEBAUD: a paintings retrospective” at the palace of the legion of honor in San Francisco—we asked PETER PLAGENS to reexamine the careers of these California Pops.

IF YOU THINK ABOUT IT, SHOULDN’T POSTWAR California—which sprouted hamburger stands, supermarkets, and vapid celebrities like kudzu and was largely unencumbered by a history of serious modern art—have produced all the big-time Pop artists, just as easily and unthinkingly as it gouged freeways into the landscape and placed beach blankets under the derrieres of Frankie and Annette? Well, it didn’t quite turn out that way. California put forward only two real contenders—Wayne Thiebaud and Edward Ruscha—against New York’s phalanx of Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Claes Oldenburg, Jim Dine, James

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