Los Angeles

“Helter Skelter”

Temporary Contemporary

In “Helter Skelter: L.A. Art in the 1990s,” Paul Schimmel’s first major statement as MoCA’s new Chief Curator, he seems to have deliberately thrown the gauntlet in the face of traditional curatorial taboos. He has mounted a regional survey (read, “provincialism”); appended a historically dated title (Charles Manson, the Beatles, the ’60s); and has had the audacity to define the trends of the ’90s though the decade has barely begun. Despite this outward bravura, however, Schimmel’s main intent is more scholarly: a desire to invert the common conception of Los Angeles as “La-La Land”—the city that brought us Finish Fetish and Light and Space art—in favor of exploring the dark, psychotic, underbelly of the city’s culture. Thus, instead of Billy Al Bengston, Larry Bell, and James Turrell, we get Mike Kelley, Chris Burden, and Jim Shaw, as well as a representative array of local writers whose

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