West by Midwest traces how artists with ties to the American Midwest helped shape art and culture on the West Coast where they found creativity and freedom, in addition to warmer weather and career opportunities, in California.

Starting in the 1950s and 60s, against a backdrop of the national interstate and the lure of Beat culture and the influence of Jack Kerouac's On the Road, the thriving art schools of California were a powerful draw for young artists. Artists with Midwest connections found a collaborative spirit that developed into social networks that spread their artistic practices across generations and geographies. Artists such as Billy Al Bengston, Vija Celmins, Judy Chicago, and Ed Ruscha, participated in the emerging gallery scene in Los Angeles, the city which also served as a site of improvisation and performance for artists involved in Studio Z, including David Hammons and Senga Nengudi. Jim Shaw and Mike Kelley started the band Destroy All Monsters while attending art school at the University of Michigan, and later moved to the West Coast as graduate students at CalArts. Kelley went on to teach another generation of artists with Midwestern affiliations, such as Sterling Ruby and Aaron Curry, who once shared studio space in LA with friend and former Chicagoan Amanda Ross-Ho. Farther north, choreographer and dancer Anna Halprin, who was born and raised in Illinois and attended the University of Wisconsin, eventually moved to San Francisco to found her own experimental dance studio. West by Midwest presents over 80 works, primarily drawn from the MCA Collection, and is organized by MCA Curatorial Fellow Charlotte Ickes with MCA Chief Curator Michael Darling. An extensive microsite accompanies the exhibition.


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