The West Coast “Beat” generation emerged in California in the decades following the Second World War. Formed outside of the established museums, schools, and galleries in both Los Angeles and the Bay Area, the loosely affiliated group (including emerging gallerist and eventual Menil Founding Director Walter Hopps) took advantage of the region’s permissive atmosphere while exploring its darker elements. Alienated from mainstream post-war American society, they were skeptical of the optimistic conformity of the Eisenhower-era. Sometimes imbued with an enigmatic spirituality, combining influences from jazz, poetry, and popular culture, the work of these artists features a diverse array of media emphasizing spontaneity and innovation over aesthetic or technical concerns. Organized by Associate Curator Clare Elliott, Holy Barbarians: Beat Culture on the West Coast will bring together approximately 30 powerful works on paper and assemblages from 1955 through 1970 featuring lesser-seen artists in the Menil Collection’s holdings, along with carefully selected loans, by Wallace Berman, Jay DeFeo, George Herms, Ed Kienholz, and others.
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