11 Los Angeles Artists

Hayward Gallery

Hayward Gallery, 30 September – 14 November 1971

The First European Exhibition of Art from Los Angeles
11 Los Angeles Artists was curated by Maurice Tuchman and Jane Livingston from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. The exhibition featured the work of a ‘small diverse group of artists’, many of them only recently out of art school. Some of these younger artists, including Larry Bell, Robert Irwin, John McLaughlin, Bruce Nauman, Ed Ruscha and William Wegman, were little known in the US outside a small number of alternative galleries and art publications. Nicholas Serota, then a young exhibition organiser with the Arts Council, assisted Tuchman and Livingston with the exhibition. 

Press release for 11 Los Angeles Artists (1971).

A Rejection of Stereotypes
11 Los Angeles Artists featured painting, drawing and photography, as well as what the Arts Council’s Norbert Lynton referred to as ‘less easily described sculptures and constructions.’ It presented a cross-section of activities that were taking place in what Lynton referred to as a ‘very lively art centre which many Americans have come to see as a salutary answer to New York’s increasingly pompous and tycoon-ridden art scene’. Curators Tuchman and Livingston hoped that their selection would act as ‘a disclaimer to narrow stereotypes’ about LA and its artists.
The Catfish Controversy
The artwork that gained the greatest press coverage in 11 Los Angeles Artists was Newton Harrison’s Portable Fish Farm (1971). The discussion around this piece – which included tanks of live catfish which were to be killed and eaten in a shared supper in the gallery –made its way into parliament, where it was debated by Lord Goodman, and prompted comedian and animal rights activist Spike Milligan to attack the front of the Hayward Gallery in protest. Harrison’s work eventually went ahead, with the understanding that the fish would not be killed or consumed in public.

List of ingredients in Newton Harrison's catfish feast.

Press and Audience Response
11 Los Angeles Artists received 36,538 visitors and mixed reviews from the press. Writing in the Guardian, Caroline Tisdall singled out Larry Bell’s complex of mirrored glass sheets for comment, describing them as ‘the most completely beautiful works shown in London for a long time.’ In The Times, Edward Lucie-Smith also praised Bell’s contribution, arguing that the piece combined ‘the American feeling for the technological with an equally American feeling for the immaculate’. For Lucie-Smith, ‘some of the same magic’ was also present in Bruce Nauman’s Coloured Light Corridor (1971), ‘where a green fluorescent light, presented in a certain way, makes the whole surrounding space turn soft pink’. 
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