‘Now Dig This!’: New York’s MoMA PS1 Contemporary Art Museum Exhibition of ‘Art and Black Los Angeles 1960 – 1980’

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On first glance, some may wonder why MoMA PS1, a New York contemporary art museum, has just opened a historical exhibition of art from Los Angeles. But as MoMA PS1 curator Peter Eleey explained at the press preview last week, the show in question, Now Dig This! Art and Black Los Angeles 1960–1980, actually has a connection to the New York institution: many of the artists in the exhibition eventually migrated from LA to New York, and some of the art on view was actually shown there in the 1980s. “It’s nice to be able to show historical work here, to be able to choose things that reflect the founding period” of the museum, Eleey said.

All of that is well and good, and convincing, too, but in the end it hardly matters at all. Once you step inside the exhibition, you realize that Now Dig This! is so good — so well-curated, so full of fantastic art, so revelatory — that it was worth bringing to New York no matter what. I suspect that even for those MoMA and MoMA PS1 staffers who worked to get it here, the power of the exhibition came first, the connection to PS1 second.

Now Dig This! was originally organized by art historian and Columbia University professor Kellie Jones for the Getty Foundation’s LA art blowoutPacific Standard Time, which involved more 60 cultural institutions from Southern California mounting more than 60 shows about art made in and around LA between 1945 and 1980. It was originally shown at the Hammer Museum and only closed on January 8, meaning the MoMA and PS1 curators managed to bring it here in less than a year. It’s also one of the only shows (at least so far) to travel.

It’s not hard to see why. Amid the grand narrative of postwar LA art…

Read more: Jillian Steinhauer, Hyper Allergic

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