Miniature in the Mail #25: "Off Ocean Ave."

"Off Ocean Ave.," 5" x 5", oil on masonite

Today's mini is a vista of bar and restaurant derrieres in the arts colony Laguna Beach, the coastal town known for its impressionist painters and, these days, its affluence. Also, according to Mike Davis in City of Quartz, currently my go-to dissident guide to southern California, its "monochromatic re-segregation." Ouch.

Davis mentions how its brand of art was challenged in an earlier era. "The Group of Independent Artists of Los Angeles, who held their first exhibition in 1923, represented...[a] critical current in local art. A united front for the 'New Form,' including Cubism, Dynamism, and Expressionism, they attacked the landscape romanticsthe Eucalyptus painters, Laguna seascape painters, Mission painters, and so onwho perpetuated Helen Hunt Jackson in watercolor."

When I was there, coincidentally, there was a convention of plein air painters, invariably scattered among the rocks and palm trees, working small in oil and watercolour, sweating in the sun—preparing, presumably, their Salon des Refusés, long now the Salon des Acceptés.


I felt, I don't know, embarrassed? Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose? Or is it the murkier, conservative, reactionary pedigree Davis identifies? As one of the chapter titles of his book posits, Sunshine or noir?

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