Like Smoke: Los Angeles and the Vaporous Origins of Contemporary Art

Jon Leaver

My house is diaphanous, but it is not made of glass. It is more of the nature of vapor. –Gaston Bachelard1

In 1974, Peter Plagens opened his book on West Coast art, Sunshine Muse, by commenting that art might be seen as a means to mitigate a city’s ugliness. Los Angeles, he argued, produced its most important art “only after the city suffused itself in smog and trash architecture.”2 The implications of Plagens’s claim were twofold, first that art is at its best when it acts as a balm for the alienation produced by certain kinds of urban experience, and secondly that the climate, topography and architectonics that define such an experience are therefore integrally linked to the aesthetic production of that city. In the particular case of Los Angeles, Plagens implies, the city’s quintessential impermanence—its auto-belched smog and its ubiquitous, cheap, boxy buildings—was central to the formation of the distinctive “L.A. Look.”

Later in the book, in his account of the Los Angeles art scene of the 1960s and 1970s, Plagens identified a pervasive anti-object trend that “grew from [the city’s] geographical/architectural/cultural climate,” which he considered Los Angeles’ most significant contribution to the art of the West Coast. But his description of the “non-physicality” of the work of James Turrell, Robert Irwin, and Michael Asher, whom Plagens regarded as the pioneers of this approach, betrayed an anxiety about their work, a worry that its “ethereality” also indicated a problematic insubstantiality.3 Plagens perceived in all the work that followed in the wake of these three artists a slight sense of unease, “as if every piece had to justify its slimmest mass in terms of material economy and psychological effect.”4 Essentially then, Plagens was arguing that the pure phenomenology explored in these works was insufficient to produce entirely satisfying pieces of art. Moreover, given the correspondence Plagens identifies between city and art, it is also tempting to read this as an implicit criticism of Los Angeles itself.

Maria Nordman, Filmroom, Smoke, 1967–present. installation view, Los Angeles County Museum Of Art, September 4, 2011–January 15, 2012.

Maria Nordman, Filmroom, Smoke, 1967–present. installation view, Los Angeles County Museum Of Art, September 4, 2011–January 15, 2012. © Maria Nordman. photo © 2011 Museum Associates/Lacma.

What follows in this essay is a defense of just the kind of insubstantiality about which Plagens was so uneasy. My argument is essentially that a paradoxical depth can be found in the absence of physical form that characterizes a strand of the art of Los Angeles from the 1960s and 1970s. By connecting this quality in various ways to qualities of the urban landscape, I also hope to explore the complexity of Los Angeles itself. My starting point will be Maria Nordman’s installation Filmroom, Smoke (1967–present), recently on view at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, where it was presented in conjunction with Pacific Standard Time.5 The work featured two different views of two people smoking cigarettes on a beach in Malibu. This subject and Nordman’s treatment of it are central to my argument for a number of reasons. Firstly, the exploration of the phenomenology of smoke in Nordman’s work connects her to a number of other artists working in the 1960s and 1970s in and around Los Angeles’ including Asher and Turrell, as well as Judy Chicago, all of whom used smoke as a medium during this period. By examining the use of this immaterial material, I aim to draw attention to a central theme of their work—transience—which corresponds to important aspects of the lived experience and the physical structure of the city of Los Angeles itself. More generally, though, I want to make a case for the centrality of the imagery of smoke in wider contemporary art, and suggest that this position is fundamentally due to an ongoing effort on the part of artists to deal with the transience of modern urban existence. Finally, I will suggest that the physical and architectural qualities of Los Angeles identified by Plagens as definitive—its smoggy impermanence—participate in a deep-rooted notion of what constitutes modernity. In spite of convincing arguments that claim Los Angeles as a quintessential example of the postmodern megacity, the myth of the city that has emerged in the last half century is closely linked to the discourse that brought Modern art into existence in the first place.

Michael Asher installation, Pomona College Museum of Art, February 13–March 8, 1970. Camera in small triangular area facing passageway into large triangular area. photo taken with artificial light.

Michael Asher installation, Pomona College Museum of Art, February 13–March 8, 1970. Camera in small triangular area facing passageway into large triangular area. photo taken with artificial light.

Los Angeles, Myth and Reality

In some ways, it is easy to see how Los Angeles might be metaphorically correlated with the wisps of smoke escaping a smoker’s lips: it is a city that is at once diaphanous, intoxicating, slightly acrid, and quintessentially transient. Yet the relation of aesthetics to the urban environment is by no means straightforward, perhaps especially so in the case of Los Angeles because the nature of the city is itself so highly contested. Commentary on Los Angeles has often disputed the legitimacy of generalizations about the nature of the city as a whole, arguing that simplistic narratives obscure the multiplicity that constitutes its lived reality; as Damon Willick has observed, “the moment one tries to pinpoint what exactly Los Angeles is, one simplifies and distorts its complex diversity.”6 Arguably, then, any attempt to deal with the city must acknowledge the limitations of the frame through which this complexity is viewed. In the current instance, I will look at one aspect of the narrative of Los Angeles, namely its ongoing characterization as the apotheosis of impermanence. Though limited, it is an aspect of Los Angeles that is universally available, perhaps even inescapable, and, I would claim, fundamental to understanding the nature of its urban experience.

Recent studies of Los Angeles frequently emphasize the contingency of its physical structure. Due in large part to the sheer scale of Los Angeles, successive generations of urban planners have been encouraged to think in terms of grand plans, resulting in structures—freeways, skyscrapers, and housing projects, among others—which, though utopian in their vision, have all too often failed to take account of the neighborhoods they displace, circumvent or ignore. Such projects have produced an urban landscape that has constantly been redrawn and remade in an attempt to ameliorate the ills produced by the preceding planners’ mistakes. Dana Cuff has characterized the result of these “fugitive plans” as a “provisional city,” in which old forms are periodically replaced by new ones.7

If structural contingency is one important aspect of Los Angeles, its corollary is a corresponding ephemerality of experience. The constant erasure of previous cityscapes noted by Cuff has produced a city without a visible past.8 In the absence of a visible, shared history, the past becomes defined individually or within smaller communities, a condition magnified by the disjunction of neighborhoods across the city as a whole, and even between communities sharing the same geographic space but operating within separate temporal spheres. It is with this view of Los Angeles as a place of highly individualized temporality and physical ephemerality that Nordman’s Filmroom, Smoke resonates.

Maria Nordman’s Filmroom, Smoke

By comparison with some of her own later work, Nordman’s installation is quite elaborate, comprised of two projected views of the same scene, one of these a static wide shot, the other a constantly roving close-up, each presented separately on either side of a partition that divides the viewing space. The film itself features two actors who were provided with a packet of cigarettes, a lighter and an armchair at the ocean’s edge as props, but were not given a script or further specific directions. The ensuing performance captured by Nordman in the four minutes of film we see doubly projected is dense in spite of the fact that not much happens: The man walks into shot, sits down and lights a cigarette, he is soon joined by the woman who also lights up; they smoke as the waves wash around their feet, eventually splashing over their legs; the woman caresses the rock next to the chair, then retrieves a piece of driftwood; the film fades out slowly.

One of the reasons for my interest in Filmroom, Smoke is the multilayered nature of the experience it offers; the density of its associations allows us to read it in a number of ways simultaneously. Firstly, as an examination of a set of atmospheric conditions, the installation reflects a central impulse among Californian artists during this period to explore the phenomena of light and space that distinguished the West Coast. Nordman has often disassociated herself from this trend, but certain central concerns connect her work to theirs. Her installations often consist of structures that frame the ambient light and unassuming spaces of the context in which she works—galleries, city streets, or storefronts commandeered as exhibition spaces. In 1970, Michael Asher’s untitled installation at the Pomona College Museum of Art demonstrated a similar concern to bring the ambient phenomena of the outside world to the spectators’ attention. For the project, Asher constructed two empty, triangular rooms within the museum’s gallery space. Crucially, the two adjoining rooms had no doors and no artificial lighting. They led directly onto the street, and were open around the clock.9 Light and sound from outside were therefore central to the experience, varying constantly throughout the day. Robert Irwin’s seminal 1974 work Wall Division—Portal, a temporary installation at the Riko Mizuno Gallery in Los Angeles, shared many of the same concerns. Consisting of a simple wall dividing an otherwise empty gallery space, Irwin’s work effectively offered the gallery space itself as art, and encouraged the spectator to consider the dynamics of light and space within it.

Richard Neutra, Vdl 11, Los Angeles, California, 1966.

Richard Neutra, Vdl 11, Los Angeles, California, 1966. Photo © David Hartwell/www. plasmatic-concepts.com.

Likewise, Nordman’s work consistently draws attention to the movement of the spectators through space, and the specific natural conditions that surround them. Her seventies work often involved little in the way of physical material, instead consisting of a set of conditions she proposed for a particular space. For example, in 1978, in a street in Genoa, she placed white marble chips on the ground to form a square and proposed the following conditions:

a place open to any person

a place open to any person and any condition of light and sound

a place open to any person and any condition of light and sound for 24 hours from dawn to dawn on an unused unnamed ground surrounded on four sides by Salita Re Magi, Vico dei Tre Re Magi, Vico San Donato and Stradone Sant’Agostino, white marble chips 4 x 4 meters oriented to the four directions.10

Interestingly, as Michael Auping has recently noted, Nordman’s approach to light and space has a distinctly architectural quality. During the late 1960s she worked as an editorial assistant to the seminal modernist architect Richard Neutra, whose style was founded on the interplay between the built structure and the landscape that surrounded it. Filmroom, Smoke exemplifies such interpenetration of inside and outside spaces, showing the ocean playing around the legs of the armchair and ultimately soaking its upholstery, thus picturing the fluid give and take between the domestic and the natural.

Judy Chicago, Dry Ice Environment, Century City, California, 1967. © Judy Chicago 1967.

Judy Chicago, Dry Ice Environment, Century City, California, 1967. © Judy Chicago 1967. Photo credit: Through The Flower Archives.

The interplay between substance and immateriality is central to Filmroom, Smoke, manifesting in the very nature of the medium Nordman uses in the work—the light projected on the wall of the installation space is itself intensely ephemeral, a quality she emphasizes in the slow fade at the end of the film. This is echoed in the unpredictability of the waves and the formless cigarette smoke the film depicts, both underlining the contingent quality of the image. The rhythmic waves wash in and out, corresponding to the smokers’ inhaled and exhaled breath, and part of the suspense of watching the piece is waiting for the water to drench their feet, and for their cigarettes to come to an end. In fact, the most vivid impressions of the installation are of a profound sense of transience, corporeally experienced: Smoke penetrates the lungs and is expelled, dispersing into the air, while the actors’ surroundings appear to dissolve in the misty air that envelops them. Moreover, Nordman’s work evokes a transience whose characteristics are particularly apt to the urban landscape of Los Angeles: Filmroom, Smoke conjures a transience marked by mobility. The sensation of watching her film, particularly the view shot in perpetually roving close up, is not unlike watching the city unfold from the front seat of a car. As Reyner Banham observed, in Los Angeles, “mobility outweighs monumentality…to a unique degree,” which is why the Englishman learned to drive, in order, as he said, that he would be able to “read Los Angeles in the original” as previous generations had learned Italian to read Dante.11

An important further element of the installation consists of the plastic-covered armchair used as a prop in the film, which is placed on one side of the partition, emphasizing the tension between the projected celluloid image and physical reality. The presence of this chair in the viewing space invites the spectator to participate in the installation, to look outwards as if from within the film itself, or otherwise to observe the mechanism by which its imagery is projected. The spectator thus becomes the counterpart of the actors on the screen—we are their double, projected forward in time (the date of the work is specified as “1967–present”)—a meaning Nordman reinforces by requiring that only two spectators can be present in the space at a time. The room therefore contains, at least in principle, two spectators, two spaces, two images, and two actors, all performing their own role. This participatory aspect of the work is an essential dimension of Nordman’s project: in the past she has stressed the importance of the physical presence and active engagement of participants, insisting that her work “is not only about light or something as vague as space. It is about people, architecture, and landscape. The work is a situation.”12

Artists Smoke

Nordman’s installation also points backward to Los Angeles’s cultural past and particularly to the artists associated with Ferus Gallery, for whom personal appearance and its paraphernalia were a crucial aspect of the artistic identity they asserted. As Larry Bell later commented, “choosing the right clothing in which to make an appearance became as much of an obsession for me as trying to be unique in the studio. …To be important, I had to feel important. Having style as a hobby was creative, great fun, and extremely important to all of us. In a way the humor and style of my group affected the art scene of Los Angeles.”13 Filmroom, Smoke similarly identifies personal style as a key signifier of meaning. The actors in the film assert a very particular self image, they are clearly hipsters, very much at home, one might judge, in Topanga or Laurel Canyon—he has long, wild hair and a soul patch, and wears a leather jacket and boots, she wears a mini dress and thick black eyeliner and mascara. In fact, such overt gestures of identity construction ultimately prompt the spectator to question the extent of the authenticity of these signifiers—are they, after all, just an act of representation like the film itself, their identity as fluid as the ocean tide?

Another layer of interest in Filmroom, Smoke is to be found in the associations carried by the cigarette as a cultural signifier in the context of Los Angeles. Images such as Dennis Hopper’s 1964 portrait of John Altoon, for example, or almost any group picture of the Ferus Gallery artists (half of whom at any given moment seemed to be smoking a cigarette), show the extent to which the artists of the period asserted a particular blue collar, masculine, bohemian sense of themselves by ostentatious hard smoking. Judy Chicago recalls a period in the 1960s when she hung out with the group at Barney’s Beanery and started smoking cigars “in an attempt to be accepted.”14 Was this gesture, perhaps, an unconscious attempt to one-up the Beanery crowd—to feminize their cigarettess by contrast with her own ultra-masculine cigar?

In fact, a long and illustrious tradition of bohemian artists marking their identity through smoking dates back to the mid-nineteenth-century. At least since then, artists have used smoking as an emblem of their profession, leading to an association between the accoutrements of tobacco (the cigar, the cigarette, and the pipe) and the artistic character; tobacco thus became a prop for marking out a distinctive type or personality. Asked in 1997 why she thought this was the case, the British artist Sarah Lucas identified two important motives for such an association, one a matter of identity, the other more practical: “I think it’s because they’re bloody bad kids in the first place and they got started early. Maybe it’s something to do with stopping to pause and contemplate what you’re working on, which can be more addictive than smoking itself. It seems as though there must be a higher proportion of artists who smoke than any other community.”15 Aside from the statistical truth of Lucas’s roguish last remark, an iconographic truth certainly underlies the connection she makes between smoking and artists. As far back as the 1840s, Theodore Burette claimed just the same connection in his satirical commentary A Study of Smoking (La Physiologie du Fumeur): “The first condition for being a painter or a sculptor,” he wrote, “isn’t to engage in academic study, to study line, or handle a palette, nor study geometry like Ingres, or be a colorist like Diaz, no, it is to know how to smoke.”16

Dennis Hopper, John Altoon, 1964. Courtesy of the Dennis Hopper Art Trust.

Dennis Hopper, John Altoon, 1964. Courtesy of the Dennis Hopper Art Trust.

Many artists have used tobacco, as Lucas suggests, to signal a rebellious temperament or intent. Pipes, cigars and cigarettes abound in portraits of artists identifying themselves as independent or avant-garde. Gustave Courbet was among the first to recognize the importance of dramatizing one’s public persona as a means to publicize and sell artworks, an element of his practice which, among others, marks him as one of the first modern artists. His pipe, along with other attributes, including a flagon of beer and his peasant’s smock and clogs, quickly became recognizable to the public as characteristic personal emblems.

Urban Flux—from Paris to Los Angeles

That this smoky association with radical art should have emerged in nineteenth-century Paris is no coincidence since, as Plagens noted, the physical context of works of art can have a defining influence on their aesthetic qualities, and Paris at this moment in its history seemed the epitome of the modern condition of constant flux. The French capital at the time, transformed as it was by industrialization and the renovations initiated by Napoleon III, might, in this sense at least, be seen as an analogue of modern Los Angeles—a place that seemed to its inhabitants to be in a state of constant change, overcrowded and pervaded by a sense of transient spectacle. Following the urging of the critic Charles Baudelaire, Edouard Manet and the Impressionists audaciously embraced subjects that celebrated this condition, and consequently from its earliest moments the rhetoric of Modern art was marked by an aesthetic of impermanence that corresponded with their idea of the modern. Of particular relevance in this respect is Manet’s famous portrait of Mallarme, in which the poet’s cigar acts as an emblem of his aesthetic approach to modernity: ephemeral, yet intoxicating.

This preoccupation of the emerging avant-garde with the notion of transience was an important aspect of its legacy. As a theme it has manifested itself regularly ever since, perhaps most emphatically during the 1960s and 1970s, when many artists began to reject the object as the basis for works of art in favor of installations, events, and situations, which, in part because of their ephemerality, seemed to correlate more closely with the realities of lived experience. Arguably, many of the movements of the post-war avant-garde shared the core aim of drawing attention to and exploring the possibilities inherent in the real conditions of existence.

It is perhaps no surprise, then, that an important precursor for the immateriality of art in Los Angeles in the 1960s and 1970s can be found in the ideas and work of Allan Kaprow, whose development of the Happening—an informal installation or event-based work—signaled a key moment in the move away from object-based art. In his 1958 essay “The Legacy of Jackson Pollock,” Kaprow made the case for a new direction in art based on the implications of Pollock’s practice. More than anything, Kaprow argued, the scale of Pollock’s work collapsed the distinction between life and art: the true significance of his paintings was in their performance, the traces of which were experienced as immersive environments rather than objects. “We must become preoccupied with and even dazzled by the space and objects of our everyday life,” Kaprow proclaimed.17 Accordingly, seemingly inconsequential objects—”chairs, food, electric and neon light, smoke, water, old socks, a dog, movies”—would take on a new significance under the artist’s scrutiny and become the new materials of art.18

The influence of Kaprow’s ideas in Los Angeles became decisive in the late 1960s, when Judy Chicago, along with Eric Orr and Lloyd Hamrol, performed a series of Kaprowesque events whose emphatic impermanence was combined with a distinct atmospheric quality. Starting in 1967, Chicago used various means to create spectacular, smoke-like effects in performance pieces aimed at revealing a variety of conditions within culture, as well as the urban and natural environments in which they took place. In 1967, the trio of Chicago, Orr, and Hamrol performed Dry Ice Environment in the precinct of a shopping mall in Century City, West Los Angeles, using tons of dry ice constructed into pyramidal, ziggurat-like structures that shrouded the environment in clouds of vapor.19 As darkness fell, the artists illuminated the fog with road flares, and over the next few days the installation dwindled to nothing as the dry ice sublimated. In addition to the atmospheric effects the performance conjured, the work reflected on the consumer landscape that formed its backdrop, parodying the monumentality of its architecture while also highlighting its ultimate transience. Given the context, the work also aimed to expose the ephemerality of the commodity form around which such structures were built.20

Over the next few years Chicago and others frequently utilized pyrotechnics, flares and smoke in performance pieces. In 1968, Chicago, Hamrol and Oliver Andrew organized an event in Brookside Park, Pasadena, at which some of the most spectacular and unusual of these performances took place. In addition to Chicago’s own performance White Atmosphere, in which she carried around an enormous smoke machine, filling the park with clouds of billowing white vapor, James Turrell and the painter Sam Francis choreographed a sky writing performance using four vintage biplanes that crisscrossed the sky with colored smoke trails.21

Judy Chicago, Dry Ice Environment, Century City, California, 1967.

Judy Chicago, Women and Smoke 3: Smoke Goddess, Outside Los Angeles California, 1972. © Judy Chicago 1972. Photo credit: Through The Flower Archives.

Chicago’s atmosphere pieces were recently recreated in various places around Los Angeles as part of the Getty’s Pacific Standard Time collaboration. These events emphasized what was so radical about them in the first place—the insistence on their momentary existence. Chicago later spoke of the physical sense of release that accompanied the performance of these works, feelings that originated in the new painting practice she simultaneously developed whose imagery expressed her awakening feminist consciousness. By 1971, Chicago’s use of smoke began more consciously to express the ideas about female self-expression she was developing in the class she taught at Fresno State College. Chicago took students from this class on an overnight desert trip to perform a work called Woman/ Atmosphere (1971), in which they appeared as nude goddesses or shamans, their bodies painted head to toe in dark paint and wreathed in clouds of colored smoke from fireworks. Clearly, then, Chicago came to regard smoke as an important medium of expression for the female body. Her statements about the liberating feeling of escape produced by her smoke machine works might also be linked to the shamanistic desert performances. In this context, such works could be seen as an attempt to link the spirit or inner life with the sensuous body and the surrounding landscape—all of which were connected by the pervasive smoke.

Nordman’s Urbanism

In 1980, writing in Artforum, the Italian critic Germano Celant firmly linked Maria Nordman’s work to the urban landscape of Los Angeles. Identifying a “process of socialization” within the experiences of the city as a pivotal influence on her ideas, Celant went on to outline the architectural character of Los Angeles in which these experiences formed: Angelenos experience a blurred distinction between inside and outside spaces, he claimed, an architectural porousness that was “a vital component of the cultural tradition of the Southern California metropolis.”22 This lead to a fascination on Nordman’s part with the contingent effects of the interplay of these spaces, an interest in “the politics of absence,” as Celant called it. What is most remarkable about his account is the importance he attached to this urban condition and to Nordman’s interest in it, which, unlike Plagens, he found profoundly significant.

Yet, as Celant was also aware, Nordman’s special achievement was to evoke the relation of the human body to this set of conditions. In the case of Filmroom, Smoke, this is achieved by foregrounding the sensuous experience of the actors in her film, bringing them close to the spectator for examination. Tactile sensations of the ocean air, sand, surf, and rocks are almost palpable, we vicariously feel the smoke in the lungs and on the lips of the film’s protagonists as they puff away at their cigarettes. Nordman’s work therefore establishes a critical connection between inside and outside, between the realities of the self and the impermanence of the world around it. It is a visual parallel of Richard Klein’s description of the relation of the body to the exterior world as they are connected in the act of smoking:

The tobacco’s vapor is atomized into atmosphere that halos your exterior form, after having been condensed within the cavities that harbor your most intimate interior. Joining inside and out, each puff is like total immersion: it baptizes the celebrant with the little flash of a renewed sensation, an instantaneous, fleeting body image of the unified [self ]. An inhaling moment of concentration, centralizing the self to make it dense, more opaquely present to itself, is trailed by a movement of evaporation, as the self exhales itself, ecstatically, in a smoky jag—as it grows increasingly tenuous, progressively less differentiated from the exterior world it becomes.23

Smoking, as Klein so poetically points out, is fundamentally a corporeal experience, it is something people do, on some level at least, to connect their bodies to their world, as well as to mark the time that passes unceasingly about them. While ephemeral, smoke penetrates the smoker; likewise, experience, no matter how transient, is part of us. The immateriality of smoke, therefore, not only encapsulates the pervasive quality of transience in Los Angeles, but demonstrates why this quality is worthy of our attention. The richness of smoke as a metaphor in Nordman’s work thus reveals the complexity of the urban experience it echoes—the interplay of built and natural, interior and exterior, body and environment, stasis and mobility inscribed in everyday life in Los Angeles. Contrary to Plagens’s feeling that the theme of insubstantiality was problematically slight, it is in fact at the very heart of the intricate lived phenomena of the urban environment. Insubstantiality is depth.

Maria Nordman, Filmroom, Smoke, 1967–present. installation view, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, September 4, 2011–January 15, 2012.

Maria Nordman, Filmroom, Smoke, 1967–present. installation view, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, September 4, 2011–January 15, 2012. © Maria Nordman. Photo © 2011 Museum Associates/lacma.

Jon Leaver is Associate Professor of Art History and Director of the Honors Program at the University of La Verne in Southern California. His research focuses on nineteenth-century French art and criticism as well as contemporary art.


  1. Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Space, trans. Maria Jolas (New York: Beacon, [1964] 1994), 51. Quoted in Michael Auping, “Stealth Architecture: The Rooms of Light and Space,” in Phenomenal: California Light, Space, Surface, ed. Robin Clark, exh. cat. Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2012), 85. Bachelard was himself quoting Georges Spyridaki’s Mort Lucide of 1953.
  2. Peter Plagens, Sunshine Muse: Art on the West Coast, 1945–70 (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, [1974] 1999), 9.
  3. Ibid., 138.
  4. Ibid.
  5. Pacific Standard Time was a collaboration initiated by the Getty that brought together more than sixty cultural institutions across Southern California to explore the history of art in Los Angeles from 1945 to 1980.
  6. Damon Willick, “Ooh LA LA,” X-TRA 9.2 (Winter 2006): 3.
  7. Dana Cuff, “Fugitive Plans in the Provisional City: Slums and Public Housing in Los Angeles,” in Looking for Los Angeles: Architecture, Film, Photography, and the Urban Landscape, ed. Charles G. Salas and Michael S. Roth (Los Angeles: Getty Research Institute, 2001), 97–131.
  8. See Michael Dear, “In the City, Time Becomes Visible: Intentionality and Urbanism in Los Angeles, 1781–1991,” in The City: Los Angeles and Urban Theory at the End of the Twentieth Century, ed. Allen J. Scott and Edward W. Soja (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1996), 76–105.
  9. Michael Asher recently produced a new, untitled work in response to his 1970 installation. The 2011 work was part of It Happened at Pomona: Art at the Edge of Los Angeles 1969–1973, an exhibition at Pomona College Museum of Art in conjunction with Pacific Standard Time.
  10. Maria Nordman, “Uno spazio aperto a tutti,” Sarnan 17 (March/April, 1979). Quoted in Germano Celant, “Urban Nature: The Work of Maria Nordman,” Artforum 8.7 (March 1980): 66.
  11. Reyner Banham, Los Angeles: The Architecture of Four Ecologies (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, [1971] 2009), 5.
  12. Quoted in Auping, 89.
  13. Larry Bell, “In Reflection,” Zones of Experience: The Art of Larry Bell (Albuquerque, NM: Albuquerque Museum, 1997), 55. Quoted in Willick, 11.
  14. Judy Chicago, Through the Flower: My Struggle as a Woman Artist (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1975), 35.
  15. Gregor Muir, “Warning: Sarah Lucas’ Art May Seriously Damage Your Health,” Dazed and Confused 32 (1998): 57. In the mid-1990s Lucas produced a fascinating series of images of herself smoking in which she explored the gender politics of the cigarette, using it to assert various positions and identities from the “laddish” posturing of many of her male counterparts on the British art scene at the time, to the vulnerability of working class women for whom smoking is one of few consolations or pleasures. See David Hopkins, “‘Out of It’: Drunkenness and Ethics in Martha Rosler and Gillian Wearing,” in Difference and Excess in Contemporary Art: The Visibility of Women’s Practice, ed. Gill Perry (London: Blackwell, 2004), 38–40.
  16. Theodore Burette, La Physiologie du Fumeur (Paris: Ernest Bourdin, 1840), 60.
  17. Allan Kaprow, “The Legacy of Jackson Pollock,” in Allan Kaprow, Essays on the Blurring of Life and Art, ed. Jeff Kelley (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2003), 7.
  18. Ibid., 8.
  19. Catherine Grenier, Catalogue L.A.: Birth of an Art Capital, 1955–85, exh. cat. Centre George Pompidou (San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 2007), 168-69.
  20. Also in 1967, Kaprow carried out a similar Happening for the Pasadena Art Museum entitled Fluids. Kaprow supervised the construction of fifteen “Ice Palaces”—rectangular enclosures, 30 feet long by 10 feet wide and made from ice blocks—throughout the Los Angeles area, which were left to melt away to nothing over the course of several days. See Eva Meyer-Hermann, “Museum as Mediation,” in Allan Kaprow, Meyer-Hermann, Andrew Perchuk, and Stephanie Rosenthal, Allan Kaprow: Art as Life (Los Angeles: Getty Research Institute Publications, 2008), 77.
  21. See Willoughby Sharp, “Rumbles,” Avalanche 1 (Fall 1970): 2–3; and Craig E. Adcock, James Turrell: The Art of Light and Space (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1990), 3.
  22. Celant, 64.
  23. Richard Klein, Cigarettes Are Sublime (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 1993), 105.
Further Reading