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Spring 1998
Avant-Garde Academy

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Pittman sees these developments as part of a “historic moment taking place at UCLA and profoundly impacting the cultural change L.A. is experiencing.” Here he raises another salient issue. Where in the past artists would train in L.A. and then leave, mostly for points east, now they stay. The critical mass defining an “art community” has at last been achieved here.

Or, as Kelly drolly states: “The regional argument is over; the permission to exist in Los Angeles has been won.”

What the department offers today is an unusually sober and pragmatic approach to art-making. Yet the master-apprentice relation that has historically been the basis of artist training still has currency at UCLA, if with a fitting transfusion of fin de siecle independent-mindedness. The disciples of Mary Kelly, Nancy Rubin, Lari Pittman, Charles Ray, Paul McCarthy and other current faculty are likely to be very different from their mentors.

“There are moments in one’s development when you share affinities with the person with whom you’re studying, Pittman observes. “It’s almost a rite of passage: you honor your mentor with some sort of homage. What I’m always waiting for is the moment the student says, ‘Yes, I recognize your help, but now it’s time for me to move on.’”

William Hackman writes frequently on the visual arts.

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