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Archives & Artists

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Paul Landacre, Laguna Cove, 1935. Paul Landacre Archive, William Andrews Clark Memorial Library, UCLA.

Monday, January 31, was the final day of Los Angeles Arts Month, an annual campaign that every January reminds Southern Californians of the region's flourishing art community. Arts Month - as well as popular events like the Downtown Art Walk - may embody the city's burgeoning artistic potential, but the city's artistic heritage is preserved in the archives of cultural institutions across Southern California. Archiving not only finished works by L.A. artists but also papers, photographs, and other materials related to the artists' lives and practice, these collections provide insight into the artists' influences, motivations and their relationship with the city they called home.

Paul Landacre Archive, Clark Memorial Library, UCLA

UCLA's William Andrews Clark Memorial Library houses an extensive collection of works and archival materials related to a group of Southern California artists who practiced their art on printing presses. Fine printing emerged in the late nineteenth century as part of the Arts and Crafts Movement, emphasizing the aesthetic qualities of books and other printed works through high-quality paper, careful construction, and beautiful illustrations and wood engravings.

As the Arts and Crafts Movement spread from Great Britain to the United States, Southern California became home to a large concentration of fine printers, many of whose works were collected by Clark Memorial Library founder William Andrews Clark, Jr. The wood engravings to the left and at the top of this post, both courtesy of the Clark Library, were created by Paul Landacre (1893-1963), an influential printmaker who was a fixture of the prewar bohemian art scene in Echo Park.

More recent L.A. artists are the focus of Pacific Standard Time, an upcoming collaboration between the Getty Research Institute and more than fifty L.A.-area cultural institutions. The initiative, which launches in October 2011, celebrates the vibrant art community that emerged in postwar Los Angeles with dozens of exhibitions throughout Southern California.

Artist unknown. Beverly Shaw Star Sign from Club Laurel in North Hollywood (c. 1950s). Courtesy ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives.
ONE Archives - Jim Kepner Collection

Among the participating institutions is the ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives, which is planning the most comprehensive showing of its art collection to date. Titled Cruising the Archive: Four Decades of Queer Art and Culture in Los Angeles, the exhibition will feature rarely-seen artwork alongside documents culled from the organization's archives, putting the art into a historical and cultural context. For example, paintings by Sidney Bronstein will be accompanied by the artist's diary and personal correspondence. Materials related to queer activism, like the poster to the right by P.R.I.D.E. (Personal Rights in Defense and Education), which protested a 1967 police raid on the Black Cat in Silver Lake, will also be included.

Other archives, even those without original artworks in their collections, possess a wealth of valuable materials related to Southern California artists. The Archival Center of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles preserves paper records and visual artifacts related to artist Leo Politi's work for the archdiocese. The personal photographic archive of award-winning photojournalist Shelley Gazin contains many images of local artists in their studios, including Charles Arnoldi, Robbie Conal, and Laddie Dill. And the Smithsonian Institution's Archives of American Art, while not based in Southern California, contains oral history interviews with prominent Los Angeles artists such as Clinton Adams and Peter Alexander.

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Many of the archives who contributed the above images are members of L.A. as Subject, an association of more than 230 libraries, museums, official archives, personal collections, and other institutions. Hosted by the USC Libraries, L.A. as Subject is dedicated to preserving and telling the sometimes-hidden stories and histories of the Los Angeles region. Our posts here will provide a view into the archives of individuals and cultural institutions whose collections inform the great narrative—in all its complex facets—of Southern California.

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An image of the French district in downtown Los Angeles. The image shows Aliso Street in downtown Los Angeles, California, with signs labeling buildings "Griffins Transfer and Storage Co." and "Cafe des Alpes" next to "Eden Hotel," which are located on opposite corners of Aliso and Alameda Streets. A Pacific Electric streetcar sign reads "Sierra Madre" and automobiles and horse-drawn wagons are seen in the dirt road.

What Cinco de Mayo Has to do with the French in Early L.A.

Cinco de Mayo is often celebrated wrongly as Mexican Independence Day, but a dig into the historical landscape of Los Angeles in the early 19th century reveals a complex relationship of French émigrés with a Mexican Los Angeles.
Close up of the Los Angeles Oil Field

A Walk Along L.A.'s Original Borders Reveals Surprising Remnants from the City's Past

To walk the border of the sprawling City of Los Angeles as it is today (about 503 square miles) seems an inconceivable feat for most. But what if that walk circumnavigated the city as it was in 1781 or 1850, when Los Angeles was square-shaped measuring four square leagues?
A black and white postcard photo of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union Home in Eagle Rock probably taken a few years after the home opened in 1928. The four-story main building is in the shape of a Maltese cross with Churrigueresque ornamentation over the main door, an the elevator in the center and four wings reaching out.

A Haven for Early Feminists: Eagle Rock's Home of Woman's Christian Temperance Union

Founded by middle-and-upper-class women to push for abstinence and prohibition laws, the Woman's Christian Temperance Union at Eagle Rock became a major force for societal change and a hub for feminist activity in Los Angeles.