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Tate St. Ives Presents If Everybody had an Ocean
Vija Celmins, Ocean 1975, Lithograph on paper, 31.7 x 42 cm. Tate. © The artist.

ST. IVES, UK.-Tate St. Ives presents If Everybody had an Ocean - Brian Wilson, an Art Exhibition. Billy Al Bengston, Peter Blake, Mel Bochner, John Cage, Brian Calvin, Vija Celmins, Russell Crotty, Thomas Demand, Kaye Donachie, Isa Genzken, Liam Gillick, Jeremy Glogan, Joe Goode, Rodney Graham, Richard Hawkins, Roger Hiorns, Jim Isermann, Sister Corita Kent, John McCracken, Lee Mullican, Kaz Oshiro, Raymond Pettibon, Richard Pettibone, Ken Price, Bridget Riley, Allen Ruppersberg, Ed Ruscha, Jim Shaw, Fred Tomaselli, Jennifer West, Pae White, Daria Wilson.

This exhibition of art since the 1960s takes as its premise the life and music of Brian Wilson, the main creative force behind the Beach Boys between 1962 and 1967. Loosely chronological, the paintings, sculptures, installations, photo-text works and films evoke the trajectory of Wilson's life and music along with contemporaneous developments in art history and Southern California. Here, Wilson's music becomes a prism through which to view various developments in recent art history, while the work of thirty-two artists (half of whom come from Los Angeles) offer unexpected perspectives on the complexities of Wilson’s cultural achievement. This relationship is reinforced by Tate St Ives’ stunning backdrop: Porthmeor Beach, a glorious stretch of sand where surf is usually up.

If Everybody had an Ocean has three main phases. The first considers the interplay between avant-garde art and popular culture, specifically surf, car culture and Southern California as a mythical teenage utopia. The second movement is made up of polychromatic, more or less abstract images and objects that share what Wilson called the “psychedelicacy” of his kaleidoscopic studio productions. This acts as the exhibition’s instrumental section. The third evokes the disparity between the popular image of the Beach Boys and Wilson’s own, often turbulent inner world (by the late 60s, at the height of his fame, he’d become a virtual recluse). This, in turn, recalls the dystopian flipside of the Californian dream together with the loss of innocence that 1960s baby boomers underwent at the close of that revolutionary decade. The exhibition ends on an optimistic, if cautionary, note: finally, no amount of turmoil and commercial exploitation can detract from the power of the music.

If Everybody had an Ocean is curated by Alex Farquharson, Director of the forthcoming Centre for Contemporary Art Nottingham and Research Fellow at Royal College of Art. The exhibition is realised in association with CAPC Musée d’Art Contemporain, Bordeaux, and was preceded by Brian Wilson: an Art Book, Four Corners Books, 2005. It is accompanied by a new publication, with essays by the curator and David Toop and an interview with Brian Wilson by Hans Ulrich Obrist, as well as a symposium on 26 May featuring many of the artists, followed by an open air party. This exhibition has not been authorised by Brian Wilson or The Beach Boys.

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