Hungry Eyes

Diana Zlotnick and Post-War Art in Los Angeles

Diana Zlotnick arranging artworks at home, accompanied by her family Photo: Los Angeles Times Photographic Archive, Library Special Collections, Charles E. Young Research Library, UCLA

A voracious collector, comm­­unity builder, and champion of emergent contemporary artists, Diana Zlotnick tapped into the Los Angeles art world at a particularly charged moment of post-war creative ferment. Today, the art milieu of the late 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s Los Angeles has taken on nearly mythic qualities, conjuring Bohemian fetes in canyons, the experimental openness of CalArts, Venice Beach warehouse studios, and, broadly, an explosion of material and conceptual inquiry through performance, sculpture, video, painting, publication, and more. Zlotnick immersed herself wholeheartedly in this atmosphere, led by fearless curiosity, dedication, and deeply felt connections to the works that she brought home.

Collect art that cancels out the rest of the world…—Diana Zlotnick, Newsletter on the Arts, 2013

Born in 1927 and raised in Los Angeles, Diana Zlotnick (née Shirley) attended Fairfax High School and would later support herself as a schoolteacher. She met Harry Zlotnick at a USO dance, and, after a whirlwind romance, the couple married on July 3, 1955. Being a schoolteacher was decidedly not Ms. Zlotnick’s calling, nor was being a dental hygienist (she flunked the program). Encouraged by her husband, who was able to support the family as a veterinarian, Zlotnick stopped working—and started collecting. With determination, savvy, and a healthy dose of chutzpah, she went on to amass an extensive collection from major artists as their stars were rising – among those who most captivated her were Wallace Berman, Chris Burden, Llyn Foulkes, George Herms, Channa Horwitz, Gloria Kisch, Ed Ruscha, and Richard and Shirley Pettibone.

There aren't many collectors like Diana Zlotnick, though there ought to be...Not content to play the passive art consumer, she quickly began circumventing the gallery system, approaching artists directly — visiting studios, exploring work in depth and developing real relationships.

Doug Harvey, L.A. Weekly, October 27, 2005

Bruce Conner 1933–2008

Bruce Conner was born in McPherson, Kansas in 1933 and died (by his own account) several times, after spending fifty years creating one of the most idiosyncratic and interesting bodies of work of the latter half of the twentieth century. Never content to work in one medium or mode, Conner explored moments of chaos and order, grief and ecstasy, our private and collective experiences, through assemblage, photography, film, collage, drawing and conceptual vagaries.

Conner once called Kansas “a place to be from,” and, like many young creative people of his generation, he was eventually drawn to the west coast. He studied literature and art at several schools, including Kansas Art Institute, Wichita University, University of Nebraska and briefly, Brooklyn Museum School. He later admitted his perpetual enrollment was largely to avoid the horror of being drafted. Painting was the first medium he explored seriously, citing Modigliani, Paul Klee and the ethos of Dada as early influences. Though he was painting at the height of abstract expressionism, and in an abstract mode, he found very little kinship with the style, its disciples and New York, calling the city “a rat maze, going from one little box to another little box … to get from one safe haven to another.”

Auction Results Bruce Conner