The Life & Times of Joel Wachs

Joel Wachs with actor Gloria Swanson in 1973. Photo courtesy of Tessa/LAPL.

The artist made this work to support Los Angeles politician Joel Wachs's second of three (unsuccessful) campaigns to become the city's mayor. Wachs had become the youngest member of LA's City Council at the age of 33 in 1971, a race that he won overwhelmingly at least in part due to his opposition against a major Beverly Hills development project. Wachs supported slow-growth development, as well as rent control, gay rights initiatives, and mandatory recycling, and he was a strong proponent for artists and the arts.

A gay man, Wachs served on City Council for decades before he came out of the closet in 1999, at the age of 60 – as he reflected, "You have to remember: Nobody in the history of the United States, at any level, city, county, state or federal, no one in history had ever ever been elected as an openly gay candidate." Wachs retired from the City Council in 2001 to accept the role of President of the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, and more recently was portrayed by Benny Safdie in Paul Thomas Anderson's Licorice Pizza (2021).

Geometry is moribund.
I want a lilt and joy to art.

Ellsworth Kelly

Ellsworth Kelly

American minimalist painter and sculptor Ellsworth Kelly rendered his surroundings into abstract, essential shapes and varying planes of color and empty space. After studying at the Pratt Institute in New York, he was deployed to France during World War II, where his fascination with Paris and European artists was first sparked. While in France, Kelly surrounded himself with like-minded artists including Alexander Calder and began to develop his iconic style through paintings and collages “that were arranged according to the laws of chance.” In 1954, he returned to the U.S. and gained immediate success at New York gallery shows where he exhibited his geometric, minimalist paintings and totemic sculptures. Kelly earned his first retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1973, and has since been the subject of retrospectives at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, and Tate Modern in London.

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