Past Exhibitions

Birth of the Cool: California Art, Design, and Culture at Midcentury

Exhibition Through January 6, 2008

Birth of the Cool examines the broad cultural zeitgeist of “cool” that influenced the visual arts, graphic and decorative arts, architecture, music, and film produced in California in the 1950s and early 1960s. The widespread influences of such midcentury architects and designers as Harry Bertoia, Charles and Ray Eames, John Lautner, and Richard Neutra, have been well-documented. Less well-known, however, are the innovations of a group of Hard-Edge painters working during this period including Karl Benjamin, Lorser Feitelson, Fredrick Hammersley, Helen Lundberg and John McLaughlin, whose work retains a freshness and relevance today. Birth of the Cool revisits this scene, providing a visual and cultural context for West Coast geometric abstract painting within the other dynamic art forms of this time.

Birth of the Cool Tour Schedule:

Addison Gallery of American Art, Phillips Academy 
February 15-April 13, 2008

Oakland Museum of California 
May 18-August 17, 2008

Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, St. Louis
September 19, 2008-January 5, 2009

Blanton Museum of Art, Austin
February 27-May 31, 2009

Image credit:
Julius Shulman, photograph of Case Study House #21 (Pierre Koenig, architect, Los Angeles, 1958), 1958. © J. Paul Getty Trust. Used with permission. Julius Shulman Photography Archive, Research Library at the Getty Research Institute

Exhibition Credits

Birth of the Cool is organized by the Orange County Museum of Art and curated by Elizabeth Armstrong, deputy director for programs and chief curator at OCMA. The exhibition is accompanied by a 300-page publication.


Major support for Birth of the Cool is provided by Brent R. Harris, The Segerstrom Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts. Significant support is provided by Bente and Gerald Buck, Twyla and Chuck Martin, Jayne and Mark Murrel, Pam and Jim Muzzy, Barbara and Victor Klein, and Victoria and Gilbert E. LeVasseur Jr.. Additional support is provided by Toni and Steven Berlinger and Patricia and Max Ellis.

Corporate sponsorship is provided by Gucci and Design Within Reach.

The official media sponsor of OCMA is The Orange County Register. Additional media sponsorship is provided by KCRW and KKJZ.