Independent curator Dave Hampton is earning a reputation as one of the few people in San Diego who are interested in researching the city's historical art-and-craft movement. He's the guy who pieced together the thoughtful San Diego's Craft Revolution exhibition at Mingei International Museum in 2011, and he's always researching and exhibiting past important work made in San Diego and beyond through Objects USA, the website and occasional pop-up shop he cofounded.
Hampton's latest diggings have focused on Richard Allen Morris, John Baldessari, Bob Matheny and Russell Baldwin. The resulting exhibition, Spitting in the Wind: Art from the End of the Line, opens at the Oceanside Museum of Art (704 Pier View Way) on Saturday, July 5. It marks the first time anyone's organized a group show featuring work made by these four friends during the 1950s and '60s.
Sitting at a table at Influx Café in Golden Hill, Morris and Hampton describe the climate of what Hampton, in the exhibition catalogue, calls "San Diego's pre-UCSD, pre-Interstate 5 art community." As the name of the exhibition suggests, support for the arts in the city back then wasn't terribly enthusiastic.
"The title is accurate," Morris says. "It expresses the frustration of the times, which were pathetic, as they are now. It hasn't changed. This is not a vigorous art community at all."
The artists faced what they saw as indifference to their work and to the edgy, progressive ideas and art movements they were introducing to San Diego, Hampton later explains. Baldessari had to leave San Diego before making it big in the art world. The others stayed and, Hampton says, never got the recognition they deserved, because San Diego is so often overlooked by the international art world. As the catalogue notes, the four artists "did more to advance the field of contemporary art in San Diego during the 1960s than is remembered today."
"People just don't understand this period in San Diego very well," Hampton says. "I mean, why hasn't anyone come along to do this show already? Why is it me doing this now?"