Jerry McMillan was a key figure in documenting the fertile Los Angeles art scene in the late 1960s and early 70s. Originally hailing from Oklahoma, he moved to L.A. in the late 50s and starting taking photos whilst studying at Chouinard Art Institute. Much of the work being produced on the West Coast by the then-unknown loose collective of artists went on to become canonical in the history of Modern Art, and McMillan had a knack for getting great, often irreverent portraits of the main players. Photographing the likes of Joe Goode, Larry Bell, Judy Chicago and the Eds - Kienholz, Bereal and Ruscha (in fact Ruscha, a long-time friend, was something of a muse) both at work and at play, you can see the subjects trusted McMillan, and the easiness and intimacy in his work is a great behind-the-scenes counterpoint to the artwork itself.
One of his most infamous photos was for the War Babies exhibition at the Huysman Gallery in 1961. Showing a portrait of the ethnically diverse artists taking part in the show eating stereotypical food (Ed Bereal, African-American: watermelon; Larry Bell, Jewish: a bagel; Joe Goode, Irish: mackerel; Ron Miyashiro, Asian, eating with chopsticks) off an American-flag tablecloth, the image outraged conservative critics, and in fact the gallery closed shortly after the exhibition ended.
McMillan has also created more conceptual, complex works which can be seen here and deserve a look. But for now its his documentation of those West Coast mavericks we're relishing.
The infamous War Babies poster featuring, l-r, Ed Bereal, Larry Bell, Joe Goode, Ron Miyashiro
Ed Ruscha and Walter Hopps, 1962
Ed Ruscha unfolding 'Every Building On The Sunset Strip', 1967
Ed Ruscha, 1968
24 Young L.A. Artists, 1971
Ron Miyashiro in his studio, 1961
Ed Ruscha Says Goodbye To College Joys, 1967
Larry Bell, 1967
Robert Graham looking at his work in an exhibition, 1968
Judy Chicago, 1970
Ron Davis, 1968
Ed Kienholz, 1968
Larry Bell, 1968
Judy Chicago, 1970
All images © Jerry McMillan, courtesy of Craig Krull Gallery