"A unique collection of individual portraits of persons not discussed in other histories. By sampling these personal stories, Smith has also mapped the process by which California was transformed from a provincial backwater state into one of the dominant centers of the avant-garde."--"Library Journal
This text demonstrates the profound influence that the regional culture of California's visual arts and poetry had on American art and thought. Combining intellectual and cultural history, it traces the spread of ideas developed in California's pre-World War II bohemian enclaves to mainstream America, where they became a major current of 1950s and 1960s counterculturism. The provincial nature of California's prewar arts institutions fostered an aesthetics-stressing personal expression and the exploration of life's mysteries through creativity. These ideas found expression in the beat generation's soul-searching and informed a decade-long debate about conformity. When America exploded with socio-political protest in the 1960s, California quickly became a countercultural focal point for a nation redefining itself. People unfamiliar with the California avant-garde's actual works readily absorbed their ideas as they crossed the line into popular culture.
Candida Smith introduces the major figures in California's visual arts and poetry movements: postsurrealists Helen Lundeberg and Lorser Feitelson; writers Kenneth Rexroth, Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg and Wallace Berman; Vietnam War-era poets Gary Snyder and Denise Levertov.