OK/LA: How a group of Oklahoma City high school friends took over the SoCal modern art scene.

Great State

NORMAN, Okla. (KFOR) – They were friends already, kind of a high school art clique.

But when Patrick Blackwell, Joe Goode, Jerry McMillan, Paul Ruscha and his brother Ed, and Mason Williams all decided to head to Los Angeles to go to art school, it started a lifetime of collaboration.

Hadley Jerman and Kaylee Kain are two of the current curators at the Fred Jones Art Museum who worked to bring these friends’ work together for the first time.

“They really made it big in Southern California,” says Jerman.

“When you look at them as a whole,” says Kain. “you realize how much they collaborated with each other and how much they were also just playing around with their friends.”

They called themselves the ‘Student Five’, living in a condemned building to save money, heading back and forth from Oklahoma to Southern California.

Jerman says, “This idea of the automobile and car travel is really key to their work.”

What they brought with them, red dirt, twisters, and a sense of humor that told them never to take any subject too seriously.

They all ended up having a big influence on the modern art movement of that time.

Kain chuckles, “Can you imagine 1960’s L.A. with your best friends you just moved from Oklahoma with?”

‘You can take the boy out of Oklahoma, but you can’t take Oklahoma out of the boy’, held true in everything they did.

“I think they had real pride in where they were from,” continues Kain. “and a lot of their work reflects that.”

These six friends stayed in LA to work.

They’re all still living and still laughing as evidenced by Paul Ruscha’s newest centerpiece called ‘Dinner for Donald’.

It sets an imaginary presidential table setting with some interesting but adversarial guests.

Their chairs are all matching porcelain commodes.

Oklahoma and Los Angeles might be a journey of more than 1,300 miles by car, but to a group of old artist friends the space between held nothing but inspiration.

Great State is sponsored by WEOKIE

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