Skip to Content

To best protect the health and safety of our community, the museum is temporarily closed. Learn more.

Ruins of the General Assembly Hall and Hotel, Llano del Rio, Antelope Valley, California

A work made of chromogenic print, from the series "sweet earth: experimental utopias in america".

Image actions

  • A work made of chromogenic print, from the series "sweet earth: experimental utopias in america".

Date:

November 1993

Artist:

Joel Sternfeld
American, born 1944

About this artwork

Currently Off View

Photography

Artist

Joel Sternfeld

Title

Ruins of the General Assembly Hall and Hotel, Llano del Rio, Antelope Valley, California

Origin

United States

Date

Made 1993

Medium

Chromogenic print, from the series "Sweet Earth: Experimental Utopias in America"

Inscriptions

No markings recto or verso After losing his 1911 bid to become mayor of Los Angeles, Job Harriman, a prominent lawyer and a socialist of great conviction, founded Llano del Rio to demonstrate that socialism could work. The site of a former temperance colony sixty miles northeast of Los Angeles was purchased for a down payment of fifteen dollars, and on May Day 1914 five families, five pigs, a team of horses and a cow came to Llano. Three years later, there were nine hundred residents. Conditions were harsh and demanding, yet the colony grew and prospered. Many members later recalled those years as the best, most exciting times of their lives. Freedom from capitalism, a varied social, intellectual and recreational life, and mass participation in the democratic process of the community gave Llano an Edenic quality. The problems that undid the colony were internal dissension and an inadequate water supply. A group of dissidents, who met secretly at night in the surrounding sagebrush, deeply disrupted community discussion and debate. In fact, the “brushers” might have been saboteurs planted by Los Angeles Times publisher Harrison Gray Otis, who had opposed Harriman’s mayoral campaign and was known for his underhanded tactics. When a conflict over water rights arose between the colony and neighboring citizens of the Big Rock Water District, Llano had to go to court over its right to irrigate. The opposing attorney referred to the group as “socialist plunderers,” and the case was lost. From that moment on, the failure of Llano was inevitable. In 1918, a splinter group moved to a site in Louisiana, where they survived in a limited form for the next twenty years. In the 1940s, Aldous Huxley lived for a year in a house that had belonged to the original Antelope Valley colony—he wanted to absorb any remaining utopian karma. From the portfolio, Sweet Earth: Experimental Utopias in America, 1982–2005

Dimensions

26.4 × 32.9 cm (image); 27.9 × 35.4 cm (paper)

Credit Line

Gift of Ralph and Nancy Segall

Reference Number

2008.745

Extended information about this artwork

Object information is a work in progress and may be updated as new research findings emerge. To help improve this record, please email . Information about image downloads and licensing is available here.

Share

Sign up for our enewsletter to receive updates.

Learn more

Image actions

Share