Submitted by the Laguna College of Art & Design:
California and the West have long symbolized change—change that often occurs at an alarmingly fast rate. During the 1920s and 1930s, in response to increased industrialization and immigration, both urban and rural California landscapes began experiencing a punctuated rate of change, the effects of which are noticeable to this day. In this atmosphere of unyielding progress, regard for the present moment or the past is often lost. Times and places once considered immutable become, almost overnight, impermanent and inaccessible.
We are very fortunate that, in the 1930s, a group of both young and established artists took interest in scenes of everyday life unique to the rapidly changing California landscape. Artists such as Emil Kosa, Jr.; Milford Zornes; Rex Brandt; Roger Kuntz; Marshall Hibbard; Charles F. Keck and Charles Kilgore—all included in this exhibition—created an indelible legacy by painting scenes that would otherwise have been only fleeting memories.
In “San Francisco Cable Car” (c. 1938), a highly structured and tonally subdued cityscape, Marshall Hibbard (1910-1989) depicted the routine, almost prosaic nature of San Francisco’s pre-war working class. With broad and free brush strokes that belie the narrowing existence of urban life, Charles F. Keck (1913-2003) captured an anonymous solitary figure seeking retreat from the encroaching sprawl of downtown Los Angeles, seen looming ominously in the background of “Feeding the Ducks, Echo Park” (c. 1940). In “Mary by the Sea” (1934) Lee Blair (1911-1993) offers a precautionary view of a lone figure—his then wife-to-be, Mary Blair—presiding watchfully over an undeveloped expanse of pristine California coastline.
Each individual California Regionalist became a conservator documenting with a unique personal perspective the gritty, mundane, everyday scenes of their time. The record that they collectively amassed preserves a significant era marked by mercurial change in lifestyle and the vast and distinct regional landscape. Their efforts gives us pause to questions our responsibility, as inhabitants of this land, and inspire us to preserve the land not only in painted depictions, but also with acts of conservation and preservation.
The regionalist works gathered for this exhibition are accompanied by the works of Clyde Scott and Orrin White, a friend and colleague of Charles Kilgore, whose works bridge the earlier impressionistic romanticized landscapes of the early 20th century. Many of these artists were faculty and alumni of the Chouinard Art Institute of Los Angeles, Claremont University, and Pomona College, as well as storied artists of Disney Studios. Each work in this exhibition offers an opportunity for reflection and for projection. We know what has become of San Francisco, Echo Park, California’s coastline and even Mary Blair since those scenes were painted in the first half of the last century, but we don’t know what is to come. As you walk through this exhibition I hope your views into California’s low deserts, central valley, bustling cityscapes, and ever changing shorelines serve to change you as time has altered these places. By looking carefully, you will grant yourself unprecedented access to a California forgotten and to a California yet to be.
Curated by Hope Railey, Professor of Drawing and Painting, Laguna College of Art and Design.
Accessing the California Landscape:
- September 3rd through the 30th, 2012
- Gallery Hours: 11-4 Monday through Friday, Closed Saturday and Sunday
- Please join us: Opening Reception: First Thursday, September 5th, 6-9pm
- Laguna College of Art + Design
- 2222 Laguna Canyon Road, Laguna Beach