David Richard Contemporary is pleased to present BAY AREA ABSTRACTION: 1945-1965, an exhibition featuring the work of Jack Jefferson, Frank Lobdell and Charles Strong.
Abstract Expressionism dominated Post-War American art and was explored in parallel on the two coasts—in New York with notable figures such as Pollock, DeKooning, Motherwell, and Newman, and in San Francisco with painters such as Diebenkorn, Francis, Bischoff, Dugmore, Smith, Jefferson and Lobdell. There were striking similarities in the work produced from the two cities in terms of thick gestural brushstrokes laid down in bold colors on large canvases. Yet, differences emerged: the Bay Area abstractionists were less influenced by European tendencies of the time and more by Asian culture, the ethos of the Beat generation, and the expansiveness and new social freedom of California life.
Clyfford Still, a common link between the two coasts, was a forerunner of pure abstraction. By the mid-1940s, Still had emptied his paintings of any representation and the titles he gave them were entirely non-referential, consisting only of dates and series numbers. Still taught at the California School of Fine Arts (now the San Francisco Art Institute), where he had a profound influence on many of the students, including Jack Jefferson and Frank Lobdell.
Perhaps the most extraordinary aspect of this period at the California School of Fine Arts was the mutual collegial respect between teacher and student, a respect more like that between junior and senior or peer and mentor than between students and professors. These artists shared a personal chemistry and a passion both intellectual and visceral for abstract art, and that common cause held the San Francisco School of Abstract Expressionism together even more tightly than its New York counterpart.
Jack Jefferson’s quiet and understated demeanor, combined with his bold and purposeful approach to art, defined his career and subsequent interactions with students when he taught at the California School of Fine Arts. Normally dark and moody, his artwork changed with each new studio location, and the titles he gave them reflected various addresses in and around San Francisco. Frank Lobdell was influenced by primitive cultures and symbols; as a result, his early work, while gestural and abstract, frequently incorporated biomorphic shapes and figuration. The unique symbolic “language” that he developed became his way of expressing frustration with man’s inhumanity towards man and the atrocities of war.
Early in his career, while still living in his native Colorado, Charles Strong had the good fortune to meet and interact with Clyfford Still. Strong did not study with Still directly when he came to the CSFA, but under his students Jefferson and Lobdell. He was also influenced by another prominent presence at the school, Hassel Smith. Throughout his oeuvre Strong demonstrates an unwavering commitment to Abstract Expressionism. He developed a distinctive gritty, textured approach that transitioned through the 1960s from dark neutralized colors in blocky abstractions suggesting the rock formations of Colorado’s mountains to fluid, vibrantly colorful compositions more evocative of volcanic eruptions, hot lava, and deep geological journeys to the earth’s inner core.
David Richard Contemporary is also pleased to present a second, related exhibition of Bay Area painters of the postwar era. Featured is artwork by Hassel Smith, Robert McChesney, Edward Dugmore—who also studied with Still and was a contemporary of Jefferson & Lobdell during his time in San Francisco—and several of Smith’s students, Madeleine Dimond, Lilly Fenichel, James Kelly and Deborah Remington. We will also show work by a couple of younger Bay Area Abstractionists, Lynn Faus and Michael Kennedy, who studied at the San Francisco Art Institute with Jack Jefferson.
Thus, the California School of Fine Arts is the common link among all the artists in both of these exhibitions, demonstrating an artistic lineage across three generations that started with Clyfford Still and was perpetuated by Jefferson, Lobdell, Smith, and Strong.
The exhibition will be accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue with an essay by Peter Frank, art historian and art critic with the Huffington Post. The catalogue will also be available on-line.