In the San Francisco Bay Area, the avant-garde of the 1950s and 1960s was composed of a cadre of extraordinarily gifted and energetic artists engaged in the preeminent artistic movement of the post-war era, Abstract Expressionism.
While each of these artists had a distinct vision of Abstract Expressionism, they all shared a commitment to the fundamental tenets of the movement, from the rigorous, calculating formal techniques of abstraction to the depth of intellectual activity and heavy-handed emotionalism of expressionism.
Though these tenets extended to East Coast Abstract Expressionism as well, West Coast artists were arguably as, if not more, seminal to the movement as their New York counterparts. San Francisco Bay Area Abstract Expressionism found a unique vocabulary, which was predicated more on nature than that of their New York counterparts.
This West Coast vocabulary is richly displayed with 67 paintings by 67 different artists in While Pollock Was Sleeping: Bay Area Abstract Expressionism from the Blair Collection, on exhibition on Laguna Art Museum from July 31 through October 2, 2005. Although California had been regarded as a mere province on the landscape of American avant-garde art in the first half of the twentieth century, by the mid-sixties that perception began to change as influences from a more international academy were assimilated into visual art almost daily. While Pollock Was Sleeping continues to explore the themes first presented in Laguna Art Museum’s 1996 seminal exhibition, The San Francisco Bay Area Abstract Expressionism, and also in the 2003 exhibition, Hassel Smith: 55 Years of Painting.
The Blair Collection provides an especially rich view of California Abstract Expressionist painting from 1948 to 1964. In many cases, the paintings in the Blair Collection have not been displayed for over forty years, and while the Blair Collection includes a few easily recognizable names, many more of the works in the exhibition are by artists who form a lesser known but equally significant, California-based "Second Wave" of Abstract Expressionist painting.
Most of the paintings in While Pollock Was Sleeping: Bay Area Abstract Expressionism from the Blair Collection are by artists who either studied or taught at the California School of Fine Arts, now the San Francisco Art Institute, during the post-war period of 1945 to 1965. Established in 1871 as the San Francisco Art Association, the San Francisco Art Institute is one of the nation's oldest and strongest art schools.
During the post-war years, under the direction of Douglas MacAgy, the school flourished, offering students, and in particular returning GIs, excellent opportunities through its faculty and visiting artists, including such individuals as Hassel Smith, Edward Corbett, James Budd Dixon, Jerrold Davis, and Sam Tchakalian.
While Pollock Was Sleeping: Bay Area Abstract Expressionism from the Blair Collection reevaluates the careers and work of these and other artists, many of whom are unknown to the public. The purpose of the exhibition is to place certain lesser known artists alongside other artists of now greater repute - such as Joan Brown, Richard Diebenkorn, and Paul Wonner - so that viewers can help decide the future of these artists who are being introduced to the viewing public once again.
These artists, the so-called "Second Wave," were often teachers and theoreticians, and their impact is more felt than seen on the landscape of art history. To increase their public exposure today is to explore the individual and collective aesthetic sensibilities, as well as the intellectual undercurrents, that gave birth not only to West Coast Abstract Expressionism, but to generations of art and artists in the San Francisco Bay Area.
While Pollock Was Sleeping is a reorganized and refocused exhibition based on a previous exhibition organized in 2004 by The Crocker Museum of Art in Sacramento, California called California’s Second Wave: The Blair Collection of San Francisco Bay Area Abstract Expressionism, which is also the title of the accompanying catalogue.
While Pollock Was Sleeping: Bay Area Abstract Expressionism from the Blair Collection is supported by The A. Gary Anderson Foundation, Miriam Smith of the Art Resources Group, and The Charles D. and Twyla R. Martin Foundation. Additional support comes from the Laguna Beach Visitors & Conference Bureau, and the Business Improvement District. Additional support has been provided by Streaming Media Hosting and Optical Visions.
ARTISTS IN THE EXHIBITION
William Henry Brown
James Budd Dixon
Robert Downs Ralph Ducasse
Jose Ramon Lerma
Roland Peterson Clayton Pinkerton
William T. Wiley