California: North and South


Drawn by its undeniable beauty, artists in California told the story of their native landscape with great fervor and raw, visceral passion.  As told by curator Hayden Hunt, the Golden State holds a unique place in the greater legacy of American art not merely because of this rich artistic tradition, but because various schools and individual achievement took root here in the Post World War II world in a unique tenure of fresh expression.The Heather James Fine Art exhibition California: North and South aspires to illustrate California’s unique place as a source of inspiration.

Of the artists untouched by Manhattan bias and preferred taste, Richard Diebenkorn transcended the notion he is a follower of anyone but his own muse. His celebrated Ocean Park series executed from 1967 to 1988 is represented by graphic masterworks such as “Blue Surround” and the formidable “Green”. Both capture the defining characteristics of the series and impress with a painterly quality that suggest the immediacy of ‘in the moment’ process. Also included, an example of Diebenkorn’s lifelong fascination with the human figure, a study that represents the artist’s association with the one of California’s most unique contributions to the national dialogue in art – the Bay Area Figurative School.

While New York school painters were throwing, slathering, and dripping their paint with an esoteric and often times existential methodology. A group of Bay Area artists chose to reject Abstract Expressionism in a return to figuration in painting.


David Park, a close friend of Richard Diebenkorn’s, is generally considered a father of the Bay Area Figurative movement. His “Girl at Piano” from 1954 is rich in color, has vigorous brushwork, and is a compositional tour de force utilizing the immediacy of a dynamic planar tilt giving the impression its formal elements could tumble right out of the picture plane.  Parks early death, soon after the completion of this work would be a tragic loss for the artistic community in which he was so deeply respected and loved.

Another notable work from the exhibition, Paul Wonner’s “River Bathers” is an exemplary example that beautifully illustrates the qualities that define the Californian Aesthetic.  Lucious, vivid greens add a degree of immediacy to the work, something quite temporal. Wayne Thiebaud, often associated with Pop Art because of his interest in objects of mass culture is an artist of national repute. “Dark Cake” evinces one of his most iconic subjects, and technically, a marvel of woodblock printmaking.

From Southern California, Roger Kuntz was an artist who embraced the Bay Area Figurative school in a series of works painted in his studio home at Laguna Beach. Of more sustained importance to Southern California’s national contributions, we have a school of painters that came to be known as ‘hard edge abstractionists’ that includes John McLaughlin, Frederick Hammersley, Lorser Feitelson and here, Karl Benjamin whose intuitive sensitivity gives his work a meticulously orchestrated union of form and color. We encourage you to explore the offerings included in California:North and South, and contact Heather James Fine Art for more information on the artists highlighted.