Painting <=> Design / curated by David Pagel
Painting<=>Design focuses on a strand of abstract painting that emerged in Southern California in the late 1950s and continues today in a wide range of works that are openly indebted to design.
In the 1950s, such artists as Karl Benjamin and Frederick Hammersley became known for hard-edge abstraction, a style of painting in which crisp, clean shapes and bold, vivid colors replaced the messy gesturalism of Abstract Expressionism, the angst-laden symbolism of Surrealist-inspired imagery, and the implied narratives of California Assemblage.
In the 1970s, Kim MacConnel came to prominence as a leader in the movement known as Pattern-and-Decoration, which reclaimed some of the free-wheeling spontaneity and raucous improvisations of abstract painting by divorcing its moves and techniques from self-expression and locating them in the world of domestic decor.
In the 1980s, Jim Isermann built on both precedents, creating paintings, sculptures, and odd, quasi-functional hybrids that combined the painterly precision and structural rigor of Benjamin‚s and Hammersley‚s abstract canvases with the homey locale and utilitarian impetus of MacConnel‚s do-it-yourself designs.
Since then, Darcy Huebler, Tim Bavington, Bart Exposito, and Candace Nycz have created powerfully original paintings that all have one foot firmly planted in the world of abstract painting and the other in that of design.
Painting-Design is the first exhibition (and catalog) to explore the history of abstract painting in Southern California via its relationship to design. Conventional historical accounts traditionally treat Southern California abstraction as an offshoot of the Light and Space movement, in which L.A.‚s celebrated light (and its association with hedonistic beach culture) gets its due (repeatedly) in discrete, tasteful, often atmospheric canvases that are a pleasure to behold, despite breaking little new ground.
In contrast, Painting<=>Design examines inter-generation links between and among Southern California painters in a fresh, insightful, and original manner. The focused, eight-artist show sheds light on works often overlooked and undervalued because they do not fit into the categories established by standard historical accounts. The relationship between abstract painting and contemporary design provides fertile ground on which to come to a fuller and more nuanced understanding of a strand of art made in Southern California that is integral to the region's history.
The catalog will include color reproductions of the paintings in the exhibition; an essay about the works and their place in the history of Southern California art by David Pagel; and an essay by Libby Lumpkin, Ph.D, which traces the relationship between art and design back to ancient Greece, where it roots are revealed to be deeply embedded in debates about knowledge and pleasure, art and craft, intellect and labor, masters and slaves.