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California Abstract Expressionist Works Given to the Crocker Art Museum
Karl Kasten, "Snake Dance," 1962. Oil on canvas, 44 x 48 in. Promised gift of George Y. and LaVona J. Blair. Photography by Jesse Bravo.
SACRAMENTO, CA.- The Crocker Art Museum has received a major gift of Bay Area abstract expressionist and other works of art, comprised of nearly 400 pieces by approximately 200 artists. The collection, given by George Y. and LaVona J. Blair, includes paintings and sculptures by many of the artists that defined this California movement, including Ernest Briggs, Edward Dugmore and Lawrence Calcagno. The works characterize the ideals of a momentous period in mid-20th century American art and mark the West Coast’s emergence as leading force in the art world. Works from the collection will be on public view in 2010 when the Crocker unveils its new 125,000-square-foot expansion designed by Gwathmey Siegel & Associates Architects of New York.

While Abstract Expressionism dominated the New York art scene beginning in the mid-1940s, West Coast artists developed their own quintessentially Californian expressionist style. In close contact with the Beat generation of San Francisco writers, musicians and philosophers, many California artists focused on experimentation and the exchange of ideas in their work. These artists concentrated on portraying an inner reality through style and form as opposed to the emphasis on action of the New York-based artists. At the same time, many of the Californian artists continued to look to the landscape of the West Coast as a source of inspiration. Blair developed a passion for the West Coast style of abstract painting as a student on the G.I. Bill in San Francisco and amassed a nearly comprehensive collection of this work.

“Recent years have brought a reassessment of the works by California’s Abstract Expressionist artists and an appreciation of the importance of this school in the history of American art,” said Scott A. Shields, associate director and chief curator, Crocker Art Museum. “The Blair collection is extremely important to the Crocker because it represents a pivotal era that has been lacking in our collection of California art. Thanks to the Blair’s generous gift, we are able to offer a broad survey of the on the story of artistic development in California since 1945.”

The Blair Collection was the focus of the Crocker’s 2004 exhibition San Francisco and the Second Wave, which was the first major exhibition to examine these artists.

The Crocker Art Museum | Abstract Expressionism | Scott A. Shields |

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