From January 18 to May 8, 2014, The Irvine Museum
presents California Scene Paintings: 1920s-1970s, a special exhibition guest curated by Gordon T. McClelland.
Part of the larger Regionalist art movement of the 1930s-1970s era, California Scene Painting--a term first used by Los Angeles Times art critic Arthur Millier--describes representational art that captured scenes of everyday life in California. Through the New Deal Relief programs, the Works Progress Administration (WPA) assisted struggling artists by providing them with wages to create artworks for government buildings and public places intended to uplift the nation's spirits amidst the Great Depression. California Scene Paintings: 1920s-1970s documents much of this period in California history through works that depict local city and rural scenes, particularly in and around Los Angeles and San Francisco, which were rapidly expanding during that time.
Characterized by a sense of humanity, the works in the exhibition typically include people or representations of man made creations. The California Scene artists related what they saw around them: people going about their everyday lives, factories, a growing car culture, ranches, and agrarian communities. Despite a shifting interest toward abstract and non-objective art during the 1950s, practitioners of California Scene Painting continued to create artworks documenting developments in California history, such as the building of freeways and the formation of California Beach Culture. Automobiles, trains, barns, roadways, fences, and coastline piers are among key elements that serve as markers to define works as California Scene Paintings.
"The architecture, industrial design, and clothing styles seen in these works capture the essence of a time gone by," said McClelland. "When select works are exhibited together they provide unique insight into how creative people from that era perceived the world around them. It is my hope that people find these works to be artistically inspiring and intellectually engaging."
California Scene Paintings: 1920s-1970s at The Irvine Museum features 41 oil paintings, watercolors, drawings, and prints loaned from local private collections. Included in the exhibition are notable artists such as Millard Sheets, Phil Dike, Emil Kosa Jr., Milford Zornes, and Rex Brandt, who participated in this art movement and who received national acclaim for the art that they created. Other artists included in this exhibition received little attention from the fine art community during the pre-1970s era, but are now being recognized for their important contributions to the California Scene Painting movement. Ben Norris, John Bohnenberger, Art Riley, and Preston Blair are among them. A large format book, titled California Scene Paintings, accompanies the exhibition and visually documents artworks from this period and connects them to California's history.