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Laguna Art Museum opens a retrospective on artist Clarence Hinkle and The Group of Eight
Mabel Alvarez, In the Garden, c. 1922. Oil on canvas, 20 x 24 inches. Laguna Art Museum Collection. Gift of Nancy Dustin Wall Moure.
LAGUNA BEACH, CA.- —In summer 2012, Laguna Art Museum presents a retrospective on artist Clarence Hinkle (1880–1960) in Clarence Hinkle, on display June 10-October 7, 2012. On display concurrently as a complementary exhibition is Modern Spirit and the Group of Eight. Hinkle was a member of the Group of Eight.

CLARENCE HINKLE
Curated by Janet Blake, Curator of Collections at Laguna Art Museum, Clarence Hinkle features over one hundred paintings dating from the early 1900s through the 1950s. A full-color, hardcover book accompanies both the Hinkle exhibition and the complementary exhibition Modern Spirit and the Group of Eight.

Clarence Hinkle was an early twentieth-century artist who radiated the spirit of modernism. Born in Auburn, California in 1880, Hinkle was one of only a few native Californians of his generation who became nationally known artists. His education was broad and far-reaching, beginning with studies at the Crocker Art Gallery in Sacramento and the California School of Design in San Francisco. He continued his studies in the East at the Art Students League then at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia. There he was the recipient of the Cresson traveling scholarship, which afforded him the opportunity to travel and study in Europe. He spent six years abroad, living for a few years in Holland and visiting France, England, Spain, and Italy.

Hinkle returned to the United States in 1912, spending some time in New York City before returning to San Francisco. In 1917 he moved to Los Angeles where he began his teaching career at the Los Angeles School of Art and Design. In 1921 he began teaching at the newly-founded Chouinard School of Art, and the following year he moved to Laguna Beach, where he became an active member of the Laguna Beach Art Association. Hinkle and his wife, Mabel, who had been one of his students, traveled extensively and spent over a year in Europe in 1930 and 1931. In 1935, they moved to Santa Barbara. There they built a home on a large plot of land high on a ridge in Montecito with a wonderful view of the Santa Barbara harbor and Channel Islands in the distance.

Hinkle was an artist in love with the act of painting, seeing every thing with an analytical eye as to how best to interpret the subject in paint. This is evident in the different approaches he took with each subject, whether landscape, portrait, or still life. From his student years up until about 1924 he worked in a style rooted in American impressionism. But in the 1920s he developed a more abstract, gestural style with an emphasis on line that shows the influence of expressionism. Seen close-to, many of his small panel paintings from this period appear as pure abstraction, but when viewed with some distance the dashes and dabs of pigment coalesce into a recognizable image. In the years after his move to Santa Barbara, Hinkle abandoned his abstract, linear style in favor of a more literal interpretation of the landscape. Yet these works too show him applying paint with expressive and energetic strokes. Hinkle painted still lifes, portraits, and figural works that also reflect his growth as an artist from impressionist to modernist. As a member of the California Water Color Society, he painted watercolors, most of them quickly rendered with areas left bare of pigment, allowing the white paper to form part of the composition.

Hinkle was a highly-regarded teacher and mentor for the next generation of artists. His first retrospective in 1955 was curated by one of his best pupils, Phil Dike. Millard Sheets was also one of his students, and both Dike and Sheets wrote tributes to the artist for that exhibition. After his death in 1960, memorial exhibitions were shown in Santa Barbara and Laguna Beach.

MODERN SPIRIT AND THE GROUP OF EIGHT
Modern Spirit and the Group of Eight provides a fresh perspective on the art and culture of the 1920s in Los Angeles. The Group of Eight—Mabel Alvarez, Clarence Hinkle, Henri De Kruif, John Hubbard Rich, Donna Schuster, E. Roscoe Shrader, Edouard Vysekal, and Luvena Buchanan Vysekal—exhibited several times throughout the 1920s, when modernist realism was the dominant trend across American art. Rather than focusing on plein-air landscape painting, like many artists in Los Angeles during the 1920s, the Group of Eight painted figural works, still lifes, and genre scenes in the studio. They wanted to have every means at their disposal to communicate the modern spirit.

This exhibition of some 25 paintings by the Group of Eight looks at the vibrant and pivotal decade that was the first "golden age" for Los Angeles art. It was a time of intense experimentation and interaction between various artistic and intellectual groups. There was a general sense of fascination for the new and freedom from constraints. It was a time when artists in Los Angeles were self-consciously aware of themselves as forging a dynamic art community and a new art, not for any gain but just for the sheer joy of the adventure. The Group of Eight was pivotal to the development of this modernist community in Los Angeles.

Modern Spirit and the Group of Eight includes many paintings that were in the original exhibitions of the Group of Eight, especially their 1927 show at the Los Angeles Museum of History, Science, and Art. Guest Curator Susan M. Anderson's essay for the book that accompanies both Modern Spirit and the Clarence Hinkle exhibitions focuses on cultural themes pertinent to the era, including attitudes towards health and beauty; the New Woman of the 1920s; regional bohemianism; and the impact of Hollywood.



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