Tuesday, December 1, 2009

California Cool

Although it's right there in the lobby when you enter the museum, some of our visitors miss the rotating Collections in Context installation. The principal of the installation is simple: every few months we choose a newly acquired object—something that has entered the collection by gift or by purchase within the past six months—and we hang it alongside an object (or a group of objects) that has been at SDMA for a number of years. By offering a context in which to test visual relationships between new acquisitions and objects long-held by the Museum, Collections in Context presents the daily practice of museum work to visitors.
Last week, we reinstalled the latest installment, which focuses on the recently acquired Balls, #16, painted in 1964 by Oskar Fischinger (1900-1967).

Fischinger, who had fled his native Germany with the Nazi rise to power, settled in California in the late 1930s. He is best known as a filmmaker, and particularly for his pioneering works in an abstract, non-figurative mode. In Hollywood, he attracted the attention of Orson Welles and assisted with Walt Disney’s Fantasia. He nonetheless continued to have difficulties in finding an audience for non-figurative films, and during the last two decades of his life devoted himself to painting, pursuing the types of abstraction he employed previously in his films.

Fischinger's geometric paintings find many parallels in the work of other California-based artists of the time, among them Karl Stanley Benjamin. In 1959, Los Angeles Times art critic Jules Langsner coined the term “Hard-Edge Painting” to describe the work of these California painters. Partly a reaction against Abstract Expressionism, Hard-Edge Painting emphasized angular lines, reduced forms, precise surfaces, and rich colors.

In the current installation, we've paired Fischinger's painting with an untitled work by Karl Benjamin, which was painted in 1957 and acquired by the Museum of Art in 1958.

Finally, Colorforms in Colorspace #12, a painting of 1948 by John Sennhauser, rounds out the installation. Sennhauser was based in New York when he painted the canvas, but he later settled in Escondido, and this is one of a group of his works that came to the Museum of Art after his death.

In all, it's a miniature of exhibition of just three works, but one that really encapsulates the aesthetic of mid-century Modernism in California and beyond.

1 comment:

  1. I had fun choosing this particular painting online that now hangs in my downtown office, from Wahooart.co, who sells canvas prints of art masterpieces. While the original is treasured in some art museum in England, my print http://EN.WahooArt.com/A55A04/w.nsf/Opra/BRUE-8LHS4U, of this painting by Edward Burne-Jones is very much appreciated by my staff and clients. The print quality is really excellent.


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