Floating hogs, anyone?

October 1, 1996 § Leave a comment

While Eastern art merchants continue to tout the most recent avant garde discovery — split hogs floating in formaldehyde are going over big — in California a new wave of young figurative painters is quietly emerging.

These talented artists are distinguished by characteristics they have in common. First, they have studied and learned their craft. They are not seeking to turn the clock back to deadly 19th century literalism, but rather to master technique in order to enhance their own expression. They have benefited from all the liberating currents of the last century, particularly, it would seem, the German expressionists (Kokoshka, Nolde, etc., and their followers) and certainly their immediate mentors (Park, early Diebenkorn and Thiebaud) and have chosen to use these lessons and their own technical facility to respond to the world around them with a fresh and spontaneous eye.

Another quality they share: the paintings are not large. They do not utter a grandiose shout — “Astonish me!” as Diaghilev would demand — but rather extend an invitation to share in a new and heightened recognition of the familiar.

As a testament to the effectiveness of their efforts, these young realists are finding a discriminating and informed audience. Young collectors and homeowners have turned from the overblown would-be Twombleys and Pollacks, leaving them to disappear into the vinyl chambers of corporate headquarters. They have preferred to acquire works whose bold color and pictorial dynamism enhances their living space and expands their vision.


Art historian William W. Whitney formerly served as executive director of the California Historical Society.

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