While Pollock Was Sleeping:
Bay Area Abstract Expressionism from the Blair Collection  

July 31 – October 2, 2005

307 Cliff Dr., Laguna Beach, CA 92651
Contact:  Stuart Byer, 949.494.8971, ext. 208
949.494.8971, extension 200 for general Museum information; Fax 949.494.1530
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Public hours: Daily, 11am-5pm; first Thursdays (free admission), 5-9pm

Paul Wonner, Abstract Landscape # 2, 1955, 45 x 49 inches, oil on canvas, Collection of George Y. Blair.

(Laguna Beach, CA) In the San Francisco Bay Area, the avant-garde of the 1950s and 1960s was composed of a cadre of extraordinarily gifted and energetic artists engaged in the preeminent artistic movement of the post-war era, Abstract Expressionism. While each of these artists had a distinct vision of Abstract Expressionism, they all shared a commitment to the fundamental tenets of the movement, from the rigorous, calculating formal techniques of abstraction to the depth of intellectual activity and heavy-handed emotionalism of expressionism. Though these tenets extended to East Coast Abstract Expressionism as well, West Coast artists were arguably as, if not more, seminal to the movement as their New York counterparts. San Francisco Bay Area Abstract Expressionism found a unique vocabulary, which was predicated more on nature than that of their New York counterparts.

This West Coast vocabulary is richly displayed with 67 paintings by 67 different artists in While Pollock Was Sleeping: Bay Area Abstract Expressionism from the Blair Collection, on exhibition on Laguna Art Museum from July 31 through October 2, 2005. Although California had been regarded as a mere province on the landscape of American avant-garde art in the first half of the twentieth century, by the mid-sixties that perception began to change as influences from a more international academy were assimilated into visual art almost daily.  While Pollock Was Sleeping continues to explore the themes first presented in Laguna Art Museum’s 1996 seminal exhibition, The San Francisco Bay Area Abstract Expressionism, and also in the 2003 exhibition, Hassel Smith: 55 Years of Painting.

The Blair Collection provides an especially rich view of California Abstract Expressionist painting from 1948 to 1964. In many cases, the paintings in the Blair Collection have not been displayed for over forty years, and while the Blair Collection includes a few easily recognizable names, many more of the works in the exhibition are by artists who form a lesser known but equally significant, California-based "Second Wave" of Abstract Expressionist painting.

Most of the paintings in While Pollock Was Sleeping: Bay Area Abstract Expressionism from the Blair Collection are by artists who either studied or taught at the California School of Fine Arts, now the San Francisco Art Institute, during the post-war period of 1945 to 1965. Established in 1871 as the San Francisco Art Association, the San Francisco Art Institute is one of the nation's oldest and strongest art schools. During the post-war years, under the direction of Douglas MacAgy, the school flourished, offering students, and in particular returning GIs, excellent opportunities through its faculty and visiting artists, including such individuals as Hassel Smith, Edward Corbett, James Budd Dixon, and Sam Tchakalian.

While Pollock Was Sleeping: Bay Area Abstract Expressionism from the Blair Collection  reevaluates the careers and work of these and other artists, many of whom are unknown to the public. The purpose of the exhibition is to place certain lesser known artists alongside other artists of now greater repute - such as Joan Brown, Richard Diebenkorn, and Paul Wonner - so that viewers can help decide the future of these artists who are being introduced to the viewing public once again. These artists, the so-called "Second Wave," were often teachers and theoreticians, and their impact is more felt than seen on the landscape of art history. To increase their public exposure today is to explore the individual and collective aesthetic sensibilities, as well as the intellectual undercurrents, that gave birth not only to West Coast Abstract Expressionism, but to generations of art and artists in the San Francisco Bay Area.

While Pollock Was Sleeping is a reorganized and refocused exhibition based on a previous exhibition organized in 2004 by The Crocker Museum of Art in Sacramento, California called California’s Second Wave: The Blair Collection of San Francisco Bay Area Abstract Expressionism, which is also the title of the accompanying catalogue.

While Pollock Was Sleeping: Bay Area Abstract Expressionism from the Blair Collection is supported by The A. Gary Anderson Foundation, Miriam Smith of the Art Resources Group, and The Charles D. and Twyla R. Martin Foundation. Additional support comes from the Laguna Beach Visitors & Conference Bureau, and the Business Improvement District. Additional support has been provided by Streaming Media Hosting and Optical Visions.

George Abend
Thomas Akawie
Ruth Armer
Robert Arneson
Richard Ayer
Martin Baer
George Ball
Jerrold Ballaine
Paul Beattie
Bernice Bing
Dorr Bothwell
Geoffrey Bowman
Ernest Briggs
Joan Brown
William Henry Brown
Lawrence Calcagno
Edward Corbett
Jerrold Davis
Ron Davis
Roy DeForest
James Budd Dixon
Robert Downs
Ralph Ducasse
Edward Dugmore
Lilly Fenichel
Nancy Genn
Sonya Gechtoff
Dimitri Grachis
John Grillo
Karl Kasten
Walter Kuhlman
Adelie Landis
Jose Ramon Lerma
Erle Loran
Peter Lowe
Fred Martin
Keith Metzler
Ann Morency
Emiko Nakano
Richard Nelson
Arthur Okamura
Lucille Paris
Irene Pattinson
Bart Perry
Roland Peterson
Clayton Pinkerton
Sonya Rapoport
Fred Reichman
Phillip Roeber
Joseph Romano
John Saccaro
Charles Safford
Juan Sandoval
Nell Sinton
Joel Smith
Walter Snellgrove
Hassel Smith
Clay Spohn
George Stillman
Sam Tchakalian
Horst Trave
Lenore Vogt
Ruth Wall
Julius Wasserstein
Glenn Wessels
William T. Wiley
Paul Wonner


Sunday, July 31, 1:00 p.m.
Collector George Blair will give a lecture and gallery walk through on his collection featured in While Pollock Was Sleeping: Bay Area Abstract Expressionism from the Blair Collection.

Lectures are free to members and free to non-members with Museum admission


Surf Culture Redux”, ongoing through September 25, 2005
Young Artists Society Gallery


A Broken Beauty: A Broken Beauty: Figuration, Narrative and the Transcendent in North American Art”
November 6, 2005-February 26, 2006
A Broken Beauty: Figuration, Narrative and the Transcendent in North American Art features the recent work of fifteen North American artists who deploy a range of figurative and narrative modes in painting, sculpture and mixed media.


“Richard Pettibone: A Retrospective”
Institute of Contemporary Art, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, April 30-August 1, 2005
Tang Museum and Art Gallery at Skidmore College, New York, November 2005-February 12, 2006
Laguna Art Museum, Laguna Beach, March 12-May 28, 2006
Richard Pettibone: A Retrospective will present the full range of the artist’s career from the early assemblages and small-scale “replicas” that first brought him to critical attention in Los Angeles in the late fifties and sixties to his various sculptural installations (based on his love of both Shaker furniture and Constantine Brancusi) to the recent more complexly layered work (“making anew” such modern masters as Mondrian and Ezra Pound) that engage him today. Pettibone’s early work was astonishingly prescient of 1980s appropriation art—a radical move in which pop art’s seizure of common objects and media reproductions slid into the even more seditious act of replicating other artist’s art. Co-organized and co-curated by Laguna Art Museum and The Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery at Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, NY. The exhibition will travel to both venues and also to the Institute for Contemporary Art, University of Pennsylvania. Accompanied by a 144-page catalogue.


Laguna Art Museum continues a tradition that began with the Laguna Beach Art Association, the oldest cultural institution in Orange County, California founded in the summer of 1918. Permanent collections and exhibitions feature historical, contemporary, and pop-culture-oriented art, with an emphasis on the art of California.  

Laguna Art Museum is located at 307 Cliff Drive in Laguna Beach. The Museum is open daily, including Monday holidays, from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and is free to the public from 5:00 to 9:00 p.m. the first Thursday of every month. Admission is $9 for adults and $7 for seniors and students. Children under 12 are admitted free. For more information on the Museum, please call between 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. at 949.494.8971, extension 0 or visit the Museum’s website at <>.

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