The Figure in California Modernism
An Extensive Survey of Interpretations of the Figure by California’s Foremost Modernists
November 6, 2004 – January 29, 2005

Public Reception: November 6, 2004, from 5:00 to 8:00 p.m.

Spencer Jon Helfen Fine Arts
9200 West Olympic Boulevard, Beverly Hills, Ca 90212
(310) 273-8838, fax (310) 273-8848
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Gallery hours, Tuesday – Saturday, 11am-6pm

Figurative art has been a mainstay for artists throughout the ages.  But California Modernist interpretations of the figure during the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s brought a new boldness of color, composition and sensuality to the genre.
The stunning portrait, Yun Gee, by the pioneering Modernist Otis Oldfield, with its bold reds and blues, is as much about the subject, the famed Chinese-American artist Yun Gee, as it is about the Modern portrait itself.  This and other works by Otis Oldfield are featured in the exhibition.

Otis Oldfield (1890 – 1969), Yun Gee, 1926,
Signed “Otis Oldfield” lower right,  oil on canvas, 18 x 16 inches.
In his near life-size Adam and Eve from 1920-1928, John Emmett Gerrity has drawn on Stanton Macdonald Wright’s Synchromist color theory to create a sensual and dynamic image of the biblical characters.  The man and woman are created out of exquisite hues of greens, oranges, and blues, as if almost floating in space, in what unquestionably is this artist’s masterwork.  Other Gerrity works in the exhibition include a ca. 1930 portrait of a flapper, and a sensuous depiction of women in Berkeley from the 1940s.  The San Francisco Bay Area’s primary proponent of Synchromism, Gerrity was widely exhibited during his lifetime and is only now being rediscovered as a major force in Bay Area Modernism.

John Emmett Gerrity (1895 – 1980), Adam and Eve, 1920 - 1928
Signed and dated “John Emmett Gerrity 20 – 28” lower right, oil on canvas,66 x 46 inches.
Women artists of the period were interpreting the figure in their own unique ways.  Helen Clark Oldfield’s 1949 Male Model, an abstraction created with stunning colors, is a highly original composition.  Mabel Alvarez utilized her signature high key colors in her 1941 full body portrait of an adolescent boy in green dancer’s tights entitled Jerry in Costume.
Other artists interpreting the figure include Francis de Erdely with his haunting ca. 1945 Servant’s Quarters, and Boris Deutsch with his widely exhibited 1930 Girl With Yellow Shawl, an emotional and contemplative portrait of his wife Riva.  Also on view are Lorser Feitelson’s 1930 painting Seated Nude from the Back, and his ca. 1930 Reclining Nude, perhaps the most important precursor to his Post-Surrealist work.  Franz Bergmann, Brents Carlton, Ralph Chessé, Ross Dickinson, John Langley Howard, Boris Lovet-Lorski, Frede Vidar and Bernard Zakheim, among others, round out the exhibition and provide unique and provocative examples of the California Modernist interpretation of the figure.
In our new Back Room Gallery we are featuring California Modernist landscapes by Victor Arnautoff, Rinaldo Cuneo, Warren Newcombe and others.
The Gallery specializes in California Modernism of the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s, and is one of the only galleries to undertake large-scale exhibitions featuring the important art and artists of the Modernist period in California. 
Spencer Jon Helfen Fine Arts is open Tuesday - Saturday 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., and by appointment.  The Gallery is located at 9200 West Olympic Boulevard, Suite 200, in Beverly Hills, at the southwest corner of Palm Drive, between Beverly Drive and Doheny.

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