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Gordon Wagner (1915-1987)
Biographical Sketch



[ Biographical Essay | Solo Exhibitions | Group Exhibitions ]



Gordon Wagner was born in Redondo Beach, California. As a young orphan, he became a collector of urban remains. With friends, he particularly scavanged the garbage dumps under Westbridge for treasures including cast iron toys, railroad spikes, gears, signs, photographs, woods and eviscerated typewriters.

He received degrees from both Chouinard Art Institute and UCLA. He worked as an engineer-designer in the aerospace industry while studying the Indian myths and legends of Arizona and Mexico. His scientific background was one inspiration for his paintings, but the beach amusement park environments of Southern California also exerted their influences upon him. The California detritus and coastal debris made beachcombing an important source for his pioneering in the medium of assemblage art.

Wagner's work has been the subject of numerous one-man and group exhibitions in Europe as well as the United States since 1949. Wagner's art has been described as having "irrational juxtaposition," and "dream imagery," while he allows an "embrace of ambiguity."1 His art is often infused with wit, nostalgia and humor.

Assemblage is a play on social roles and popular culture. During the 1950s, the use of junk in art was a "reflection of the artists' place in society." "Assemblage mediated between the traditional Los Angeles culture--one based on ethnic diversity, kitschy consumerism, the tourist trade, Hollywood film fantasy and memorabilia hunting, and the general collecting mania of the prototypical pop art city--and more parochial art world issues."2

Throughout his life, Gordon Wagner never lost the zest for Life. He deeply felt the miracle of existence and plunged into his creativity wholely. His paintings, his 'boxes,' his assemblages all reveal an artist who never lost the ability to look at his world with childlike wonder.

We can enter that world through Gordon Wagner's art.

--Tobey Moss
For the 1997 exhibition Lost and Found: Assemblages

1
Forty Years of California Assemblage, UCLA, 4/4/89-5/21/89, Wight Art Gallery, UCLA, pg. 220.

2
Ibid, pg. 220.



Selected one-person exhibitions:

1949,1950
Willard Hougland Gallery, Los Angeles

1950
Graywood Gallery, Los Angeles

1951
Blue Pelican Art Gallery,Monterey, CA

1953
Phoenix art Museum, Phoenix, Arizona

1956
"Now" Gallery, Los Angeles

1959,60,62,64
Silvan Simone Gallery, Los Angeles

1966
Brooks Foundation, Santa Barbara, CA

1967
Bay Cities Jewish Community Center, Santa Monica, CA
"Snatches from the Underground"

1968
Long Beach Museum of Art, Long Beach, CA
The Craft House, Arroyo Seco, New Mexico

1969, 71
Comara Gallery, Los Angeles

1970
Stables Gallery, Taos, New Mexico

1971
Dwight Bohme Gallery, San Marcos, CA
Konstsalongen Kavalletin, Upsala, Sweden

1972
Sodertalje Konsthall, Stockholm, Sweden

1973
Municipal Art Gallery, Los Angeles
Galerij Kaleidoscoop, Ghent, Belgium
Galerie L'Angle-Aigue, Brussels, Belgium
Nederland Amerika Institute, Amsterdam, Holland
Israel Galerij, Amsterdam, Holland

1974
Stables Gallery, Taos, New Mexico
L.A.County Museum of Art Rental Gallery

1975
Silvan Simone Gallery, Los Angeles
Gallery of Contemporary Art, Taxos, New Mexico
Aspen Gallery of Art, Aspen, Colorado

1976
Santa Barbara City College Art Gallery, CA

1977, 79
Vorpal Gallery, New York, NY

1978
Open Gallery, Eugene, Oregon
Architektenhuis, Ghent, Belgium

1979
Downey Museum of Art, CA
Artemis Gallerij, Ghent, Belgium

1980
California State University, Fresno, CA

1981
Leopold/Gold Gallery, Santa Monica, CA

1986
Angels Gate Cultural Center, San Pedro, CA

1991
Assemblages:'50s-'80s Tobey C. Moss Gallery, Los Angeles

1993
Boxed Surrealities Tobey C. Moss Gallery, Los Angeles

1997
Assemblages:Lost & Found Tobey C. Moss Gallery, Los Angeles

1998
Outsider Art:Assemblages Tobey C. Moss Gallery, Los Angeles

2000
Assemblages Tobey C. Moss Gallery, Los Angeles



Invitational Group Exhibitions

1950/51
Pasadena Art Museum, CA

1953, 56
L.A.County Museum of Art, CA Artists of Los Angeles Annual Exhibitions

1957
Otis Art Institute, Los Angeles
Home Savings & Loan Purchase Prize Collection
Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, DC Biennial
Butler Institute of American Art, Youngstown, Ohio
Toledo Museum of Art, Toledo, Ohio

1958
American Federation of Arts, New York, NY
Speed Art Museum, Louisville, Kentucky
Washington University, St.Louis, Missouri
Arnot Art Gallery, New York, NY

1959
Museum of New Mexico, Santa Fe, N.M.
Palace of the Legion of Honor, San Francisco, CA
Davenport Municipal Museum, Davenport, Iowa
National Orange Show, San Bernardino, CA

1959, 61
La Jolla Contemporary Art Center, La Jolla, CA

1959, 60, 61
Denver Museum of Art, Denver, Colorado

1960
Newport Harbor Art Museum, Newport Beach, CA

1961
Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, DC 27th Biennial

1962
Denver Museum of Art, Denver, Colorado
DeYoung Fine Arts Museum, San Francisco, CA
Santa Monica Art Gallerly, Santa Monica, CA
Westside Jewish Community Center, Los Angeles Love in Art
California Watercolor Society Annual Exhibition

1962, 63
La Jolla Contemporary Art Center, La Jolla, CA

1963
Otis Art Institute California Watercolor Society National Exhibition
Long Beach Museum of Art, Long Beach, CA

1964
California State University Galleries, Northridge, CA

1965
Municipal Art Gallery, Los Angeles, CA

1965, 66
California Watercolor Society

1968
Cannery Gallery, San Francisco, CA
Westside Jewish Community Center, Los Angeles

1969
Museum of Modern Art, Washington, DC 66 Signs of Neon
Western Association of Art Museums Microcosms '69 Art to Enjoy and Use, Art Mobile - Los Angeles City Schools

1970
Palomar College, San Marcos, CA Assemblage of Assemblage
Mt.San Antonio College, Walnut, CA 12 Vital Area Artists
Pasadena City College, Pasadena, CA 12 Artists' Viewpoints
Rio Hondo College, Whittier, CA Media '70
Long Beach Museum of Art, Long Beach, CA Mixed Emotions

1972 American Embassy, London, England Three American Artists
Prudhoe Gallery, London, England Nine Artists
Camden Art Centre, London, England Way Out West
National Academy of Design, New York, NY
University of Illinois,Carbondale, Illinois Small Environments
Archer Gallery, London, England Four Artists' Views
Westside Jewish Community Center, Los Angeles
California Watercolor Society, Pasadena, CA
Chico State College Watercolor Invitational

1973
California State University, Fullerton In a Bottle
Municipal Art Gallery, Los Angeles Quartet:Hansen, Prentiss, Robbins, Wagner
L'Angle Aigu, Brussels, Belgium Viktor Majdandzic and Gordon Wagner:Magic Boxes

1974
L. A. County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, CA Assemblage

1975
L. A. Institute of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles Assemblage and Collage
San Jose Museum of Art, San Jose, CA Ironic Reality

1976
Museum of New Mexico, Santa Fe Sculptors of New Mexico
L.A. Institute of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles Imagination

1977
Pierce College Art Gallery, Los Angeles Hieronymus Zones
Anhalt-Barnes Gallery, Los Angeles Combining Surrealism The Image and the Myth Gallery Quarterdeck, Curator
Pottsdam College, Pottsdam, N.Y. Off the Beaten Path

1978
California State University, Dominguez Hills Betamagic
Arco Center for Visual Art, Los Angeles Eccentric L.A.
Anhalt-Barnes Gallery, Los Angeles Boxes

1979
University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT Mystery Boxes
Philadelphia Art Alliance, Philadelphia, PA Art in Boxes

1980
Artemis Gallery, Ghent, Belgium Hommage a Breton

1981
Abraxis Gallery, Newport Beach, CA Amatory Drawings
Palos Verdes Art Center, Palos Verdes, CA Micro-Comedies of a
DreamMaker with Lukman Glasgow:Exhibition

1981
Abraxis Gallery, Newport Beach, CA Humorous Habits

1982
Triton Museum, Santa Clara, CA Miniatures '82

1983
University of California , Riverside, CA 3-D Imagery
San Francisco International Airport Gallery Construction
Pacific Grove Art Center, Pacific Grove, CA Magic of Assemblage and Loof Lirpa, Performance
Edge Gallery, Fullerton, CA Miniature Narrative
Angels Gate Cultural Center, San Pedro, CA The Maze of Invisible Walls
Risser Gallery, Pasadena, CA

1984
Fisher Gallery, University of Southern California Ceci n'est pas le Surrealisme and California Idioms of Surrealism
Palm Springs Desert Museum, Palm Springs, CA Return to the Narrative
Angels Gate Cultural Center, San Pedro, CA Surrealists:Herlinde Spahr and Gordon Wagner
Koplin Gallery, Los Angeles, CA Olympiad:Summer 1984
Pratt Institute Gallery, New York, NY Ceci n'est pas le Surrealisme
Los Angeles Design Center Natural
Orange County Center for Contemporary Art, San Ana, CA Three Artists:DeLoff, Genesta, Wagner

1985
University of California, Davis, Art Gallery Light-Heavy Light, Contemporary Shadow Use in the Visual Arts
Irvine Fine Arts Center, Irvine, CA A Serious Look at Humor
Barnsdall Junior Art Center, Los Angeles Toying Around - Gordon Wagner, Curator/Participant
Klein Gallery, Chicago,Illinois About Boxes

1986
California State University, Dominguez Hills The Continuing Magic of California Assemblage
Santa Barbara Contemporary Arts Forum Assemblage Past and Present
Galeria Otra Vez, Los Angeles El Dia de Los Muertos

1988
James Corcoran Gallery, Santa Monica, CA Lost and Found in California:Four Decades of Assemblage Art
Palos Verdes Art Center, Palos Verdes, CA Assemblage:Poetry and Narration, Berman, Cox, Herms, Outterbridge, Saar, Sparks, Wagner

1989, 90
Wight Art Gallery/UCLA, San Jose Museum of Art, Fresno Art Museum, Joslyn Art Museum/Omaha, NEB Forty Years of California Assemblage

1995
Oakland Art Museum, Oakland, CA; UCLA/Armand Hammer Museum of Art, Los Angeles, CA; Nora Eccles Harrison Museum of Art, Logan, UT Pacific Dreams: Currents of Surrealism and Fantasy in California Art, 1934-1957




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