To complement the UCLA/Hammer Museum of Art's showing of Sunshine & Noir - Art in L.A. 1960-1997 and to commemorate our twentieth anniversary, the Tobey C. Moss Gallery is mounting a series of exhibitions on foundations of Los Angeles Modernist history.
HELEN LUNDEBERG's entry into art circles in the early 1930s was smooth, with the encouragement of Lorser Feitelson (her teacher and eventual husband). Her quiet introspective nature coupled with her precocious creativity led to her writing the 'manifesto' she and Feitelson had formulated by 1934 proclaiming "Subjective Classicism/Post-Surrealism".
Lundeberg, from the beginning, captured a mood in her work, an essence that has been cited over and over again by critics, curators and her fellow artists. In 198... Jan Butterfield wrote "........." Chronologically, the Sundial of 1933 and her Mona Lisa-like Self Portrait of 1934 give early evidence of that mystery.
The first "Post-Surrealism" exhibition was presented at the San Francisco Museum of Art in 1935, with Grace McCann Morley as Director and Chief Curator. This show travelled to the Brooklyn Museum of Art from which the MOMA, New York plucked works by Lundeberg, Feitelson and Knud Merrild to include in their "Fantastic Art, Dada and Surrealism" show in late 1936. Edward Alden Jewell, critic for the New York Times, particularly singled out Lundeberg's work in his review of that show.
Becoming an artist-worker for the Federal Arts Project in mid-1930s, Lundeberg created murals and lithographs; our show presents gouache studies for the former and original impressions of the latter. After the Project closed, about 1942/43, the artist retreated to the privacy of her studio to work on small 'gems'. The Pier, 1943 and Fantasy, 1948 reveal the 'Helen Lundeberg mood' and the underlying structure that is basic to her work.
Hardedge elements were introduced in her early 1950s paintings. By the end of that decade The Road of 1958 and, into the '60s, Waterways 1960 and Seascape 1962 confirm Lundeberg's confident powers in this vocabulary. By 1962, her Interior with Painting was curated into the Whitney Museum of American Art's "Geometric Abstraction in America".
Helen Lundeberg's work is serene with thoughtfully selected close color relationships. Since the early 1950s, her work has been primarily abstract, but subjective. Interior architecture, still life, - do note Still Life of 1963 - landscapes and the vastness of space as in Seen From a Height of 1988 are particular realms she has created from her mind's eye. However she has said "I don't tell stories in my paintings; my paintings speak for themselves, without words."
Helen Lundeberg has enjoyed the attention of the critics and curators throughout her career--from the San Diego Art Museum's jury and exhibition of 1931(barely one year after her initial exploration at the Stickney School of Art in Pasadena), through many of curator Dorothy Miller's shows at MOMA, NYin the 1940s to subsequent one-person and group shows at the Whitney, the Pasadena, the McNay, the Sao Paolo Bellas Artes, the SFMMA, the LACMA and the UCLA/Wight and Hammer Galleries and Museums, etc.
LORSER FEITELSON (1898 - 1978) was an "artist's artist". When he arrived in Los Angeles, already having lived and worked in Paris for seven years and having been included in exhibitions at the New and the Daniels Galleries in New York, he was immediately encircled by a small but intense group of artists. Stanton Macdonald Wright, Nick Brigante, Peter Krasnow, Ejnar Hansen, Knud Merrild, Ben Berlin had been meeting and exhibiting together in Los Angeles since they had gathered after the cessation of World War I. By the early '30s, they were joined by Helen Lundeberg, Dorr Bothwell and Grace Clements - as noted by Susan Ehrlich in her catalogues for "Turning the Tide" (Santa Barbara Museum of Art, etal in 1990) and "Pacific Dreams-Currents of Surrealism and Fantasy in California...." (UCLA/Hammer, et al 1996). The mural division of the Federal Arts Project demanded his time and attention until the heat of war swallowed the Project in the early '40s.
Feitelson's figurative work continued to be legendary. However, by the mid-'40s those neo-classical and post-surrealist opulent forms evolved into anthropomorphic and abstracted 'Magical Forms/Mirabilia'. Figurative, yes!; recognizeable imagery, barely! Feitelson wrote in 1970: "In Mirabilia I have tried to create a wonder-world of monumental form, color, space and movement ..." The 'Magical Forms' are a link into the geometry, the hard-edge abstraction of the 1948 Space Situations and the subsequent 'Magical Space Forms'. Curiously, two small 'architectonic' watercolors of 1920/21 predict this hard-edge vocabulary.
Lorser Feitelson's confident, broad, flat geometric paintings were described by Jules Langsner, critic/curator, as 'colorforms'; Langsner also noted parallels in the works of John McLaughlin. With no perspective or recognizable imagery, with no background or foreground, the colorforms were flat, intact, without 'parts'. In 1959 Langsner curated "Four Abstract Classicists" for the Los Angeles County Museum of Art - adding Frederick Hammersley and Karl Benjamin to Feitelson and McLaughlin. This exhibition of colorforms also travelled to London, at the ICA, where it was subtitled "West Coast Hard-Edge" by Lawrence Alloway.
By the 1960s, hardedge angles were evolving into monumental boulders' (see Untitled of 1962 and 1963 and, finally, into the reintroduction of the curve, as epitomized by the four-way Untitled 1969. That sensuous, tapering line never left Feitelson's work again, becoming the most elemental, most minimal reiteration of the human form....where he began in 1916.
The husband and wife - Lorser Feitelson and Helen Lundeberg - lived and worked beside each other for almost 45 years, until his death in1978. Helen continued painting until 1990.
Return to Helen Lundeberg
Return to Helen Lundeberg Essays