In the beginning, 1930, HELEN LUNDEBERG was a promising student at the Stickney School in Pasadena. Lorser Feitelson, her teacher and, eventually, her husband, directed her to think of herself as an artist--not a student--and to enter her work into competitive, juried exhibitions. Accolades, prizes and encouragement followed.
Her first one-person show in 1933 at the Stanley Rose Gallery in Hollywood opened with her Self Portrait. During this time, Lundeberg was exploring surrealist concepts. By 1934 she and Feitelson co-founded "Post-Surrealism" and she wrote the "manifesto" for the first Post-Surrealism exhibition at the Centaur Gallery, Hollywood.
This shy almost-librarian quite quickly found herself as an artist in the hub of an active, vibrant, intellectual, challenging and heady Los Angeles art schene. When the WPA/FAP followed other government-sponsored programs for public art, Lundeberg applied and was assigned to the prints division and then to the mural division where she designed, painted and coordinated the team-painting of numerous murals in schools, federal and other public buildings. She also created the largest petrachrome mural-wall (8 feet high and 24l feet long) for Centinella Park in Inglewood, California.
WIth the close of the project, she turned to small paintings that she could do alone, without the mural crews she disliked directing. The 1940s were years rich in creativity: The Pier, Abandoned Easel, Biological Fantasy, Micro-Macrocosmic Landscape, Fantasy, Peaches, The Edge, The Tree from this period are all included in the exhibition.
The next decade brought winds of change: A Quiet Place disturbed her; it was "complete" as a non-objective abstraction! She reacted by reexamining her original ideas and created a series of quiet interiors using studies of shells, mirrors and other familiar funiture in her home. She also made her only palette knife painting: Enigma of Reality. The poetry of her art was manifested through her "Helen Lundeberg palette" and "Helen Lundeberg mood."
But a new element had entered her work: straight lines, hard edges, geometric forms--the spare abstraction first seen in A Quiet Place and present in Mirror and Pink Shell of 1952. Towards the end of the 1950s the confirmation of hard-edge vocabulary could be seen in The Road, Sunny Corridor, Night Lights and Shadows, Estuary, The Poet's Road, Interior with Mirror, and Still Life with Shadow. This dark and gentle palette was supplanted, in 1962, by the incorporation of white "open" areas as Arches IV, Landscape--White and Orange, Shadow of the Bridge, and Still Life. Those dazzling whites gave way to the heat of Desert Light and Looking Through.
Space, space, space has been a source of wonderment for Lundeberg. Her queries of the 1930s were pursued in the '40s and '50s. In the 1960s, that exploration continued. The Blue Planet represents a series of paintings and screenprints on the theme. The tiny Planet captures pulsing auras and predicts the May Planet.
Arcanum and Forms in Space turned the corner into the decade of the '70s through strong, clean abstractions with architectonic elements, as in Evening Lights and Shadows and Double View.
With the uncertainties of health and life, Lundeberg turned to a series of small pieces: The Headland, Three Plums and a Pear, Shell and Rock. Then the cataclysm of Lorser Feitelson's death triggered a retreat in 1978.
When she next approached the easel, her confident powers were evident in the six Grey Interiors. The decade bore witness to her personal strengths in Wetlands, Tidelands, Seen From a Height and lastly, in 1990, Two Mountains.
This has been a remarkable sixty years. It is important to recognize that this creativity has been steady throughout that course of time. In her quiet 'mood' and gentle 'palette', Helen Lundeberg has made major contributions to American art history.
For the 1995 exhibition, Helen Lundeberg: Then and Now
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