John Baldessari, “Doris Comes in and Draws Bill Aside …,” 2015, varnished inkjet print on canvas with acrylic paint, 54 7/8 x 65 7/8 x 1 5/8”.



John Baldessari's work looks stunning in the recently opened Spruth Magers Gallery across the street from LACMA, which is itself part of the story here. Spruth Magers launches this space in addition to their prominent Berlin and London venues in a building originally designed in the late 1960s by legendary West Coast architectural firm William L. Pereira & Associates. The 14,000 square foot space, designed by London-based architect Andreas Lechthaler and Berlin-based architect Botho von Senger und Etterlin, is well proportioned, window lit and elegant. The galleries sport views of Wilshire Boulevard, which turn out to be a perfect environment to view Baldessari's latest composites.


In his new inkjet on canvas prints the artist paints over areas of appropriated images depicting individuals enjoying leisure activities, covering parts but not all of the originals. He juxtaposes these altered images with fragmented texts appropriated from film scripts. Baldessari's cunning wit comes through in these compelling couplings. In "Doris Comes in and Draws Bill Aside…" a man leans diagonally across the composition in the midst of a workout, pressing a painted green bar above his head. The irony here is that Bill probably does not want to be bothered by Doris while working out. Seemingly tongue and cheek, Baldessari's work undermines the obvious (Spruth Magers, Miracle Mile).

Jody Zellen





Catherine Opie, “700 Nimes Road” installation view, 2016, at MOCA PDC.  Photo: Brian Forest



In addition to the exhibition of her “Portraits" at the Hammer and her “O" portfolio at LACMA, Catherine Opie's installation, "700 Nimes Road" documents the six months she spent photographing objects, ephemera and clothing at the Bel Air address of the title, which happens to have been the home of Hollywood legend Elizabeth Taylor. Although the exterior of the residence is never depicted, Opie provides a sense of space and location through close cropped as well as wide-angle shots of the interiors. But, Opie's real focus is the more intimate moments that can be construed within the private confines of the home. A well edited selection of the 3,000 images she shot offer us a chance to contemplate not only how Opie imagined the aging star (whom Opie never encountered) interacted with her surroundings, but also the nuanced ways that Taylor decorated her home and organized her clothing. Large-scale close-up images of Taylor's jewels are seen in relation to abstract compositions of carefully arranged clothes hanging in her closet, arranged by color, as well as more documentary style photographs of shots of Taylor's personal effects and home decor. Seen together these images create are a portrait of  the private life of a very public figure (MOCA PDC, West Hollywood).





Diane Silver, “Polar Line,” 2014, silver leaf, plaster, graphite, ink on linen, 36 x 36”.



Diane Silver’s work is both shiny and searing. In her current exhibition, “Seeing Virgins,” the eye is transfixed, the spirit drawn to a series of abstract works that recall religious icons and the vastness of the universe. Silver’s use of the eponymous silver leaf creates a literally and figuratively dazzling body of work. “Phoenix Rising” presents what appears to be a spectral dark figure rising through a silver mist. In “Needle in a Haystack,” a thin dark line radiates like an alien antennae from the side of the work. Each piece has a complex depth beneath the shine, submerging the eye beneath the cool, nearly reflective surface of the artist’s vision.


The artist describes her work here as a meeting between “religion and technology, physical and virtual reality.” The work has an inner glow which illuminates the message Silver postulates: that the compulsion to see meaning creates it, through science and the spiritual. While the artist has boldly and beautifully presented puzzles as to how the human mind reacts to seemingly random imagery, the enigma of visual and mental analysis Silver presents also leaves the gift of faith: that there is meaning in beauty (The Loft at Liz’s, Miracle Mile).

Genie Davis




Joseph Albers, “Color Study for Homage to the Square,” date unknown, oil on blotting paper, 11 9/16 x 11 3/16”.



“Leap Before You Look: Black Mountain College 1933-1957” was organized by and first presented at the ICA in Boston, and was curated by former ICA Chief Curator and current MOCA Chief Curator Helen Molesworth and the ICA's Ruth Erickson. It is an in depth look at the art, artists and community who taught and studied at a fine arts program that was minuscule in scale but outsized for its impact on American art. The long-lasting influence of faculty and graduates of the college, and the creative methodologies they developed and espoused, is the focus of this compelling exhibition. Pieces by faculty members Josef Albers, Buckminster Fuller, John Cage, and Charles Olson viewed decades later alongside works by their students — a remarkable roster that includes Anni Albers, Ruth Asawa, Merce Cunningham, Robert Creeley, Jess, Ray Johnson, Elaine and Willem de Kooning, Gwendolyn and Jacob Lawrence, Robert Rauschenberg, M.C. Richards, Cy Twombly, Peter Voulkos and Susan Weil — collapses the generational relationship into an aesthetic whole. The multi-disciplinary approach and insistence on experimentation, as well as the acceptance of art and craft's equal validity, is what set Black Mountain College apart. This exhibition serves as an important reminder of a key historical moment, as well as the creative advantages of working across disciplines (Hammer Museum, West Los Angeles).





Alex Israel and Bret Easton Ellis, “Born and Not Made,” 2016, acrylic and UV ink on canvas, 84 x 120”. © Alex Israel and Bret Easton Ellis; photo: Jeff McLane.



This exhibition, presenting collaborative works by infamous Generation X author Bret Easton Ellis and Los Angeles painter Alex Israel, was timed to overlap with the Academy Awards. It is a nod to the Oscar celebrations — an exhibition that draws from art, film and celebrity communities — by presenting works that indulge in blurring the line between entertainment and art. The acrylic and UV ink on wide screen proportioned canvases (72 x 144 or 84 x 168 inches) juxtapose a short text written by Ellis in various typefaces chosen by Israel with commercial stock photographs purchased online that are quintessential Los Angeles clichés: sunsets, waves crashing on the beach, palm trees, etc. The works were fabricated at Warner Brothers by crews who previously worked on Israel's paintings; as such they feel mass produced rather than hand-made. This is the point. Ellis and Israel have set out to infuse this banal imagery with meaning by overlaying it with ironic texts that speak to and refute the myth of the Hollywood dream (Gagosian Gallery, Beverly Hills).





Emma Sulkowicz, “Self Portrait,” 2016, performance.  Photo: Courtesy Coagula Curatorial.



The self-portrait of Emma Sulkowicz is actually three portraits in one. The first solo show by this young New York-based artist features Sulkowicz herself on a platform at the exhibition for specific periods of time during regular gallery hours. Also on display: a life-size sculpture of the artist, and a miniature 3D-printed replica. What does this three-pronged approach to self-portraiture mean? First and foremost, it represents a new form of interaction with the artist, who made news in 2014 for “Carry That Weight: Mattress Performance,” which found the artist carrying a mattress around her Columbia University campus to protest how the school responded to allegations of her sexual assault.


“Self-Portrait” is similarly intimate and powerful. Viewers mount a pedestal, asking questions and connecting with the artist, or interacting with the Emmatron, Sulkowicz’s life-sized, unnervingly, eerily realistic statue of herself. Who to interact with? It depends on both the time of visit and whether the artist will respond to specific questions. If questions are on the flesh and blood artist’s “don’t ask” list, Emmatron is programmed to respond through an app. The third element of “Self-Portrait” is a miniature 3D-printed replica of the artist, created to represent past experience with the media, which the artist describes as flattening her image. This diminutive but life-like printed statue was produced in a 20-edition set.


“Self-Portrait” is a response to the effects, for good or ill, of the media attention brought to Sulkowicz due to her “Mattress Performance.” Body as object? Artist as interpreter? A study of the ways in which society conducts inquiry, dialog, definition, or lack thereof? Viewers must objectify themselves to judge, by stepping onto pedestals of their own (Coagula Curatorial, Chinatown).





Guy Richards Smit, “Burning Every Bridge,” 2016, acrylic on canvas, 52 x 58”.



Mordantly funny, whimsically drawn, Guy Richards Smit’s “A Mountain of Skulls and Not One I Recognize,” is a collection of watercolor and gouache paintings on paper that were completed in the course of a single year. But it’s an eternity of wit and wisdom that are embedded in them. Smit’s series of skulls offer a wry spin on mortality, one that was conceived after a trip to Bohemia led him to a church built entirely of skulls and bones. The idea of each skull as a living being stayed with Smit, and his response was to create highly individual tributes, each unique in shape and color, with captions that reflect human behavior. From “Hard Worker” to “Picky Eater,” virtually no human archetype is forgotten. There’s a poetry and poignancy in each almost-wistfully rendered skull, regardless of the caption.


Along with Smit’s gently ironic skulls, his more sharply satiric look at The New York Times is also on display, both as individual pages and collected as if each piece was a part of the ultimate coffee-table art book. The news pages feature often hilarious headlines that skewer current culture and news. From the political, such as “Ted Cruz Consumed by Lice,” to the elliptical “Falling Behind - Slipping from View,” this is commentary and art that deserves to be seen … and read (Charlie James Gallery, Chinatown).





Keith Sonnier, from the “Portal Series,” 2015, neon construction.



Keith Sonnier is an artist associated with the post minimalist movement of the 1970s. He has continued to experiment with different materials, creating evocative sculptures and public art projects that have been shown nationally and internationally. On view here are neon works from his "Portal Series." Sonnier conceives of these neon works as passageways to imaginary places, as well as doorways to dead ends. The neon lines read as delicate abstractions, animated and colorful wall drawings of shapes that reference something tangible yet not defined enough to become solid form. Sonnier uses the medium as line and light, exulting in the magical and spiritual references the work alludes to, while avoiding any direct reference to this other worldliness (Maccarone Gallery, Downtown).





“(En)Gendered (In)Equity,” installation view, 2016 at LACE.



Lined up floor to ceiling, over 400 original artist produced posters join forces. Designed to focus attention on gender imbalance and the underrepresentation of women in the art world, “(En)Gendered (In)Equity: Gallery Tally Poster Project" is a compelling retrospective that gives voice to all Gallery Tally posters made to date. This crowd-sourced, social engagement production, organized by Micol Hebron, has motivated a blend of celebrated and emerging artists to join the effort of collecting and visualizing statistical data concerning the ratios of females to males engaged by a legion of art galleries worldwide. While each poster maker conforms to the established two-by-three foot format, the variety of styles and subject matter employed by artists to get their message across is fascinating, ranging from impeccably designed, text based, minimalist work to hilarious interpretations of male and female signifiers. Hebron describes the experience of standing in the gallery, “surrounded by the diverse artistic voices of literally hundreds of people who are invested in gender equity,” as one of the most empowering experiences of her career: “I am moved. I am optimistic. I am determined.” (LACE, Hollywood)

Diane Calder




Essi Zimm, “Cradle to Cradle I,” 2015, mixed media collage and oil panel board, 44 x 66”.



Four complex and individually outstanding solo shows comprise “Layers.” Essi Zimm, Toshee, Nicholas Bonamy, and Joey Feldman, each present works that aptly illustrate the exhibition’s overall vision of layered meaning, textures, and techniques. Zimm leads viewers into the realm of the Yokai, Japanese spirits or supernatural monsters. The artist presents folklore as a way to access a universe different from our own, one that is non-linear and creative. Working in mixed media with oils and collage, Zimm’s work glows with a mysterious grace.


Toshee’s mixed media pieces also pay homage to Japanese story telling, using techniques reminiscent of Japanese wood block printing. A student of graphic designer and painter Toshihiro Katayama, Toshee creates vibrating worlds with acrylic, cotton rag mat, ink, newspaper, silver and gold leaf, and resin on wood panels. The textures he shapes feel deep and sculptural. Bonamy’s collage panels are inspired by Los Angeles area locations. His beautifully detailed images of local sites are heightened with radiant color, drips and splotches of paints, and linear graphic shapes that make the recognizable landmarks into magical, rainbow driven realms.


Feldman’s figurative caricatures present different sorts of layers, those which can be observed in the nuances of depiction. His portraits of David Bowie, William S. Burroughs, and Charles Bukowski both accurately present these well-known visages, and take them to another level that is part cartoon and part character study. Whether using 1950s-era hand-molded watercolor paper (sent to the artist by Ralph Steadman) or canvas, these luminous, amusing portraits feel resolutely alive. The sum of “Layers” is as captivating as its parts, an exhibition that pulls viewers into a new way of seeing beneath the surface (The Gabba Gallery, Silverlake).





Susan Berger, “Seattle, WA,” silver gelatin print, 16 x 20”.



Most Americans today understand the impact of Martin Luther King Jr’s “I Have a Dream” speech, in which the civil rights leader declared that he wished that his four little children would one day live in a nation where they’d not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. What followed over time ranged from the Civil Rights Bill of 1964, to Martin Luther King Jr. Day; and cities all over the nation have renamed streets after him. However, racism is still alive and the issue continues to demand public attention. Hence, Susan Berger’s “Martin Luther King Dr.: Honoring an American Hero” is a meaningful show to view. She presents black-and-white photos in which the words of Dr. King appear, acting as historical reminder and serving up moral encouragement. For example, there is the image of McCoy Academy, a high school in an impoverished district of Portland. The school was cut off from public funding and is in need of donations and grants. A painting attached to the school’s fence shows King’s head with the words "Dream into Reality." Another image showcases a sculpture of King in Jersey City, with a mural behind it that displays the first black woman who sold a newspaper in the city. Then there are a series of images of depressed neighborhoods throughout the country, documenting everyday Americana and the photos of shops and restaurants along the streets that carry his name. For example, there is an image of a catfish restaurant in Seattle with a painting on its façade of King in a thinker’s pose. Such an image raises the question whether King’s legacy has permeated deeply into our culture or merely trivialized (dnj Gallery, Santa Monica).

Simone Kussatz




Robert Kingston, “Brunelleschi in the Wilderness,” 2016, acrylic on canvas, 60 x 48”.



There is something very spacious and light about the new series of abstract paintings of Southern California-based artist Robert Kingston. For the most part Kingston’s canvasses are egg-shell white mingled with some blurs of pastel colors. Relating to the painting of Cy Twombly, they have these unidentifiable doodles and splotches in them. Once in a while little floating objects appear, like clouds in the sky, objects Kingston acknowledges he has been inspired by. Rendered with little contrast, however, there seems to be always one object that stands out from the others, through a darker shade of color, form or line. Kingston’s handling of sparseness lends the works elegance, which imbues them with a very calm and meditative feeling. A.M. Rousseau is another Southern California-based artist concurrently presenting paintings that could be one of Kingston’s scribbled objects taken out from his paintings and magnified. These are simple and direct works that are spiritually influenced by Paul Klee’s philosophy of life: “… take a line for a walk, aimlessly for the sake of the walk.” However, since Rousseau also works as a writer, one cannot help but think that he is also influenced by the process of writing, since in writing one line follows another, sometimes without knowing where they lead to. Her symbols of knots could be interpreted as the little pauses a writer takes, when the flow is interrupted and until new inspiration sets in (Ruth Bachofner Gallery, Santa Monica).





Christiane Feser, “Partition 46,” 2015, photo object with archival pigment print, 55.1 x 78.7 x 1.2”.



Cutting into or physically manipulating photographs has become quite a trend in the art world, but artists do so with varying success. In “Photoobjects,” German photographer Christiane Feser has not only done something delightfully original, she has done so with astonishing élan. She creates geometric abstractions that tease the eye, that make you want to look longer and more deeply to understand what you are seeing. When you stand in front of “Partition 31,” you wonder if you are actually looking at a sea of open boxes mounted on the wall, with their openings pointed towards you — or are you looking at a photograph of a sea of boxes? In fact, Feser’s photographs are hybrids; they are both photography and sculpture.


She creates illusionistic dimensions by setting up and photographing real objects — boxes, strips of paper, geometric shapes — and then going that one better by cutting into the surface of the photographic print, lifting and folding back sections. The tab is bent in different directions, and sometimes another color is added behind the opening. It all contributes to the illusion of three dimensionality, of looking at actual boxes or geometric shapes. However, I think our mind grasps that something is awry, so there’s a tantalizing mystery to what we are seeing. The shadows, for example, can be confounding, as there are shadows thrown by the actual objects she photographed. Then there are the shadows created by the gallery’s lighting raking across the raised shapes. In the “Verwebung" series she weaves strips of paper together; in the “Lamellen" series the strips are creased and raised so as to slash the picture plane on the diagonal. While many of her works are monochromatic, Feser introduces background colors in the simple but elegantly composed “Sticks" series (Von Lintel Gallery, Culver City).

Scarlet Cheng




Philip Leslie Hale, “The Crimson Rambler,” ca. 1908, oil on canvas, 25 1/4 x 30 3/16”.



Who would have imagined that viewers drawn to the inarguable beauty of an exhibition composed of seventeen impressionistic paintings could simultaneously gain a broader understanding of the impact of the early twentieth century’s technological advances and societal concerns? Starting with “The Crimson Rambler,” a brilliant work by Philip Leslie Hale, an artist who turned away from his Art Student League studies in New York to spend summers in Giverny, “The Artist’s Garden: American Impressionism and the Garden Movement, 1887–1920” does just that. The lovely woman gazing at her thriving, hybridized red rose vine in Hale’s painting, can be seen as representing one of the many middle class family members who abandoned industrialized cities crowded by hordes of immigrant workers to retreat to the sanctuary of their gardens in the suburbs. In conscious alignment with the pleas of conservation groups such as the Audubon Society to oppose the sporting of dead birds on fashion maven’s hats, she chooses flowers. Portable cameras, which became available in the early 1900’s, exerted a different influence on this and other Impressionist works in the exhibition. They relaxed the boundary between subject and background, so the paintings resemble snapshots, a part of a larger reality captured as if by chance (Huntington Library, Pasadena).





Francis Livingston, “Strand Theatre,” 2015, oil on panel, 36 x 36”.



“Uptown” pulses with an urban vibe. Featuring cityscapes by six artists from diverse locales, it’s a cross-section of artists who embrace urban energy in a variety of styles from figurative to expressionistic, abstract to color field. The paintings here often mirror and dialogue with each other, resulting in a show that explores our cities from deeply subjective viewpoints. Glenn Ness’ meticulous close-ups of art deco style doors, “Entering the Millennium” and “Chrysler Entrance,” are representational, approaching photorealism. They evoke via their subject matter and reflective painting technique the atmosphere of mid-20th century America. Francis Livingston’s “Strand Theater” features, similarly, a mid-century movie theater with its faded marquee, but embracing a distinct feeling of nostalgia. His “Warmth” and “Soho Slice,” close-ups of sharply defined windows, invoke Edward Hopper’s images of urban isolation. Nearby are contrasting expressionist paintings by Craig Mooney. His “Night and the City,” with skyscrapers morphing abstractly into the night sky and dramatic use of red, feels like a city of the future. His “Downtown Glide” and “Window Shopping,” with their street views of people, cars and storefronts, blur into abstraction. The skyscrapers in William Wray’s “L.A.” also approaches abstraction in a dialogue with Mooney’s work. Wray’s “H.K Alley” is even more abstract by virtue of its large municipal building blending into the black background. James Kroner’s  “Dissolving,” “Gravity” and “Zoetrope” depict buildings, cars and streets. Created with an emphasis on light and atmosphere, rather than feeling their physical presence they become ephemeral. Spare architectural paintings by Siddhartha Parasnis, including “Brown Warehouse,” “House on a Green Mountain” and “White Backyard,” employ large swaths of solid color that comprise the structures’ square and rectangular shapes. Parasnis raises the ordinary residence to a place of elegance and beauty (Sue Greenwood Fine Art, Orange County).

Liz Goldner




Diego Rivera, “Human Sacrifice and Self-Sacrifice before the God Tohil,” 1931, watercolor on paper.



“Popol Vuh: Watercolor Paintings of Diego Rivera” is tucked away in a corner of this large multi-cultural museum. The 17 small, primitively drawn watercolors, all from 1931, are likely to enchant and even mystify, due in part to the legend that inspired these artworks. Popol Vuh is the sacred text of the ancient Quiché Maya people from Guatemala and Mexico. The text, as translated by American author John Weatherwax (from an 18th century Mayan to Spanish translation), describes the creation of the world. Rivera’s watercolors are highly stylized, referencing imagery decorating Mayan ceramic, stone and painted artifacts. Beneath every painting, there is a detailed excerpt from a Weatherwax text. The artist then, inspired by the author’s words including, “The flood and the destruction of the wooden man,” “Monkeys that look like people,” and other metaphorical references to humanity’s beginnings. Nearly naked, brown skinned characters, bedecked with primitive necklaces, bracelets and earrings, alternately pay homages to gods, monsters and dragon-like creatures. While these small paintings lack the detail and majesty of his murals, the stylized characters are inspired by those in his larger works (Bowers Museum, Orange County).





Natasha Shoro, “Metamorphosis,” 2015, acrylic on canvas.



This mother and daughter exhibition conveys an impressive symbiotic relationship. Natasha Shoro, the mother, works in paint and mixed media, while her daughter Anushe Shoro creates photography and poetry. Through extensive travel, the Pakistani-American artists bring a unique flavor to Southern California art, a mixture of Eastern and Western perceptions with a broad international sensibility. Natasha seeks to express visually — from a macro viewpoint — the concept of Being, a conundrum where Being is an eternal, universal presence, but also allusive and seemingly unattainable. Anushe brings the universe down from its ethereal heights to human scale and expresses Being as well, but from a micro viewpoint. The enormity of the physical universe, for example, is embodied in the intimate structure of a flower. In poetry Anushe writes: “… where sometimes the Little Things, are the Big Things.” In this way, the artistic dialogue between the two artists presents a broader range of ideas beyond the art and limitations of gallery walls. Eschewing a cerebral presentation, the exhibition is curated to bring viewers closer to the artists’ mindset, where thoughts of Being can be contemplated. The mixing of media, therefore, promotes an invisible connection the two artists share — their artistic dialogue conveys the universal womb in which we live, their respective art serving to better put the metaphor within reach (Soka University, Founders Gallery, Orange County).

Roberta Carasso




Richard Bunkall, "Old Buiding, Paris," 1990



In a rare act of appreciation from countless aficionados, “Into Her Own:  Diane Nelson: Four Decades in the Art World” honors the longtime Orange County gallerist's influence and efforts on behalf of the art world. The accolades are not about her retirement or longevity, but, for Nelson’s art expertise imparted in a soft-spoken, reliable, and nurturing manner. Artists and art lovers could count on her to continuously curate stimulating exhibitions, present a fresh body of art with new ideas to consider, and champion known and unknown artists. She also took risks and promoted artists for her belief in their work alone. For Nelson, it was first and foremost her sense of aesthetic quality that mattered, not the reputation preceding an artist, nor their gender, or fashionability or other triangulations.


Richard Bunkall’s, “Old Building, Paris” (1990) is a dynamic wall sculpture that is both a flat iron-type building and a dazzling abstraction of vertical and horizontal lines that jut out and back in space. Christopher Terry bathes still and sparse areas all in white, with one quiet form accented in pulsating color. His "Interior with Green Pumpkin" shows how less is more, and how color becomes increasingly vibrant in the stillness of a white canvas. Cheryl Ekstrom’s 22 ten-foot “Warriors" with animal heads were unattainable for the exhibition when it opened. They were being shown in Moulton Meadows Park in Laguna over one weekend, where more than 100 people camped out to have a greater and more intimate experience with the sculpture in the open. Indicative of her willingness to make things happen, afterward the weekend Nelson installed the commanding forms in the gallery (Orange Coast College, Frank M. Doyle Art Pavilion, Orange County).





Mischa Askenazy, “Sunset Blvd.,” 1935, oil on canvas, 20 x 24”.




Granville Redmond’s “Untitled, Moonlight Marsh” is a thickly painted deep blue oil that is a fantasy interpretation of a marsh illuminated only by moonlight. Its reference to the beauty and importance of water makes it a natural component of “The Nature of Water: Our Most Precious Resource.” This show opens with charts documenting how a fixed quantity of water has remained in place for hundreds of millions of years, and how the amount of water on Earth is being cycled through the ocean, sky and land. The paintings illuminate the variety of forms in which water appears — through streams, rivers, lakes, oceans, rain and snow. The oldest painting is Thomas Hill’s “Following the Trail, Hetch Hetchy” (1868), depicting a verdant stream that was later dammed up to provide water for Los Angeles. Misha Askenazy's contrasting “Sunset Boulevard” shows a rain and windswept street with ramshackle buildings, flooded walkways and people huddled to shield themselves from the downpour. The image transports us to the early days of the iconic thoroughfare. Ruth Lotan’s watercolor “Lightning Storm” is a vivid illustration of an ominous gray sky and lightning over a broad expanse of farmland. Large, puffy white clouds dominate 80 percent of Paul Grimm’s “Cloudy Sky.” Guy Rose’s “Pt. Lobos” is a dramatic rendition of this Carmel area tourist destination, its rock formations rising out of the blue ocean. These and the other paintings gather for this show help advocate an important mission — to preserve our precious and vanishing environment (Irvine Museum, Orange County).





Harry Sternberg, “Creators and Critics,” 1985-86, woodcut, 34 5/8 x 17 7/8”, is currently on view at the San Diego Museum.



Harry Sternberg came into his own as an artist in New York City during the Depression years of the 1930’s. Having initially honed his skills as a printmaker, Sternberg received recognition as a Social Realist, using his observations of immigrants, railroad yards, construction sites and the harsh working conditions of the Pennsylvania coalmines to create his woodcuts, etchings and paintings. Referencing Goya’s practice of integrating reality and fantasy, the humble and grotesque, Sternberg conveyed the despair, social and politically charged issues of the 1930’s. "East Coast, West Coast and In-Between" begins with his earliest woodcuts, describing his childhood activities spent at the Brooklyn Library, time at home with family and his Hebrew studies. Mature work portrays industrial landscapes and the plight of the physical laborer using a combination of realism, surrealism and abstraction. These images range from dark and dramatic expressions to a more dreamlike sensibility.


Sternberg also created murals commissioned by the U.S. Department of Treasury, and taught for over 30 years at the New York Art Students League. Due to a serious illness while in his 60s, the artist relocated to Escondido, California, where his work took on a distinctively different tone. His paintings began to reveal a brighter and more varied color palette as well as lighter themes. It is evident that Sternberg, who lived to the age of 97, centered his career around themes of humanism and social justice that turned more personal and joyous after his relocation to Southern California. It is through his New York period work that we gain a heightened awareness of a particularly turbulent time in American history (San Diego Museum of Art, San Diego).

Cathy Breslaw