Edith Beaucage: "hurluburlu" at CB1 Gallery

Edith Beaucage's "hurluberlu" paintings, which feature idiosyncratic figures and architectural references are about the rich interaction of the imagination and social spaces. Beaucage's new series has a Rococo energy, and is peopled by an engaging cast of lusciously painted faux-naif characters. The paintings are sweet, challenging, and utterly original.

To better understand the artist's ideas, I sent her a set of questions, and also asked her husband, Glen Irani, if he would add his perspective.


Edith Beaucage
hurluberlucubic.hur, 2011

Oil on canvas
60" x 46"

John Seed/Edith Beaucage: Q and A on hurluberlu

JS: Can you tell me what a "hurluberlu" is?

EB: A hurluberlu is a type of person that is referred to in Quebec as a fellow that is a little crazy; sweet and original in his way of thinking, and in how he dresses himself and behaves.

In each of my paintings you will find a hurluberlu juxtaposed with an abstraction that mimics what happens in a social space. The social space is therefore the unifying factor and is meant to stimulate discourse with the audience, to include the viewer. The meaning that derives from this interaction is voluntarily open.

By conceiving each image in relation to a "hurluberlu" I was able to push the abstractions each one inspired into a new aesthetic territory. The painting's titles are followed by .hur because I refer to the group as part of the domain of the hurlerburlu as opposed to internet domains such as .com or .net.


Edith Beaucage
triakistetrahedron.hur, 2011

Wax and oil on wood panel
53" x 36"

JS: Tell me about your imagery and your brushwork: how do they relate to each other?

EB: I like to explore relationships between signs of abstraction and figuration, and how we derive meaning by simple juxtaposition of these signs.

I am interested in fluid paint, volatile multicolor brush marks and how they can be organized to represent a figure or a form. Brush marks for me are "low-tech." They are image activators.


Edith Beaucage
quixoticcuboctahedron.hur, 2011

Oil and acrylic on canvas
60" x 46"

JS: How satisfied are you with your own work at this point?

I have literally a huge pile of paintings that did not work for this exhibition. I had to go through numerous trials for getting to the equation that you see. So, yes I am happy with this new work as part of this edited process.

Working on this series has raised so many questions and challenges:

- Will works in a larger scale be clearer or harder to understand?

- How do the geometric solids function in relation to the characters?

- Is the hurluberlu a good idea?

- Should the hurluberlus be more realistic or generic representations of people?

- Some are very funny; what is that about?

- Where does humor take the work?

JS: Who are some artists you admire, and are they influencing your current direction?

EB: In this particular group of paintings I was thinking about specific painters in relationship to abstraction and as it turned out I "winked" at them, and I was wondering if anyone would notice that.

Gerhard Richter is present -- or "winked at" -- in the t-shirt of the hurluberlu character in Palsy-Walsy.hur.

Cy Twombly is "winked at" in the abstract shape of Quixoticcuboctaheron.hur.

Robert Ryman is definitely present everywhere.

Francis Bacon is present in the dimension of the large pieces and in the organization of the dark blue painting titled: Hurluberlucubic.hur.

Zaha Hadid is "winked at" in the multicolored volume in Triakistertrahedron.hur

JS: Edith, is there anything else you would like to say?

EB: Well... I love painting and I will stand in that space and defend it with pleasure.

Also, I was born in Quebec and appreciate that truly incomparable culture, but I live here in Los Angeles because I think it is the place to be to make art right now.


Glen Irani and Edith Beaucage at CB1 Gallery, Photo: Jason Chang

Glen Irani on Edith's Work:

"Her most recent work appears to me to be a community of really strange, ingenious characters set in abstract scenes, lots of paint and, most importantly -- to me -- a very intriguing and active relationship between all of them. When you walk into a room full of Edith's paintings, it's like your crashing a convention for extraterrestrial misfits, year 27000, and they all seem to be getting along real well, and maybe there was a food fight. You can hear the some apprehension, some quandary and everyone seems to be staring at one another wondering what the heck they should say to strike a chord with this other whatever-it-is standing across from them. It's really a blast and everyone's having a good time making it work, even though it could be a very long time before it does. That's what I see."

Edith Beaucage
CB1 Gallery
February 26 - April 3, 2011

Selling Iowa's Pollock Mural: A Zen Buddhist Perspective

Author's Note: On February 21st the DesMoines Register announced that a bill proposing to force the sale of Jackson Pollock's "Mural," in the collection of the University of Iowa's Art Museum, had died.

This blog, about the controversy generated by the bill, and also about the cultural forces surrounding it, was composed while the bill was still under consideration. It is hopefully still worth reading, as, in the words of a good friend "This idea will come up again, and similar proposals to sell works of art from museum and university collections will multiply as the economy continues to struggle."

In "Jackson Pollock: An American Saga," a sprawling 796 biography of the artist by Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith, there is a description of a very awkward Pollock family reunion that took place at Pollock's Long Island farmhouse in July, 1950. During the family gathering, Pollock, an insecure man who had struggled with poverty and alcoholism for most of his life, bragged about his growing fame to his visiting brothers.

"I'm the only painter worth looking at in America. There really isn't anybody else," Pollock crowed. He then pointed to one of his abstract drip paintings, "Lavender Mist," and challenged his brother Frank: "Buy that painting for $15,000 and one day it will be worth $100,000."

Pollock, who was being grandiose in predicting such a hefty price for one of his paintings in the future, was low in his estimate. In 2006 his "No. 5, 1948" was sold to an unknown collector for $140 million dollars, a price 1,400 times higher than the seemingly outrageous prediction the artist had once made in front of his family.

a jackson pollock

Above: Pollock's "Mural" on display in 2006, photo by Emily Hunter

Pollock's position as the preeminent American painter of the 20th century is now firmly rooted -- he had no need to be insecure about his reputation -- and prices for Pollock's key works have soared into the stratosphere. Prices for major Pollocks are so high, as are the prices for other blue chip works of art, that they seem divorced from the realities a struggling world economy.

Great works of art, which ideally should serve as symbols of human experience refined into culture, are gaining attention as symbols of the almost feudal inequalities that plague the world's distribution of wealth. We like to think of masterworks as "priceless" but as the world's economy teeters, more and more people are realizing that they have price tags.

Among those paying rapt attention are Asian and Middle Eastern billionaires who are developing a hankering for American masterworks. Authoritarian capitalists have embraced Rothko, Warhol and Pollock, and they have mountains of dollars ready to spend on art.

I have recently been reading and thinking about a bill proposed in the Iowa House of Representatives by Rep. Scott Raeker (R). The bill would force the University of Iowa to sell Jackson Pollock's "Mural," valued at an estimated $140 million dollars, and possibly worth more. The proceeds of the sale would reportedly create an endowment fund that would reportedly give between 750 and 1,000 students full scholarships to U of Iowa in perpetuity.

This is the second time that such a sale has been proposed, and the idea was shot down the first time around. Now, with another battle brewing, The Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD) and the American Association of Museums (AAM) have issued a powerful joint statement explaining their alarm over the idea. Sally Mason, the President of the University of Iowa, has also made her opposition clear:

"This is an issue that I, and the entire University of Iowa community, care deeply about and my position has not changed. I do not want to sell the painting."

The proposed sale is dividing Iowans and other interested parties down political fault lines, and turning politicians into art critics. Last Fall the Iowa Press-Citizen quoted Republican Senator David Johnston, who supports the bill, as calling the Pollock mural "a fraud." Isn't it interesting that a senator is so anxious to get an astronomical price for something he considers fraudulent?

Representative Raeker, the Republican who authored the bill to force the Pollock sale, doesn't have anything so caustic to say about the painting. When I emailed him about his views on Pollock he responded with a politician's flair, stating: "I believe the 'Mural' is a fine piece of art and has considerable value on many levels."

The proposed sale is supported by at least one University of Iowa Regent, journalist and businessman Michael Gartner, who has said that "providing scholarships to Iowa students is far more important than owning a painting."

On a Facebook page started in 2008 by Tom Nixon there are 552 members listed, but not all of them are there to be supportive. One comment on the site, left by Justin Whitlock of Cedar Rapids reads: "So, the University wants to sell something they own to help pay for flood damage INSTEAD of sucking the money from flood relief funds like FEMA or the state or tax payers... SELL IT!" Another comment, sarcastically notes that U of Iowa "leads the nation in binge drinking" making it a fine setting for a Pollock.

Tom Nixon, a U of Iowa grad notes that "... the Pollock and the rest of the University's collection could accurately be called one of the best kept secrets in Iowa," hopes the controversy over the Pollock will make Iowans more aware of the importance of what they have. Acknowledging that "money is tight" he still feels strongly that "A garage sale of our prized cultural possessions is no solution at all."

Iowa's Democratic senators are pledging to block the sale. There are indications that the sale could face legal challenges, and also that the University of Iowa Museum could lose its accreditation. Speaking for myself, I don't think the sale of the mural is a good idea -- deaccessioning works of art from museum collections rarely is -- but the moral issues raised by the proposed sale are thought provoking.

It is deeply troubling that so many people are struggling while art prices soar. The situation strikes me as being Medieval. Of course, a textbook capitalist would say "It's simply supply and demand, and the market is doing its job," but I have grown disenchanted with that perspective.

Who, I have been wondering, might provide some explanations and insights to put this situation into a different light? Who might be able to offer a more profound view or even some solutions? I wanted a perspective that would be outside the usual polarities of Democrat/Republican or Liberal/Conservative.

The best person I could think of was David R. Loy, an American author and professor who is an authorized teacher in the Sanbo Kyodan lineage of Japanese Zen Buddhism. Loy, whose writings present a dialogue between modernity and Buddhism, has stated that modern Capitalism is a religion. In Loy's view, modern capitalistic culture is a troubled belief system that is dogged by insecurity.


David R. Loy - Photo Credit: www.sweepingzen.com

This excerpt from Loy's essay "Why We Love War" provides a sample of his point of view:

"The modern world can keep many of us alive longer and sometimes makes death less physically painful, but it has no answer to the groundlessness that plagues us individually and collectively, for nothing in the world can fill up the bottomless hole at our core. Without understanding what motivates us, we end up clinging; not only to physical objects but also to symbols..."

Clinging to physical objects and symbols? That sounds like art collecting to me. I was able to contact Loy via e-mail, and I filled him in on the Pollock situation. Then I asked him a few questions, including this one:

"In a world filled with suffering, what can be said about so much money going towards art purchases?" Loy promised to reflect on my questions and two days later I reached him on his cellphone while he was out for an afternoon walk in Ohio. We never directly dealt with the question "Should the Pollock be sold or not?" but instead talked about Loy's views of the cultural and political forces surrounding that question.

We started by talking a bit about the way that art is given a dollar value. "The basic point," Loy told me, "is that in this culture everything becomes fundamentally a commodity." Art, like any other commodity "has meaning and value if transformed into those terms."

Loy went on to suggest that one thing collectors do when they trade dollars for a Pollock might be to "appropriate the West." Certainly anyone who would want to purchase Pollock's mural would be symbolically buying a piece of America. Of course, maybe the problem is that the people of Iowa don't see it that way, while art lovers on the two coasts do.

In "Pollock: An American Saga" Pollock is quoted as saying that the inspiration for his abstract mural came from a vision of the American plains. "Cows and horses and antelopes and buffaloes. Everything is charging across that goddamn surface," he said. Part of what makes Pollock so great as an artist is that he was part Marlboro Man, part Monet. He channeled masculine American individuality into something abstract and subjective; a difficult feat.

A Detail of Pollock's Iowa Mural

Above: A Detail of Pollock's Mural, photo by Theron LaBounty

As our conversation continued Loy was making his way up a hill, and the pace of our conversation seemed to pick up in rhythm with his exertion. If anything, the Buddhist scholar was beginning to sound like an economist.

There is, he reminded me "a huge pool of money sloshing around." It is a world of global financial speculation full of "games" where "a great deal of money can be made in a few seconds." The result, when you get a "tidal wave of money" is that bubbles form wherever money " decides to go." Loy has that right: art is indeed the place that a tsunami of money seems to go these days.

I asked Loy, who has stated that the modern west is caught in a "crisis of immortality," if works of art served as "relics" for collectors now, in a way that the bones of a saint did a thousand years ago. He said "yes" and told me that "money has become an immortality symbol." Art dealers, he suggested, must know how to summon up fears about mortality and our insecurity.

It should be noted that when Loy talks about "insecurity" in his writings, he often connects it to a concept that he calls "lack" something he sees permeating the modern capitalist world. "Lack" he says, "is my interpretation of the dukkha (suffering) that occurs due to our discomfort with and resistance to our shunyata (emptiness)."

In his book "The $12 million Dollar Stuffed Shark: The Curious Economics of Contemporary Art," economist Donald N. Thompson quotes Howard Rutkowski, the director of Bonham's auction house who says: "Never underestimate how insecure buyers are about contemporary art, and how much they need reassurance." Collectors apparently are desperate for the validation of their taste by "experts."

While doing research on Pollock's "Mural" I learned that the two artists who had the job of installing it in dealer Peggy Guggenheim's apartment -- David Hare and Marcel Duchamp -- cut 8 inches off the canvas to make it fit. Pollock was told about the trimming, but he was drunk and "didn't care." As I read this I thought to myself "Pollock is so important now that if someone suggested cutting 8 inches off the other edge of the mural there would be a national debate." Of course, the trimming might sell for millions that could provide scholarships.

As my call with David Loy progressed, and he neared the top of a hill, he gave me a few more things to think about. "From the contemporary Buddhist point of view, our lack is externalized." This manifests itself in "all the things that money can buy, and in our preoccupation with fame."

"We can only truly feel real," Loy continued, "through the eyes of others."

At this point in the conversation I felt that I had more than enough information to work with, and I thanked David for his time. Later, looking over my notes, something he had said really jumped out at me:

"The real problem isn't the future, the real problem is right now."

Talking to David Loy was energizing, and as I reflected on our conversation over the next few days, I realized that true to his form as a Zen teacher, he had caused me to ultimately come up with more questions than answers. He had given me many interesting insights, but I continued to struggle with the moral issues raised by the absurd dollar values given to works of art.

The idea of selling Jackson Pollock's "Mural" seems so wrong, but the idea of helping people right now seems so right. In fact, this is what the Pollock-Krasner Foundation, established by Pollock's widow Lee Krasner in 1985, was founded to do. With a mission of providing financial assistance to artists, the Foundation has turned the proceeds from the sale of Pollock paintings into a financial safety net for thousands of grantees. In its relatively short lifespan the PK Foundation has given out some 3,500 grants totaling over $53 million dollars.

If Pollock paintings have sold for insane amounts of money, it cuts both ways. Through the generosity of the Pollock-Foundation, cash derived from the sale of Pollocks has helped many worthy people cope with the problems of "right now." The same high prices have also caused all of us to understand, in our "money is how we value things way" that Pollock's paintings are important symbols of American culture.

Loy sent me one more e-mail when he got home after his walk.

John, he asked "Was it Warhol who said: 'Art is whatever you can get away with'?" David's email, I realized posed a kind of final Zen question intended to help me clarify my thinking.

My response was to have an "Aha!" moment and laugh to myself. Artists aren't the ones who try to get away with things. Politicians do that too.

For a moment of attention and glory, a small group of Iowa politicians wants to see if they can pull a fast one and put a price on something priceless. They are a bit jealous that Jackson Pollock has achieved immortality and they don't quite understand how he did it. Maybe, they are thinking, they can latch on and convert a potent symbol of American culture into cash and political capital.

Why, I have to wonder, aren't they suggesting that we sell the Lincoln Memorial too? It is, after all, another concrete symbol of an American who mastered his anxiety -- his sense of "lack" -- and attained greatness. There must be a Chinese billionaire who would pay to move it, and the cash would be a big help in paying down the federal deficit.

By the way, that was a Zen question.

Frank Lobdell: "Nothing worth anything is easy"


Frank Lobdell, 2002, 49.25 x 29.25", mixed media on paper by David Tomb

When David Tomb created his mixed-media portrait of artist Frank Lobdell in 2002, the experience left him wrung out. Working "on the spot" in Lobdell's San Francisco studio Tomb recalls that he was "so nervous, actually, that when I went home my neck went into massive seizure - doctors, painkillers; therapy for several months."

In his effort to create a psychologically accurate portrait of a veteran painter known for his verbal reticence and monastic studio practices, Tomb had taken on a tough subject. Just what is going on, he had to wonder, in the mind of a man whose art is a perplexing mix of the inchoate and the fantastic? Looking at Lobdell's paintings is always bracing; trying to unravel his psyche is apparently exhausting.

With his considerable effort, Tomb got Lobdell right: the strong jaw, the glowering intelligence, the unease at being scrutinized. Lobdell was "very pleased with the result" says Tomb. Of course he was: Frank Lobdell has a high respect for art that comes out of struggle and pain. Robbie Conal, who had Lobdell as his graduate advisor at Stanford in the late 70s says that "Frank would mutter at me, sometimes wearily, sometimes conspiratorially, every time we were together for more than half an hour; 'Nothing worth anything is easy.'"

I also studied with Lobdell -- I was an undergraduate art major around the same time that Robbie Conal was a grad student - and I remember not knowing exactly what to make of Lobdell. He was a man of few words who was hard to get to know. He made a similar impression on my classmate John Littleboy:

"He (Lobdell) was broad and heavy-set and usually had a stubbled two-day growth of beard. He seemed to always have on a polo shirt and dark slacks. He might have been an athlete in his youth though that's just a guess. I took him for independent study so we saw each other infrequently. When we did, speaking seemed to be difficult for him, requiring a big physical effort to articulate his thoughts. I never doubted he wanted to be clearly understood, but that wasn't an easy business."

At the beginning of my semester with Lobdell I had it in my mind to try and copy a 17th century Poussin mythological painting, "Echo and Narcissus." Thinking that it was my duty as a figurative painter to try and copy the work of a French master, I carefully sketched in the figures on a grid and had been at work for days before I found Lobdell standing beside my palette table. "Why" he asked, "would you want to paint that?" That was all he had to say, and I remember thinking "That is one great question."

I had never seen any of Frank's paintings, and a bit later in the term I dropped by his office hour thinking he might have one of his canvasses hung in his office. Lobdell was lost in some paperwork when I got there, so I looked around and waited. On the right hand wall was an early Diebenkorn abstract oil -- it was a terrific painting -- but there were no Lobdells in sight. "This man has a rich history," I began to realize, " that is worth looking into."

After my Poussin copy went into the dumpster I tried an abstract picture, and it quickly turned into a chaotic mess. When Frank stopped by to see what I was painting I complained to him and pointed out all of the areas that I thought were unresolved. He got right to the point: "Find an area of the painting that you like," he told me. "I will be back in an hour." I followed his instructions, and when he returned I located one area of the painting where the paint had accidentally fallen into place in an interesting way. "Hang on to that," Lobdell advised.

One of Lobdell's strengths, I gradually learned, was his ability to break down a canvas, scrutinize small areas and understand how they could add up. Susan Harby, who studied under Lobdell as a graduate student, also noticed this strength:

"He lived and painted a micro and macroscopic life on the canvas of forms playing out a drama or game. He looked at my work for the interaction of the small things that added up to make a good painting. He would stand inches away from the painting's surface investigating the small forms or small brushmarks and discuss how they enlivened the surface. They had to add up to something: something truthful."

In this struggle for artistic veracity Lobdell could work up a temper. He was quiet and kind in class, but in his studio he would cut loose. One Saturday I had a job cleaning up Nathan Oliveira's studio in an old VFW building in Palo Alto. Lobdell, and Keith Boyle, another Stanford art professor, had studios across the hall. I remember hearing a crashing sound from across the hall - "Was that a painting hitting the wall?" I wondered - followed by Lobdell's voice screaming out a string of curses.

Oliveira once told me that he and Frank liked to share some whiskey at the studio from time to time, and one memorable evening they drank half a bottle and realized that the liquor had unlocked their tongues. Nathan turned on a tape recorder to preserve the profound revelations about art that were unfolding, but when he ran the tape a few days later. The results were hilariously disappointing.

"When I make art," Nathan heard his drunken voice intone, "I...(long silence)............"

"YESSSSSS," Lobdell assented solemnly.

Robbie Conal, also remembers spending time in Frank's studio, talking art over a few drinks:

"We're sitting at what might have been a folding card table, whatever's left of a 5th of bourbon between us: I brought it. Ruminating -- deeply -- until Frank growls, 'Let's listen to some Beethoven; the late quartets.'

He gestures me over to the record player. I turn it on and drop the arm on spinning black vinyl.

Frank booms, 'Opus 131 in C# minor!' We listen for maybe 10-12 minutes in silence, he's nodding his head, eyes closed. Then, seemingly from within his reverie he says, 'I know people think my work isn't pretty . . .that it doesn't go with the damn drapes...but when I need something for my soul--not for fucking entertainment, you know?--for my soul...I go to Beethoven! That's what my damn art is about.'"

At the end of the term Lobdell invited my class to visit his studio, an exciting moment. He was genuinely liked, even loved, by his students, and we had passed the hat and bought him a large stainless steel frosting knife that we thought would make a good painting tool. Frank loved the knife - it was the most gigantic palette knife ever - and was visibly touched when he unwrapped it.

At his studio that day, Lobdell gave the single most riveting painting demonstration I have ever seen. Placing a canvas flat on the floor, Jackson Pollock style, he scraped some raw oil paint onto the surface and said approvingly "That's a start." In the studio, it was as if we students had disappeared: he was letting us into the privacy of his creative process.

"Hmm...... (silence).....green...... needs yellow." Each time he laid down some paint, it suggested his next move, and each addition was grudgingly, tentatively applied. At first I remember thinking that Lobdell was intuitive, but as I watched the demonstration unfold it hit me: he was counterintuitive. Every scab of paint demanded a response, but the key was that the response had to be strained and unexpected. Lobdell was a tense painter, and it was the tension of the unexpected that kept him alive to his own work. His demonstration painting, as it began to add up, was simultaneously essay in imperfection and a manifesto of sincerity.

Lobdell was "succinct" says Robbie Conal.

"During a one-on-one meeting with Frank, in his studio, after staring at a big new painting of his together for 20 minutes without saying a word, I asked him a question, 'How do you get those fast black linear brush strokes in exactly the right place every time?'

The answer, 'I paint them slow.'"

Lobdell, who told an interviewer in 1960 that "being anonymous is really the best condition to be able to create" was not showing very widely when I knew him, although I do remember him having a small show of monotypes at Galerie Smith Andersen in Palo Alto. Robbie Conal, who served as a Gallery Director for the College of Notre Dame in Belmont in 1979 had to work on Lobdell to convince him to show his 1961 "Summer Mural," a 20 foot wide phallic abstraction. "I can't quite imagine how I managed to trick him into showing the Big Dick," Conal recalls, "but I somehow talked Frank into unfolding and re-stretching the painting and actually showing it."

I don't remember seeing Lobdell at graduation, and in general I think he tried to avoid social situations, and to some degree his students. "He left me an index card with my grade for the quarter on my glass palette" recalls John Littleboy. " I took by his demeanor that painting wasn't an easy task and whatever I did should be done with sincerity and dedication."

Twenty years later, at the opening of an exhibition of The Anderson Collection at San Francisco MOMA, I saw the first Lobdell painting I had seen in more than two decades. A magnificent late abstraction, it more than held its own among the top flight works by Still, Rothko, Pollock and other postwar abstractionists. I looked for Frank to see if I could congratulate him, but was told that he had missed the opening due to hip replacement surgery.

In June 2003, Lobdell's work popped up again: on the cover of ARTnews magazine. In a feature article titled "The Long Distance Runner" Anneli Rufus wrote this about Lobdell:

"Oblivious to art-world trends, Frank Lobdell has spent more than half a century doing what he wants, constantly reinventing himself and finding new territory to explore."

The re-discovery of Frank Lobdell, my stoic painting teacher had begun and the accolades followed. In his introductory essay for the Book "Frank Lobdell: the Art of Making and Meaning" Bruce Guenther writes that "To encounter a Lobdell painting today is to engage at the highest level in a complex dance between structure and symbolism, form and meaning."

Even more extraordinary than the praise being heaped on Lobdell were the revelations about what he had seen while serving as a GI between 1942 and 1945. In a superb essay also published in "Making and Meaning" Timothy Anglin Burgard recounts Lobdell's experience, in April of 1945, of entering a barn in Gardelegen, Germany where Nazi troops had immolated more than 1,000 concentration camp internees. I now fully understand why Lobdell, like many young American painters of the postwar generation, had chosen abstraction over figuration. When you have seen the un-seeable, painting reality becomes excruciating.

When Willem de Kooning painted his epic "Excavation," an abstracted image of a mass grave, he had only seen news photos of what happened in Germany. Lobdell had seen Hell on earth with his own eyes, and it chilled his soul. When he created his "Dance" series during the Viet Nam era -- inspired by medieval images of the 'Dance of Death' -- Lobdell's darkest memories charged the abstract imagery.

"No one who is involved in one of these wars truly survives" Lobdell once told writer Terry St. John.


Frank Lobdell (center) enjoying a 2008 opening at Hackett Friedman Gallery
Photo: Alan Bamberger, artbusiness.com.

Lobdell, who will be 90 in August, made an appearance at Hackett-Mill Gallery last month, where he attended the opening of "Frank Lobdell: 1948-49," an exhibition of a few choice works he made more than 60 years ago." Jessica Phillips, the Associate Director of the gallery reports that Lobdell "enjoyed seeing the work and speaking with collectors and of course former students." Part of Lobdell's legacy is certainly his influence of generations of art students: he taught at the California School of Fine Arts from 1957 until taking a job at Stanford where he taught until 1991.

"Frank Lobdell was one of my instructors at the San Francisco Art Institute in 1963," says veteran artist Ronald Davis. He influenced my student work before I was in his class, and began doing op art. I remember that he told me that, to paraphrase; 'Sometimes it is not what one puts into a painting, but rather what one leaves out that makes it a compelling picture.'"

Truthfully, part of Lobdell's power as a man - and as an artist - is that he told us so little for so long. It is energizing, and exhausting, to read between the brushstrokes of a man who meant every word and every brushstroke. He struggled over every single one of them.


Artist Robbie Conal, with a 1964 Frank Lobdell gouache given to him by the artist as a gift.
Photo: Alan Shaffer www.shafferphoto.com

Frank Lobdell "1948-1949"
on view at Hackett | Mill
January 7 -April 1, 2011