From past and present art movements, it is more common than not to see friendships develop among artists seeking a similar concentration and challenge in their art. One tightly bound circle of friends emerged in San Francisco, CA in the 1950’s. Sparked by leader David Park , artists Elmer Bischoff, Richard Diebenkorn, Nathan Oliveira, Paul Wonner, Joan Brown and Theophilus Brown came to be recognized through their art as the Bay Area Figurative artists.
The Bay Area Artists sprung up during a time when the art scene in New York City was on the rise and the Abstract Expressionist style was being embraced by many recognizable painters such as Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning. These San Francisco based artists separated themselves apart from the east coast by joining forces and manipulating the idea of Abstract Expressionism with shallow pictorial space, candid brushwork, and a different figurative style.
Leader of the pack, David Park, christened the Bay Area Figurative Art movement in a 1951 exhibit with his painting, "Kids on Bikes", which was awarded a prize and admired for it’s exaggerated texture and success in capturing the child’s apathetic expression. Later in his career, Park was recognized for his portraits of anonymous figures, as seen above in his painting, Woman with Red Mouth. Following in Parks footsteps was Elmer Bischoff, the next artist to place great emphasis on gestural brushstrokes and contrasts of dark and light in his rendering of the figure. Bischoff commented on his work, that he “wanted to create a world and to create people in that world who are more timeless”.
As you may have already detected, I am a huge fan of the Bay Area artists, specifically of Bischoff’s work. His paintings are vividly expressive with a dominating cool vs. warm color palette and thick clusters of brushstrokes. Bischoff, like the other artists of this movement wanted to keep landscapes and figures referential but distinctly expressive and unproven with the suggestion of movement, color and space.
Tune in next time, for another Bay Area Art blog on the rendering of landscapes.
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