While New York is often associated as the pinnacle of American art movements, California’s rich plein air traditions and modernist painting approaches have been crucial to our country’s legacy in the art world. The San Francisco Bay Area was a major center for Abstract Expressionism in the 1960s, for example, and continued to develop the style in new and powerful ways with the sequential rise of the Bay Area Figurative Movement. Preceding even this era were significant early pioneers such as Maynard Dixon and the Society of Six, who brought an impressionistic and radical perspective to western landscape painting. California’s rugged mountains, lush valleys and barren deserts continue to inspire the region’s artists who carry the legacy and continue the conversation initiated by their mentors and famous founders. This winter in Park City, five such artists from the Sacramento Valley region will come together for the first time in a group exhibition that represents the past, present and future of the greater Bay Area painting traditions. From California with Love opens on December 8th at Terzian Galleries featuring Greg Kondos, Melissa Chandon, Boyd Gavin, Mark Bowles and Pat Mahony.
“The idea was to select a group of artists and put together an exhibition that would relate to the rich California history of painting,” explains Chandon, one of the featured artists who collaborated with gallery owner Karen Terzian as guest curator for the exhibition. The chosen artists have painted together for many years and share prominent mentors and influences from their regional lineage. Consequently, their work is stylistically reminiscent of Bay Area Figurative Artists and strongly affected by early avant-garde innovators such as Maynard Dixon. “Taken as a whole, I believe it’s that mix of abstraction and representation that relates our work to the Bay Area Figurative Movement,” says Gavin, whose own paintings are anchored in the rhythmic geometry of the landscape and painterly improvisation. As its name suggests, the Bay Area Figurative Movement is largely credited with the abandonment of abstraction in favor of figurative painting. In actuality, what emerged from this movement is a style that embraced abstraction as an underlying presence in expressive renderings of the figure as well as the landscape. “We look to Elmer Bischoff, Richard Diebenkorn and David Park who made inroads with their bravura handling of paint and startling approach to the landscape,” says Chandon of the group’s Bay Area influences.
While the artists share an overall modernist vision and mutual respect for California’s artistic trailblazers, each featured painter maintains an individualized artistic identity. Kondos, Boyd and Mahony offer tangible, fluid visions of the landscape while Chandon and Bowles utilize hard-edged, reductive painting techniques that emphasize minimalist perspectives with saturated color palettes. “We’re all established representational painters with similar tastes and curiosities,” says Gavin. “Stylistically, we’re quite varied. I do believe our work represents the best of landscape painting in the Sacramento Valley region.” The five artists have collectively received countless awards; their work has been exhibited in private and public collections worldwide and collected by a number of museums. The most widely recognized painter and “Godfather” of the group however is Kondos, who at 94-years old is one of California’s most legendary living artists. Kondos has been a mentor to the other exhibiting painters and a professor for thirty years at the Sacramento City College, whose art gallery bears his name. He is the receipt of a lifetime achievement award from the International Biennial in Florence and has been elected into the National Academy of Art in New York. Kondos’ work will not be for sale in this exhibition for preservation purposes.
Taking cues from the past, leading the present and influencing the future, this group of artists is an integral part of California’s iconic artistic history. Terzian Galleries and Melissa Chandon have organized this exhibition with the hope that it will bring to light the significance of the deeply rooted and widespread tradition of western landscape painting.