Anita Shapolsky Gallery is pleased to present 'CA→NY: Post-War Migration of Abstract Expressionists,' a group exhibition of select Bay Area and Los Angeles artists who followed the surge of Abstract Expressionists across the country in the 1950s to participate in the flourishing sister movement: the New York School.
The Bay Area School of Abstract Expressionism was centered around the California School of Fine Arts (CSFA) in San Francisco and its director Douglas MacAgy. MacAgy was hired in 1945 in an effort to revitalize and modernize the overly- traditional program. He began by hiring a plethora of mostly young artists who were new to teaching, including Richard Diebenkorn, Stanley Hayter, and Clyfford Still, who were formative in educating a wave of second-generation Abstract Expressionists. Like many of the students at the CSFA, Ernest Briggs, Lawrence Calcagno, John Hultberg, and Jon Schueler used their assistance from the GI Bill to enroll in the program shortly after their return from service in World War II. Their shared experiences in the war, along with their closeness in age, allowed the professors and students to form a strong, supportive, and often collaborative atmosphere. While the CSFA cultivated its own, unique school of abstract art, it also exposed its students to New York abstract artists like Mark Rothko and Ad Reinhardt through summer sessions from 1947 and 1949. For students like Hultberg, Rothko’s guest lectures about the New York art scene were inspiring enough to convince them to continue their studies on the East Coast. Briggs, Calcagno, and Schueler followed suit after 1950, a migration catalyzed by Still’s decision to move to New York and the subsequent firing of MacAgy. LA-based abstract artist Richards Ruben would later join the migration in the 1960s.
The exhibition 'CA→NY: Post-War Migration of Abstract Expressionists' attempts to visually demonstrate the exchange of ideas that occurred between both the Bay Area and New York Schools of Abstract Expressionism. While the two schools shared a belief in the active process of painting to express one's innermost thoughts and feelings, the New York artists were more heavily affected by trends in European art. The Californian artists in this exhibition created a style that was truly American, often rooted in natural forms rather than urban landscapes.