Kim Cogan, Susan Goldsmith, Gary Ruddell and Eric Zener all reside in or near San Francisco, and it is intriguing to consider the relevance of locale to how they carry out their art. Exhibited together for the first time, these artists can be viewed collectively through the evocative lens of regional context.
The title, Bay Area Painters, evokes San Francisco in the 1950s and 1960s, the era when the Bay Area Figurative Movement was in its ascendancy. This movement challenged many of the assumptions of Abstract Expressionism, which predominated in the American art scene at the time. While continuing to employ many of the mannerisms of expressionism, such as the use of innovative brushwork, the textured application of paint, and the employment of a shallow pictorial perspective, the Bay Area Movement reintroduced the idea of subject matter as a focus for painting and sculpture.
Although diverse in their thematic approach, the four artists in this show employ stylistic elements that are resonant of this earlier movement and they convey attributes associated with California in their work. Eric Zener’s atmospheric use of color, which in combination with the semi-abstract composition of his water creates emotional valence, inviting the viewer to speculate upon what is going on within, or between, the individual selves in each frame. Gary Ruddell’s brushwork is somewhat looser and more expressionistic. He plays with the surfaces of his paintings, marking them, layering paint, and using non-naturalistic color to depict figures in settings that have become imbued with feeling.
Kim Cogan imparts a sense of melancholy using looser brushstrokes and darker hues when fashioning his moody cityscapes. Even when figures are present they are turned away, conveying a sense of dreamy solitude. With each of her multimedia fabrications, Susan Goldsmith constructs an homage to beauty. With nature as her subject matter, she applies successive layers of richly hued paint to her images, awakening a sense of aesthetic awe in the observer. These four are all realist artists, yet there is something in their work that suggests a sensibility of place, one that shapes, however subtly, the vision they bring to their work.