Looking Ahead: West Coast Ab Ex at the Norton Simon

Richard Diebenkorn, Berkeley #24, 1954. Norton Simon Museum
"There are few exceptionally good artists in California," Norton Simon once said. After taking over the Pasadena Art Museum, Simon consigned most of the institution's California art to storage. Some of that art is coming back on view next year, should the pandemic allow. "Alternate Realities: Altoon, Diebenkorn, Lobdell, Woelffer," an installation of works from the collection, is set to run at the Norton Simon Museum April 16, 2021, to Sep. 6, 2021.

Of the four, Richard Diebenkorn is a rock star, and Emerson Woelffer and John Altoon have been championed by influential artists and institutions. Frank Lobdell is the least known presently. Yet Walter Hopps thought enough of Lobdell to give him solo exhibitions at the Ferus Gallery and the Pasadena Art Museum.

Since then Lobdell has been less visible. LACMA has a Lobdell painting, a gift of Betty Asher, but I can't recall ever seeing it on view. It apparently needs conservation, going by the photo on the collection website. There are two Lobdell paintings in the Harry W. and Mary Margaret Anderson collection at Stanford, and they've recently been on view in that blue-chip company.

Lobdell, who taught at Stanford, exemplified the angsty phase of Bay Area Ab Ex. His WWII battalion had uncovered a thousand bodies burned alive by the Hitler Youth. Lobdell became a pacifist and drew on existential themes in his art. Some works, such as the Norton Simon's, suggest human forms or remains in incandescent color.
Frank Lobdell, November, 1961. Norton Simon Museum


Anonymous said…
According to Rosamund Felsen (an LA gallerist), Norton Simon did not think highly of Jasper Johns either.

See this: