The Bakersfield Museum of Art prides itself on bringing in work from around the world but sometimes it's nice to celebrate a little California love. The fall exhibitions, which open Thursday, highlight the work of a local teacher and artist as well as OG group of Oakland plein air painters.
Curator Rachel Magnus said that it's the museum's mission to highlight work produced in and about California from the 20th century to present times.
"Combining the three shows allow viewers to see nearly 100 years of art that was made in California," she wrote in an email. "Beginning with the Society of Six who began painting together just after 1915, Charles Arnoldi who moved from Ohio to California in the 1960s and and Yvonne Cavanagh whose work on display was made over the last few years."
The one that hits closest to home is “Yvonne Cavanagh, Liminal Space,” which showcases more than 60 sculptures and 11 reductive drawings from the Bakersfield High School art instructor.
While those might not seem to complementary mediums, curator Rachel Magnus said the work is connected through a shared intention and narrative.
"As an educator and in the artist’s practice, ceramic work is a primary focus, but here the works on paper are antecedent to the ceramic pieces," she wrote in an email. "The reductive process of the drawings encouraged the artist to consider how the same intention could be captured in the ceramic making process."
In the abstract for the exhibition, Magnus said the pieces explores the inability to control the circumstances of life through abstraction, "using tactile physicality to document ideas of grief, sudden aberration, and an incapability of control."
Clay was first molded into a vase then underwent a process meant to visually replicate a person's emotional reaction to devastating news. Cavanagh continued to push and stretch the clay on the wheel until gravity caused the clay to collapse on itself.
Magnus wrote "The result is an expression of the moment one’s life changes due to outside circumstances — a moment forever frozen in memory. The artist surrenders to the wheel and the collapsed vessels become a literal and physical representation of humanity."
In addition to "Liminal Space," the opening will offer attendees the first look at “The Society of Six, California Colorists." The display features works from The Society of Six, Oakland-based early 20th century plein air painters who made a name for themselves through their association that lasted into the 1930s. The six — Seldon Gile, Louis Siegriest, Bernard von Eichman, August F. Gay, William H. Clapp and Maurice Logan — were known for their vibrant landscape works.
The “Six” are widely represented among significant private and public collections in California.
Magnus wrote of the group, "The Six began a trajectory with their painterly expression and use of color that connects them to the modern painters of the California landscape and their shared devotion to the light and the land.
"With the exception of Siegriest, the Six did not live to see their best work receive the recognition it deserved. In the last 30 years the group’s significance has solidified and claimed its place in California’s rich history of art."
Their place is known now, with this exhibition being possible through the largesse of the Kern County Library Foundation and private collectors, who loaned the pieces to the museum.
Along with the two new collections, the museum will also highlight the ongoing show "Charles Arnoldi: Forms, A 50 Year Survey."
Arnoldi gained notice in the L.A. art scene with Stick Series of the 1970s, which combined "the West Coast’s desire to innovate with the East Coast’s self-expression and newly defined vocabulary, which merged painting and drawing," according to Magnus.
The exhibit features selections from the artist's work spanning five decades, an opportunity that allows viewers to understand how art evolves within an artist’s oeuvre, Magnus said.
Along with the larger exhibitions, nine new accessions from the museum's always-expanding permanent collection will be on display in the Ann Catherine Brown Collection Gallery.
"When considering gifts and potential new accessions, we seek works of highly significant individual items that would, because of their outstanding quality, greatly enhance the museum’s ability to fulfill its mission."
While those pieces have found permanent homes, there will also be a display of exciting impermanent work.
Teaming with Kern Creatives, a organization that provides opportunities for artistic individuals to collaborate, the museum is presenting a chalk mural created live that night. Artists were encouraged to sign up to reserve a spot for the effort that in part helps promote the upcoming Via Arté Italian Street Painting Festival. (The popular event, taking place Oct. 20 and 21 will accept applications through Sept. 21.)
Magnus said, "Via Arté veteran Reema Hammad will be leading the collaboration and the group will bring Kandinsky’s 'Composition 9' to life on the pavement.
"Opening attendees will be encouraged to go out and watch the piece come to life and will even have the opportunity to participate if they feel inclined!"