March 2017 - April 2017
A celebration of spring with an exhibition of colorful paintings, sculptures, and works on paper, including work by Herbert Bayer, Thomas Downing, Charles Hinman, and others.
About the Artists
(1928 - 1985)
Thomas Downing was born in Suffolk, Virginia. He studied at Randolph-Macon College, Ashland, Virginia, where he received his Bachelor of Arts degree in 1948. He then studied at the Pratt Institute, a well-known art school in Brooklyn, New York, until 1950. That year he received a grant from the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, enabling him to travel to Europe, where he studied briefly at the Académie Julian in Paris.
In 1951 he returned to the United States, and after serving in the U.S. Army, settled in Washington, D.C., where he began to teach, in 1953.
The following summer, he enrolled in a summer institute at Catholic University, studying under Kenneth Noland. He became a friend of Noland, who became a significant influence on Downing's art and who was one of the founders of the Washington Color Field Movement.
In the late 1950s, Downing shared a studio with Howard Mehring, another artist of the Washington Color School and Color Field painting. In 1964 Clement Greenberg included Noland, Mehring, Downing and others in his traveling museum exhibition called Post-painterly Abstraction.
From 1965 to 1968, Downing taught at the Corcoran College of Art and Design in Washington, D.C. There he taught several people who in their turn became artists influenced by Downing's ideas, including Sam Gilliam.
His paintings to a large extent consisted of circles arranged in precise patterns on the canvas, with colors often chosen according to ideas of symmetry. Downing's Spot Paintings are his best known works.
In the last ten years of his life, Downing lived in Provincetown, Massachusetts. He died in October 1985 in Provincetown, Massachusetts at the age of 57. In its obituary the Washington Times characterized his death as mysterious. The newspaper was referring to the then recent demise of Washington Color Field artist Gene Davis (1920–1985) and to the earlier death of Howard Mehring (1931–1978), as well.
(1900 - 1985)
Herbert Bayer (1900-1985) was born in Austria, where he entered into an apprenticeship under the architect and designer, Georg Smidthammer, with whom Bayer learned drawing, painting, and architectural drafting, inspired by nature and without formal knowledge of art history. In 1920, Bayer discovered the theoretical writings of the artist Vassily Kandinsky, as well as Walter Gropius’ 1919 Bauhaus manifesto, in which Gropius declared the necessity for a return to crafts, in which were found true creativity and inspiration. Bayer traveled to Weimar to meet Gropius in October of 1921 and was immediately accepted into the Bauhaus. There, he was deeply influenced by the instruction of Kandinsky, Johannes Itten and Paul Klee.
In 1928 Bayer moved to Berlin together with several members of the Bauhaus staff including Gropius, Moholy-Nagy and Marcel Breuer. He found work as a freelance graphic designer, particularly with German Vogue, under its art director Agha. When the latter returned to Paris, Bayer joined the staff full time, and also worked increasingly with Dorland, the magazine's principle advertising agency. It was in the period from 1928 to his emigration to America in 1938 that he developed his unique vision as an artist, combining a strongly modernist aesthetic sense with a rare ability to convey meaning clearly and directly. This seamless combination of art, craft and design mark Bayer as true prophet of Bauhaus theories.
Bayer followed Gropius to America in 1938, and set his breadth of skills to work later that year in designing the landmark Bauhaus 1918-1928 exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art. Bayer flourished in New York as a designer and architect, but it was his meeting with the industrialist Walter Paepcke in 1946 that allowed him to harness his concepts of 'total design' to the postwar boom. Paepcke was developing Aspen as a cultural and intellectual destination, and found in Bayer the perfect collaborator. Bayer was designer, educator and indeed architect for Paepcke's Aspen Institute for Humanistic Studies (later The Aspen Institute), which promulgated the very Bauhaus project to encourage cooperation between art and industry and the role of the arts in society. From 1965 he fulfilled a similar role in advising Robert O. Anderson, chairman of the Atlantic Richfield Company.
His work is represented in the collections of the Guggenheim Museum, New York, Museum of Modern Art, New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Bauhaus-Archiv, Berlin, Schubladen Museum, Bern, Switzerland, Kunsthalle, Hamburg, Germany, Museum of Modern Art, Mexico City.
In August 2019 The Aspen Institute announced a major donation by Stewart and Lynda Resnick for the creation of the Resnick Center for Herbert Bayer Studies. This will allow the Institute to showcase and exhibit its Bayer works, grow its collection, borrow from major cultural institutions, and create new exhibitions that will educate the public about Bayer’s remarkable legacy. It is scheduled to open in the spring of 2022.
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Donald Roy Thompson was born in 1936, in Fowler, California. He received his B.A. and M.A. degrees from Sacramento State University in 1960 and 1962, respectively. His most notable art instructor was Wayne Thiebaud. Among his classmates were Fritz Scholder and Merrill Mahaffey, both successful artists in Santa Fe.
From 1964-2000 Donald was an art instructor at Cabrillo College in Aptos, California. Before he settled down to teach, Donald traveled and lived in Mexico City, where he was able to observe closely the murals of Diego Rivera.
Like so many color field painters of his generation, Thompson was influenced by Johannes Itten and Josef Albers, as well as by Matisse and Mondrian.
During an impoverished time in his early art career he was unable to afford good quality paint, so instead he used layers of hand-dyed cheesecloth for a large installation at the Cabrillo College Gallery. It helped form the basis of the ideas of transparency that he later produced in his acrylic color field paintings of 1971-75.
In 1972 Donald began again to use opaque colors on various sizes of canvas, focusing on the illusion of transparency.
By 1974 he began to feel the need for greater physicality and began to employ the use of stretched canvases of a single color bolted together, from large to huge (7.5’ X 10’), now in the Oakland Museum.
In 2013 Thompson settled in Santa Fe. There he began his current series of work, rekindling an aesthetic from four decades previous.
He continues to refine his approach and vision.
“I am habitually focused on the relationship of colors!” he wrote in July of 2022. “I’ve tried, in my paintings during the recent past, to experiment with various forms of pictorial composition - both symmetrical and asymmetrical.
My current challenge is combining the geometric with curvilinear form in an effort to achieve an integrated synthesis of the two, as they are experienced in hard-edge color painting. “
Thompson has exhibited solo and group shows both nationally and internationally. These include solo shows at Larry Evans/Willis Gallery, Foster Goldstrom, and Galeria Carl Van der Voort in San Francisco, and Ibiza, Spain. He had solo shows at Frederick Spratt Gallery in San Jose, California, as well as Shasta College Gallery in Redding, California and Cabrillo College in Aptos, California. His group shows include Leila Taghinia-Milani, New York City, Basel Art Fair, Switzerland and the Second British International Print Biennale, Yorkshire, England.
Thompson’s paintings are found in major collections including The Oakland Museum, Oakland, CA.; Seattle First National Bank (Seafirst), Seattle, WA; Crocker Museum, Sacramento, CA, Art Museum of Santa Cruz County, Santa Cruz, CA.
Watch an interview with Donald Roy Thompson with art historian Kathryn Davis
(1900 - 1967)
To Oskar Fischinger, the potential of abstraction was infinite. As a visionary of abstract expression, Fischinger left an indelible mark in filmmaking history, and is considered one of the pioneers of non-objective animation and visual music.
Born on June 22, 1900, in Gelnhausen, Germany, Fischinger planned to pursue a career in engineering. In the early 1920s, he came into contact with Frankfurt’s avant-garde and soon discovered film’s potential to create a more spiritual, wholly abstract art built on models already established by such artists as Vasily Kandinsky. Fischinger’s early films, like his "Study (Studie)" series (1929–33), present amorphous forms choreographed to popular music. He supported his experimental film career with commercial work, most notably, by designing the special effects for German director Fritz Lang’s 1929 feature "Woman in the Moon (Frau im Mond)."
His natural aptitude took him far in the filmmaking industry, bringing him and his family to Los Angeles, and earning him jobs at major studios including Paramount, M.G.M., and Disney. Fischinger also earned support from The Guggenheim Foundation and was awarded at film festivals internationally.
In the United States, he also applied his brilliant technical skill and proclivity for abstraction within a new medium: oil painting. The resulting body of work, spanning thirty years and totaling some eight hundred paintings, emerged as a prolific and strikingly diverse compendium of visual gestures.
Fischinger's explorations into the seemingly endless possibilities inherent in abstraction demonstrated his playfulness and evident pleasure in delving into one style after another. In these works, Fischinger ranged from mind-bending juxtapositions of layered lines and grids forming visual puzzles, to collections of finely detailed contours forming larger organically emotive works, followed by stark graphic compositions functioning as simplistic analyses of shape, to name a few.
Fischinger's paintings have received considerable acclaim in exhibitions throughout the world, including the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Long Beach Museum of Art, The National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C., the Art Institute of Chicago, the Philips Collection, Washington D.C., and Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York. His films and paintings are well represented in public and private collections internationally.
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