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The Not-So-Still Life: A Century of California Painting and Sculpture

March 6 - June 27, 2004


The Not-So-Still Life: A Century of California Painting and Sculpture explores the evolution and development of the still life in California in the 20th century. While the still life has been a quiet but powerful genre for artists, it was in the 20th century that the genre experienced an unprecedented evolution. Beginning with Impressionist paintings, the genre quickly became a vehicle for some of the century's most influential movements such as Cubism and Expressionism. Later in the century still life moved off the table, off the wall, and into three dimensions. Through the work of California's most famous artists, this exhibition includes over 100 paintings and sculptures from artists as varied as Guy Rose, Helen Lundeberg, Richard Diebenkorn, Wayne Thiebaud, David Hockney and Lari Pittman. The Not-So-Still Life will be on display at the Pasadena Museum of California Art from March 6 - June 27, 2004.

The Not-So-Still Life questions the notion that still life is a sedate and traditional form of expression, particularly in regards to California art and artists. Works from the established impressionists and modernists of the early 20th century prove to be important in their challenges to the convention of the still-life. The latter half of the 20th century further revives and challenges the still life through mediums as diverse as sculpture, installation art, conceptual art, and multi-media works. The Not-So-Still Life charts this intriguing revival and redefines the genre in contemporary terms. The exhibition surveys this transformation in three chronological sections.

The historic section (1900 - 1920), curated by Dr. William Gerdts (Professor Emeritus of Art History at the Graduate School of City University of New York) addresses the rarely seen still life works of California Impressionists, such as Guy Rose, Edgar Payne, Maurice Braun, and Joseph Kleitsch. It also includes Paul de Longpre and Edith White, who worked outside in the plein-air tradition. This is one of the first times that the still-life works of these impressionist painters have been assembled in one place and marks an important re-evaluation of their works.

Patricia Trenton (independent curator and organizer of Independent Spirits: Women Painters of the American West, 1890-1945 at the Autry Museum) curated the second part of the exhibition, which features works from 1920 - 1950. Because still life was generally not invested with ideal meanings associated with history painting or portraiture, it became an attractive vehicle for modernists with formal concerns. For example, this section includes the abstract paintings of Stanton Macdonald-Wright and Henrietta Shore. There are also paintings by Surrealist artists like Helen Lundeberg and Dorr Bothwell, who produced a number of intriguing self-referential works.

The third section, curated by Susan Landauer (Katie and Drew Gibson Chief Curator at the San Jose Museum of Art), explores still life between 1950 and 2000, following the transformation of the genre into powerful forms of contemporary expression. Works by artists including Richard Diebenkorn, David Hockney, Ed Ruscha, and Wayne Thiebaud cross over boundaries into a variety of media and explore more conceptually based issues. Even more contemporary artists such as Lari Pittman, Mildred Howard, Kathryn Spencer, and Stephen Criqui redefine the idea of the still life and how it continues to evolve today.

The Not-So-Still Life is accompanied by a major catalogue with essays by Dr. Landauer, Dr. Gerdts, and Dr. Trenton and published by the University of California Press and the San Jose Museum of Art. This full color, 225 page book will be available along with other exciting new products in the PMCA Shop.

The Not-So-Still Life exhibition is organized by the San Jose Museum of Art and is co-curated by Dr. Susan Landauer, Katie and Drew Gibson Chief Curator, and Dr. William Gerdts and Dr. Patricia Trenton, Guest Curators.


Panel Discussions for The Not-So-Still Life: A Century of California Painting and Sculpture. All panels hosted by Scarlet Cheng, Journalist, Los Angeles Times and ArtNews

Sunday, March 7, 2004
3:00 PM, PMCA
Focusing on the still life in California during the period of 1900 - 1920
William Gerdts, PhD, Curator and Professor Emeritus, City University of New York
Deborah Solon, PhD, Independent Scholar and Curator
Jean Stern, Director, Joan Irvine Smith Museum
Saturday, April 17, 2004
3:00 PM, PMCA
Focusing on the still life in California during the period of 1920 - 1950
Patricia Trenton, Independent Curator and Scholar
Michael Duncan, Scholar and Journalist, Art in America
Bram Dijkstra, Professor Emeritus, UC San Diego, Independent Scholar and Curator
Saturday, June 5, 2004
3:00 PM, PMCA
Focusing on the still life in California during the period of 1950 - 2002
Susan Landauer, Curator, San Jose Museum of Art
Lari Pittman, Artist
Steven Criqui, Artist


Editor's note - RLM readers may also enjoy an earlier article:


Read more articles and essays concerning this institutional source by visiting the sub-index page for the Pasadena Museum of California Art in Resource Library Magazine

Search for more articles and essays on American art in Resource Library. See America's Distinguished Artists for biographical information on historic artists.

This page was originally published in 2004 in Resource Library Magazine. Please see Resource Library's Overview section for more information.

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