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Terra Incognita: Contemporary Landscape Painting

April 4 - April 25, 2007


Terra Incognita explores contemporary landscape painting in 50 works by Los Angeles artists Sarah Arnold, Steve Comba, Lee Kim and Randall Von Bloomberg. Each artist utilizes a different aspect of the contemporary landscape, ranging from Comba's grand, romantic vistas to Von Bloomberg's luminous paintings of magnified landscape details.

Highlights include Sarah Arnold's vibrant plein air paintings of Echo Park and Long Beach, Lee Kim's glowing suburban landscapes and Randall Von Bloomberg's vivid landscape microcosms.


Curator's statement:

The urban landscape was essentially redefined by the French Impressionist painters who created beauty out the ordinary ranging from the train stations to the city street, such as Monet's luminous Gare St-Lazare or Camille Pissarro's shimmering Boulevard Montmartre.  Manmade structures were deftly incorporated into the landscape and made the natural world seem more vibrant in comparison.

Even Albrecht Dürer gave us a detailed look at nature that is still with us, his plant studies such the watercolor, The Large Turf, still evoke the grassy meadows of the Alps.  Randall Von Bloomberg captures a slice of nature such as a puddle, or a pine tree branch that we perhaps more deeply appreciate as we focus on one image within the entire whole.  Even on a beautiful day, nature is so vast that it is overwhelming, and landscape details are perhaps easier to process visually.  However, Steve Comba's vast dramatic (and imagined) landscapes sweep us away and help us appreciate nature's infinity.  His landscapes are intensely romantic and evoke the early American landscape painters Thomas Cole and Frederic Edwin Church in their glowing paintings of the wilderness, ranging from the American wild to the tropics.

All of the artists have exhibited widely; Steve Comba is the Assistant Director/Registrar of the Pomona College Museum of Art and assisted in the creation of the new Claremont Museum of Art; Sarah Arnold is a plein air painter widely known around town for her vibrant small scale paintings.  Randall Von Bloomberg and Lee Kim are adjunct instructors at El Camino College.  Randall Von Bloomberg has exhibited both nationally and internationally and also is a most accomplished figurative painter.

Kathy Zimmerer
Director, University Art Gallery


Sarah Arnold's statement

Sarah Arnold, an urban landscape painter from Long Beach, California, has been painting on location since 1989. She will be in a show at Cal State Dominguez Hills in a show called "Terra Incognita." The work in the show will be primarily from the past several years, which focus on the areas of Echo Park, Silverlake, and Hollywood, areas that were developed at the turn of the century and in the 1920s, and are the antithesis of suburban tract homes. No two houses are alike, the streets are impossibly steep and twisted, covered with diverse foliage and greenery. Rising land values are changing the milieu of these neighborhoods, however. Vacant lots are sold and garish monstrosities are put up in their place. Small homes are demolished to make way for trophy houses that are completely at odds with the quirkiness of the surrounding homes. As the bohemian quality of these neighborhoods give way to a moneyed homogeneity, Sarah's paintings preserves the flavor on canvas. She uses light, color, rhythm and pattern to evoke the rapidly disappearing beauty that is Old Los Angeles. As a native Los Angelino, Sarah understands why outsiders view the region as being without history, but she does not agree. By capturing buildings about to be demolished, neighborhoods on the brink of gentrification, she is seeking to capture, in light and color, a moment in time. Her paintings express in light and color the rhythms and patterns of neighborhoods that have evolved throughout the energies of homeowner's creative impulses over the previous century documenting the styles and fads in building materials and vegetation.

Sarah Arnold


Sarah Arnold Biography

Sarah Arnold, a fine arts graduate of Cal State Long Beach, has been painting urban landscapes in Long Beach, Los Angeles and across Southern California for over a decade. Much of her work features older buildings slated to be demolished or neighborhoods, which, thanks to years of neglect and vandalism, have fallen into varying states of decay. Arnold is drawn to these scenes because of their visual character and the sense of fading history that they convey in a region often derided by outsiders as having no history. They document familiar and seemingly ordinary landscapes that are disappearing one brick at a time before our eyes, but often outside our awareness. But Arnold's' work is more than an objective record of images that will soon be no more, more than snapshots taken before the wrecking ball swings. Her paintings are executed on site and reflect her immediate interpretation of the scene, not precise representations. The artist composes her works by carefully framing the image, choosing the view, the perspective and the time of day in a way that moves the image beyond the photographic to create an impression of the past and present in a single moment. The passage of time is captured in the way light falls on the aged buildings as the day passes and the weather changes from sunny to cloudy. The peeling paint reveals layers of faded colors that speak of the structure's individual history. The viewer is a voyeur who looks into vacant rooms, through broken windows, across derelict roof tops not to spy on the human inhabitants - there are none - but to see through the apparent emptiness and into the past. The scale of the paintings, almost all done in oils, varies widely but is always dictated by the scene itself. As a body of work, they are united by Arnold's interest in her native Southern California's rapidly disappearing ties with its past as it heads into an uncharted future.


Randall Von Bloomberg's statement

Tathata is the Sanskrit word for the ultimate unchanging reality of all phenomena contained in each single moment of life.  As a Los Angeles-based artist, I find inspiration in the contemporary urban landscape, in particular, the plant and tree forms that grow incessantly around freeways and other man-made structures.  It is in these in-between spaces that I experience tathata, capturing and translating these often overlooked vistas into magnified and luminous compositions.  With increasing concerns over the ecological well-being of the planet, I hope these landscapes awaken a reverence and awareness of the interconnectivity of man and nature.

Randall Von Bloomberg 



(above: Steve Comba, Moonrise, Sonoma, Oil on canvas) 


(above: Steve Comba, Natural/History XII/Eden, 2005, Oil on canvas)



(above: Randall Von Bloomberg, Stony Path, Oil on linen)


(above: Randall Von Bloomberg, Jacaranda, Oil on linen)


(above: Sarah Arnold, West Gateway, Oil on canvas)


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