San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

photo: John Hazeltine

San Francisco, CA



Celebrating Modern Art: The Anderson Collection


The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) will present "Celebrating Modern Art: The Anderson Collection" from October 7, 2000, through January 15, 2001, as the highlight of its year 2000 exhibition schedule.

For the largest exhibition in SFMOMA's history, three floors of gallery space will be given over to the display of more than 330 paintings, sculptures and works on paper by nearly 140 artists of international renown from the superb private collection of Mr. and Mrs. Harry W. Anderson. According to exhibition organizer Gary Garrels, SFMOMA Elise S. Haas Chief Curator and curator of painting and sculpture, "The Anderson Collection is among the greatest private collections in the United States, and the San Francisco Museum of Modem Art is privileged and honored to organize this exhibition, which will allow the public to see, for the first time, this extraordinary overview of modern and contemporary art."

The exhibition comprises a "collection of collections," organizing diverse works into five areas of focus. "The New York School" features Abstract Expressionist works by Mark Rothko, Willem de Kooning, Clyfford Still, Franz Kline and Jackson Pollock--including Lucifer, 1947, regarded by many as the finest Pollock painting in a private collection--and the Andersons' Pop art collection, which was donated to SFMOMA in 1992. "Art in California" includes works by Robert Aneeson, Richard Diebenkorn, Sam Francis, Jess, David Park and Peter Voulkos, among others. "Contemporary Art" presents paintings and sculpture by artists working in the 1970s and 1980s, including Scott Burton, Vila Cehmins, Bill Jensen, Elizabeth Murray, Martin Puryear, Susan Rothenberg, Joel Shapiro and Terry Winters. "Modern Sculpture" offers an impressive army of works by such artists as Max Ernst, Alberto Giacometti, Julio Gonzalez, Henri Matisse and Auguste Rodin. "Works on Paper" showcases the extensive collection of unique works on paper that mirror the range of the Andersons' collecting in painting and sculpture.

Bay Area residents Mr. and Mrs. Harry W. Anderson began to collect art seriously soon after their move to California in the mid-1960s, quickly becoming two of the first collectors of national significance from Northern California. With advice from Professor Albert Elsen of Stanford University, they initially chose to focus on modern sculpture. Subsequently, they developed a carefully considered plan to collect works of the New York School. At this same time, they wanted the collection to represent the best work being made in California. Inspired by their daughter, Mary Patricia Anderson Pence, in the 1980s the Andersons decided to move the collection forward with contemporary art from both New York and California. Throughout their tenure as collectors, they have been devoted to acquiring works on paper that enhance their holdings in other categories, as well as works that stand fully on their own.

For more than 25 years, the Andersons have been important friends and patrons of SFMOMA. In 1972 the Andersons gave the Museum two major paintings of contemporary American art, Jasper Johns' Land 's End, 1963, and Robert Rauschenberg's Collection, 1953-54. This gift was followed in 1974 by the donation of an important Clyfford Still painting and a significant work, Man in a T-Shirt, 1958, by California artist David Park in 1976. In 1992, through the tremendous generosity of Mr. and Mrs. Anderson and their daughter, the Museum received a core group of American Pop works by Claes Oldenburg, Jim Dine, Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Robert Indiana and James Rosenquist, which have been on view in the Museum's new building since its opening in 1995. (left: David Park, Four Women, 1959, oil on canvas, photo: Lee Fatheree)

The donated works will be brought together with works from the Andersons' private residence and their collection housed at the Quadrus office complex in Menlo Park, California, to create a comprehensive exhibition of extraordinary depth and breadth. According to Mr. Anderson, "Making our collection available for viewing by the public is of utmost importance to us. We are extremely pleased to collaborate with SFMOMA on this major exhibition, which allows us to share our love of art with the community in which we've lived for more than 30 years." (right: Andy Warhol, Self-Portrait, 1967, acrylic and silk-screened enamel on canvas, collection SFMOMA, gift of Harry W. and Mary Margaret Anderson)

Accompanying the exhibition is a scholarly publication containing a history of the collection and overviews of its major areas. The 372-page book includes several essays, 175 full-page illustrations and a complete checklist of the exhibition. SFMOMA's Education Department will create a digital publication and present an extensive selection of interpretive programs and public lectures and events.

In conjunction with the presentation at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the companion exhibition "An American Focus: The Anderson Graphic Arts Collection" will be on view from October 7, 2000, through December 31, 2000, at the California Palace of the Legion of Honor. This major presentation will showcase over 190 graphic works from the Andersons' collection, including prints by such masters of contemporary printmaking as Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, Roy Lichtenstein, Frank Stella, Robert Motherwell and David Hockney, among others. For further information on this exhibition, contact the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.


Art in California

In counterpoint to the work of the New York School, "Celebrating Modern Art" presents art produced in California from the 1940s to the present day. The juxtaposition of the New York School with California art will provide an opportunity to see how such artists as Richard Diebenkorn and Sam Francis were deeply influenced by the Abstract Expressionists and how many artists, including Diebenkorn, defined California art by turning away from abstraction in favor of figurative work.

As Bay Area residents, the Andersons are committed to supporting California artists. Their comprehensive California art collection traces the numerous artistic developments throughout the state, from classic early abstract paintings by Sam Francis and Richard Diebenkorn to California Funk and assemblage work; experiments in new materials by artists from both Southern and Northern California; and contemporary artists such as Bay Area painters Deborah Oropallo and Chris Brown and Southern California sculptors and painters Robert Therrien and Tim Hawkinson.

Often considered the quintessential California artist, Richard Diebenkorn broke new ground by examining the California landscape through an abstract lens. In Berkeley #26, 1954--a part of the Berkeley series that vaulted Diebenkorn to the forefront of West Coast abstract artists--he uses a bold color palette and oblique lines to represent the Berkeley landscape, replacing blue sky with vivid green mountains. His Girl on the Beach, 1957, is one of his first explorations of figuration and embodies the artistic and philosophical challenges of moving between abstraction and figuration: the girl seems to emerge from a thickly layered abstract background. As Anderson Collection Director and Curator Rachel Teagle writes in the exhibition catalogue, the work "seek[s] resolution in a balance between abstraction and figuration, or flatness and depth." (left: Richard Diebenkorn,Girl on the Beach, 1957, oil on canvas, 52 1/8 x 57 1/4 inches)

David Park literally threw away his early abstract paintings in a Berkeley dump in 1949 and, like deKooning in New York, reintroduced the figure into American art to critical disdain: some critics charged it as a "failure of nerve," lacking intellectual and psychological daring. In Four Women, 1949, Park utilizes a genuinely humanist touch with the gestural approaches of Abstract Expressionism.

Wayne Thiebaud's paintings, while representing objects in the real world, are as much about form, color and surface as they are about the objects themselves and thus bridge the gap between the real and the abstract. Often considered a Pop artist, Thiebaud paints his still lifes in bright and contrasting colors, shedding light and creating substance on an otherwise flat pictorial plane. In his Candy Counter, 1963, Thiebaud represents an assortment of confections in a display window by creating dark outlines around the objects and using heavy paint to imbue them with texture. (right: Wayne Thiebaud, Candy Counter, 1962, oil on canvas, photo: Lee Fatheree)

With the development of California Funk in the 1960s, the figurative took on a new twist. Standing in sharp contrast to artists of the New York gallery scene, which promoted "art for art's sake," Robert Arneson, Roy De Forest, Robere Hudson and William T. Wiley--all Bay Area natives--fused playfulness with popular sources in an effort to engage the everyday viewer. Arneson's ceramics challenged the notion that ceramics (and Californians) were not to be taken seriously in the art world. His Sinking Brick Plates, 1969, plays upon the practical uses of ceramics and the definition of art by showing a series of bricks successively sinking into plates. In painting, Roy De Forest further challenged the artistic tradition by appropriating the heroic scale of Abstract Expressionism, covering huge canvases with a bright cast of characters and candy-kiss dots of color that satirize the heavy surfaces of New York School paintings. Cabin Fever, 1981, exemplifies De Forest's style, which invites the viewer to create a narrative with real and imagined characters.

California artists in the later 1960s and 1970s are significant for their experiments with new materials. Southern California artists Ed Moses, Ron Davis and Peter Alexander emphasized color, while such artists as Robert Irwin and Larry Bell were most interested in the effects of light and perception. In the Bay Area, Bruce Beasley and Fred Eversley experimented with silicon and polyester resins to create new visual effects in sculpture.

An interest in the ambiguities between abstraction and figuration is a hallmark of the Anderson Collection in general. The painting of Deborah Oropallo and Chris Brown represents this trend in contemporary painting in Northern California, while in Southern California such sculptors as Tim Hawkinson, Mark Lere and especially Robert Therrien have most effectively explored the problem.

While California art cannot be reduced to one unifying motivation, West Coast artists often engage issues of place. Images of California landscape and popular culture reappear time and again: Arneson played upon assumptions of the flaky California artist in his comical sculptures and Diebenkorn created abstract and figural work that speaks to native light and terrain. The legacy of these California artists--their struggle with the figural and the abstract, their notions of California as both a geographical and cultural place--persists today as a new generation of California artists pursues and challenges these ideas.


Works on Paper

The umbrella term "works on paper"-- which includes drawings, watercolors, gouaches and collages -- gained currency in the 1970s when artists began employing mixed media on paper, which previously had no place in the art historical lexicon. As John Elderfield writes in his "Celebrating Modern Art" catalogue essay, use of these materials "marked not by any means the first, but the first fully embraced manifestation of a postmodern impatience with the separate categories and hierarchies of a medium that modernism had inherited from the past."

The Andersons began collecting works on paper in the '70s, and their collection includes works ranging from early modernist figure sketches by Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse and Auguste Rodin to richly developed singular works by Vija Celmins, Robert Motherwell and Richard Diebenkorn.

The collection of works on paper generally reflects the other areas of focus in the Anderson Collection, and the importance of works on paper to the collection is reflected in the more than 90 works that will be on view at the Museum from the more than 275 in the Anderson holdings. In some cases, substantial groups of drawings supplement paintings and sculptures, including numerous works by Philip Guston, Richard Diebenkorn and Terry Winters. In occasional instances, however, artists may be represented only by works on paper, such as Arshile Corky, Jay De Fee, Chuck Close and Ed Ruscha. The Andersons also own a distinctive and large group of self-portraits by such artists as Franz Kline, Hans Hofmann, Sam Francis and Ellsworth Kelly. (left: Chuck Close, Phil/Manipulated, 1982, paper pulp, 68 3/4 x 52 7/8 inches)

Works on paper have manifold functions: some drawings record the development of the artistic process while others are created solely for their own sake. Drawings provide art historians and novice viewers alike with insight into an artist's method and self-expression. As artist David Smith writes, "Drawing is the most direct, closest to the true self, the most natural celebration of man--and if I may guess, back to the action of early man, it may have been the first celebration of man with his secret self--even before song."

The variety of materials used by artists m works on paper is extraordinarily diverse. For example, Robert Arneson utilized oil pastel, crayon, gouache, graphite, and paper on paper to create Colonel Nuke, 1984, and Elizabeth Murray used over 13 pieces of paper and pastel, charcoal, graphite and collage to create curvaceous forms in Untitled, 1987. In a work featured in the "Contemporary Art" section of the exhibition. David Hockney created Sprungbrett mit Schatten (Paper Pool #14), 1978, by using turkey basters to apply heavily pigmented paper pulp to a flat surface, effectively painting with paper rather than painting on paper.

Complementing the exhibition by revealing the creative thinking process of many of the artists included in other areas of the collection, the Andersons' works on paper demonstrate the extraordinary range of the art form itself.


Read more about the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in Resource Library Magazine.

For further biographical information on selected artists cited above please see America's Distinguished Artists, a national registry of historic artists.

rev. 12/27/10

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