Editor's note: Resource Library published the following article and accompanying essay on August 25, 2004. The essay is reprinted with permission of the author. If you have questions or comments regarding the essay, or wish to obtain a copy of the exhibition catalogue, please contact the Laband Art Gallery directly through either this phone number or web address:


Speculative Terrain - Recent Views of the Southern California Landscape from San Diego to Santa Barbara

September 12 - November 14, 2004


(above: James Doolin: LA After 2000, 1995-96)


Opening September 12, 2004 at Loyola Marymount University's Laband Art Gallery, Speculative Terrain - Recent Views of the Southern California Landscape from San Diego to Santa Barbara features views from the Cuyamaca Mountains (east of San Diego), the Salton Sea and high deserts, the urban, suburban and wetland areas of Orange and Los Angeles Counties, and north into the Santa Barbara foothills. 

The exhibit is organized by Gordon Fuglie, director of the Laband Art Gallery, and gives special attention to the late Los Angeles painter James Doolin.  Other artists represented in the exhibit include Phoebe Brunner, Rebecca Morales, John Humble, John Divola, Lauren Richardson and from LMU's department of Art and Art History -- photographer Soo Kim and painter Marina Moevs.

Fuglie spent nearly two years selecting Speculative Terrain, choosing more than forty works by thirty artists. He credits the late Los Angeles painter James Doolin, who died in 2002, as the inspiration for the exhibition.

"Jim was just another geometric abstractionist painter in the 1970s when he abruptly turned his back on Late Modernism to become an 'illusionist,'" says Fuglie, referring to Doolin's embrace of representational imagery of the Southern California desert, downtown Los Angeles, and the dramatic angularity of freeways and flood-control channels. (right: Bruce Everett: Santa Clara Sandbar, 2001)

Fuglie sees Doolin and his wife, painter Lauren Richardson, as pioneers in the resurgence of representational art in the L.A. scene during the 1990s. They and other painters portrayed the dramatic changes in the landscape with the population explosion and sprawling development from San Diego to Santa Barbara, as well as depicting the few remaining and endangered open tracts of land.  Along with painters, Fuglie has included eight photographers in the exhibition with visual sensibilities and concerns similar to those in the selected paintings.

Born in Los Angeles during the post-war "baby boom," Fuglie confesses anxiety about the changes that have marked Southern California, and hopes that the works by painters and photographers, in addition to being contemplated for their content and beauty, will encourage deeper reflection about how the Southern California region uses and plan for the environmental future.

 A free public reception will be held in the Dunning Courtyard at the Fritz B. Burns Fine Art Center from 3:30 to 5:30 pm on September 12. The reception is preceded by a literary event,The Contours of Our Terrain:  Readings on the Landscape and Literature in Los Angeles, to be held at 2 p.m. in Murphy Recital Hall, adjacent to the Laband Gallery. Contours will be moderated by nationally-known poet and novelist Gail Wronsky, author of Dying for Beauty. Other panelists are poet Molly Bendall, author ofAriadne's Island; poet, fiction writer and critic Ramon Garcia; and novelist Chuck Rosenthal, author of Elena of the Stars.

Speculative Terrainis dedicated to the memory of James Doolin. It opened at the Carnegie Art Museum, Oxnard, in December of 2003, and then traveled to the Riverside Art Museum.. The exhibition completes its tour at LMU's Laband Art Gallery.

Following is the essay from the exhibit's catalogue:


Speculative Terrain: Recent Views of the Southern California Landscape from San Diego to Santa Barbara

by Gordon L. Fuglie, Exhibition Curator


Our sense of Southern California as an important subject in art starts with the so-called California Impressionists in the early 20th century. Known for their portrayals of the natural beauty of the region, their work showed the lower half of the state as an Edenic pastoral, untainted by mass development. In the 1930s and 40s the next generation of artists fixed their attention on the "social landscape", depicting settled, urban and industrial subjects as the region grew in population and commerce. At mid-century, however, and with the rise of Modernism and abstract modes, accompanied by the "slippage" of representational art practice, significant works of art that portrayed Southern California became few and far between.

Up to 1970, it seemed that a few noteworthy photographers were the only artists interested in depicting the region; virtually no painters engaged with Southern California as a place. That changed in 1969 when the painter James Doolin foreswore abstraction for representation, and in 1972 set for himself the task of painting his first landscape opus, Shopping Mall. It was an elaborate aerial perspective view of downtown Santa Monica upon which he labored for five years. Such an intense commitment to "illusionism," as Doolin often called it, taught him his chops and he became the pre-eminent painter of the Southern California landscape until his death in 2002.

When you think about it, Southern California presents endless opportunities for artists. So why did it take artists so long to come to grips with the fecund array of their own surroundings at a time when the landscape was undergoing drastic physical changes? My theory is that the authoritarian legacy of Late Modernism in its last stages constrained all but the most independent of artists. One should recall that Modernism's way of making and understanding art had as its agenda the severing of links to the past, and this included the discrediting of representational art for a good part of the 20th century.

But that was then. In subsequent years a good many Modernists have since retired from academia and art criticism. As a result, the demise of Late Modernism has left us with the "expanded field" of Post-Modernism where, supposedly, all forms of art making are now permitted. The style pendulum is swinging back toward representation and figuration and the 1990's saw these approaches emerge with strength.

This was a timely emergence, for Southern California was undergoing dramatic changes in its landscape with the population explosion and sprawling development from San Diego to Santa Barbara. To many it seemed that the few remaining open tracts of land would soon be gone. Among the first artists to respond to these changes were photographers who trekked to industrial sites, the desert and housing developments to document the enormous changes in the region. The painters had their own agendas and weren't far behind. Speculative Terrain gathers photography and painting from artists who in recent years have answered back to these changes with compelling work.

As a native of Southern California, I must confess to a certain anxiety about the changes that have irrevocably altered our region. I hope that the works in this exhibition will be contemplated for their content and beauty, and will encourage deeper reflection about how we currently make use of our land, and how we plan for our future on it.

(above: Stephanie Sanchez: Sulphur Piles, Wilmington, 2002)



Read more articles and essays concerning this institutional source by visiting the sub-index page for the Laband Art Gallery at Loyola Marymount University in Resource Library.


Resource Library features these essays concerning Southern California art:

The American Scene: Regionalist Painters of California 1930-1960: Selections from the Michael Johnson Collection by Susan M. Anderson

Dream and Perspective: American Scene Painting in Southern California by Susan M. Anderson

Modern Spirit: The Group of Eight & Los Angeles Art of the 1920s by Susan M. Anderson

A Seed of Modernism: The Art Students League of Los Angeles, 1906-53 by Julia Armstrong-Totten, Marian Yoshiki-Kovinick, and Will South

The Arts in Santa Barbara by Janet Blake Dominik

Ranchos: The Oak Group Paints the Santa Barbara Countryside by Ellen Easton

Speculative Terrain - Recent Views of the Southern California Landscape from San Diego to Santa Barbara by Gordon L. Fuglie

Sampler Tour of Art Tiles from Catalina Island by John Hazeltine

Mission San Juan Capistrano: An Artistic Legacy by Gerald J. Miller

Loners, Mavericks & Dreamers: Art in Los Angeles Before 1900 by Nancy Moure

Impressionism, Post-Impressionism, and the Eucalyptus School in Southern California by Nancy Moure

San Diego Beginnings by Martin E. Petersen

Keeping the Faith: Painting in Santa Catalina 1935-1985 by Roy C. Rose

The Art Student League of Los Angeles: A Brief History by Will South

Artists in Santa Catalina Island Before 1945 by Jean Stern

The Development of Southern California Impressionism by Jean Stern

The Legacy of the Art Students League: Defining This Unique Art Center in Pre-War Los Angeles by Julia Armstrong-Totten

The Development of an Art Community in the Los Angeles Area by Ruth Westphal

A Bit of Paris in Heart Mountain by Marian Yoshiki-Kovinick

A Seed of Modernism: The Art Students League of Los Angeles, 1906-53 by Marian Yoshiki-Kovinick and Julia Armstrong-Totten

The Historic Landscapes of Malibu by Michael Zakian

and these articles:

California Impressionists at Laguna is a 2000 exhibit at the Florence Griswold Museum organized by Florence Griswold Museum curator Jack Becker, the exhibition consists of twenty-six paintings by over a dozen California artists and selected works by members of the Lyme Art Colony, providing opportunity to compare and contrast the styles and subjects of the Lyme and Laguna Impressionists. The exhibition examines how the colonies contributed to the very identity of their regions; in the case of Laguna as a new Eden of perpetual sunshine, and for Lyme as a place rooted in traditional New England values. (left: William Wendt (1865-1946), South Coast Highway, Laguna Beach, 1918, oil on canvas, 12 x 16 inches, Mr. and Mrs. Thomas B. Stiles II)

Circles of Influence: Impressionism to Modernism in Southern California Art 1910-1930 is a 2000 exhibit at the Orange County Museum of Art which thematically explores Southern California's early twentieth-century artistic development -- from the expanding influences of East Coast artists, to the building of local art organizations striving for independent expression, and finally the early stirrings of avant-garde Modernism. Presenting over seventy paintings, drawn from public and private collections, the exhibition will focus attention on the progressive artists of Los Angeles and their response to national and international art movements.

Clarence Hinkle: Modern Spirit and the Group of Eight is a 2012 exhibition at the Laguna Art Museum which features over one hundred paintings dating from the early 1900s through the 1950s, and includes many paintings that were in the original exhibitions of the Group of Eight, especially their 1927 show at the Los Angeles Museum of History, Science, and Art.

The Fieldstone Collection: Impressionism in Southern California, a 1999 exhibit at the the William D. Cannon Art Gallery, includes approximately 40 works, created between the late 1800s and early 1900s, depict the natural landscapes of the region in the "plein air" style of the French Impressionists.

The Final Eden: Early Images of the Santa Barbara Region is a 2002 Wildling Art Museum exhibit of paintings, watercolors and prints depicting the Central Coast of California between 1836 and 1960 and celebrating "its rural pristine and fertile nature," selected by guest curator, Frank Goss. It is his thesis that the paradise that once was California, a land of boundless resources and unlimited opportunities, has shrunk through urbanization and exploitation, and the Central Coast, not yet paved over, is "the Final Eden." (left: John Hall Esq. (1808 - ?), "Santa Barbara-Upper California," 1836, hand-colored lithograph.. Lent by Eric Hvolboi

First Generation: Art in Claremont, 1907-1957 is a 2008 exhibit at the Claremont Museum of Art, which traces the art history of Claremont and the region in the first 50 years after the city's incorporation in 1907.

On a clear day a century ago, one could see the peak of Mt. Baldy from virtually every corner of the Los Angeles basin, from ocean to desert. The original inhabitants of this area, the Tongva/Gabrielino Indians, called the mountain "Yoát," or snow. Its siren song has drawn generations of settlers to its shadow. Since the late 19th century, prominent artists have been among those attracted to the foothills of Mt. Baldy and its neighboring peaks-and the city of Claremont, in particular.The exhibit traces the art history of the region, from the work of such artists as Hannah Tempest Jenkins, Emil Kosa, Jr., and William Manker to that of Millard Sheets and his circle in the 1930s. Sheets's influence as artist and teacher extended as well to bringing artists such as Henry Lee McFee, Phil Dike, and Jean Ames to Scripps College, thereby enhancing the existing art community and assuring its lasting influence.

Greetings from Laguna Beach: Our Town in the Early 1900s is a 2000 Laguna Art Museum exhibit which illustrates Laguna's early history through 20 landscapes painted by some of the town's earliest artist residents as well as historical photos and a room-sized installation of a typical period cottage. The paintings include works by Franz A. Bischoff, Conway Griffith , Clarence Kaiser Hinkle, Joseph Kleitsch Millard Sheets, William Wendt, and Karl Yens.

L.A. RAW: Abject Expressionism in Los Angeles 1945-1980, From Rico Lebrun to Paul McCarthy is a 2012 exhibit at the Pasadena Museum of California Art. The figurative artists, who dominated the postwar Los Angeles art scene until the late 1950s, have largely been written out of today's art history. This exhibition, part of the Getty Foundations initiative "Pacific Standard Time: Art in L.A. 1945-1980," traces the distinctive aesthetic of figurative expressionism from the end of World War II, bringing together over 120 works by forty-one artists in a variety of media -- painting, sculpture, photography, and performance

The Legacy of the California Art Club in San Diego chronicles the history of art in San Diego, California from the turn of the 20th century through the beginning of the present century.

Painted Light: California Impressionist Paintings from the Gardena High School Los Angeles Unified School District Collection, hosted by CSU Dominguez Hills in 1999, features works by Franz A. Bischoff, Jessie Arms Botke (1883-1971), Maurice Braun (1877-1941), Benjamin Chambers Brown, Alson Skinner Clark, Leland S. Curtis, Maynard Dixon, Victor Clyde Forsythe, John (Jack) Frost, Joe Duncan Gleason, Armin Carl Hansen, Sam Hyde Harris, Clarence Kaiser Hinkle, Frank Tenney Johnson, Emil Jean Kosa, Jr., Jean Mannheim, Peter Nielsen, Edgar Alwin Payne, Hanson Duvall Puthuff, John Hubbard Rich, Carl Clemens Moritz Rungius, Walter Elmer Schofield, Clyde Eugene Scott, Jack Wilkinson Smith, James Guifford Swinnerton, Marion Kavanagh Wachtel, William Wendt (1865-1946) and Orrin Augustine White.

Painted Light: California Impressionist Paintings: The Gardena High School/Los Angeles Unified School District Collection toured to The Irvbine Museum in 1999.

Representing LA, Pictorial Currents in Contemporary Southern California Art, featured at the Frye Museum in 2000, is the first group exhibition to explore the rich and varied representational painting, drawing, printmaking, and sculpture produced by Southern California artists from 1990 to 2000, and fills a gap in West Coast and Southern California art history by surveying and interpreting about 80 works by 70 artists working in representational or realist styles and approaches.

Visit the Table of Contents for Resource Library for thousands of articles and essays on American art, calendars, and much more.

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