Saturday 14 May 2011

Frank Lobdell - part 1

Frank Lobdell by David Tomb 2002
The first of two posts on Abstract Expressionist painter Frank Lobdell covers the first half of his career, when his work was more abstracted. The second post will cover his more structured and formalised work.
Frank Lobdell was born in Kansas City, Missouri in 1921 and studied with Cameron Booth at the St Paul School of Fine Arts. From 1942 until 1946 Lobdell saw active service in Europe during World War II. He then attended the California School of Fine Arts (now the San Francisco Art Institute) from 1947-50, where he studied with Richard Diebenkorn, Clyfford Still and Mark Rothko. Lobdell returned to teach at CSFA in 1957, then joined the Stanford University faculty in 1966, retiring after 25 years.

Although his work falls into the genre of abstraction, Lobdell's interest in anthropomorphic shapes, pre-Christian iconography, fertility symbols, and his references to textile designs and primitive art are persistent throughout his works. In this sense, his painting shares a strong affinity with certain aspects of surrealism, specifically as practiced by Picasso, Miró, and Klee - one of the most pivotal moments in Lobdell's artistic development occurred when he saw Guernica at the Art Institute of Chicago in 1940.

Lobdell's early paintings from the late forties and fifties are dark and powerful abstractions. After World War II Lobdell struggled with the effect of war on the psyche. These paintings, in the words of Herschel Chipp, represent the "agony of a human organism confronted with an environment that offers little that is certain—no horizon, no gravity, no substance." Many of the works contain specific iconographic symbols and mark the beginning of a carefully cultivated personal symbology that Lobdell would return to throughout his career.

In the sixties and seventies, Lobdell began to move away from gestural abstraction and started to explore the possibilities inherent in representation with the introduction of more literal figures. In the early seventies he completed a group of paintings entitled the Dance series. These nine paintings, plus several others represent Lobdell's vehement opposition to the Vietnam War, as well as the horrors of the proceeding thirty years, but also mark the end of his early, more literal work and the beginning of an ongoing exploration of space and colour. Over the last couple of decades, Lobdell has continued to pare down his imagery, and colour has taken on a primary importance.

Frank Lobdell is a recipient of the Medal for Distinguished Achievement in Painting from the American Academy and Institute of Arts & Letters. He has been the subject of museum retrospectives at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco's Legion of Honor and the Portland Art Museum, Oregon. His work is included in the collections of the Smithsonian Museum of American Art, Washington D.C.; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; de Young Museum, San Francisco; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena, CA; Oakland Museum of California; San Jose Museum of Art; and the Portland Art Museum, Oregon. In 2003, the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco and Hudson Hills Press published Frank Lobdell: The Art of Making and Meaning, a 400–page monograph charting Lobdell's work and career.

1948 1 August 1948

1948 17 February 1948

1949 1 January 1949

1949 27 October 1949

1954 July 1954

1958 December

1962 3 October 1962

1962 15 April 1962

1962 Black Edge II

1962 Summer

1962 Summer

1963 Dark Presence III, Yellow

1967 Summer (In Memory of James Budd Dixon)

1969 Dance I

1970 Dance IV

1970 Dance VII

1971 Dance VIII

1971 Untitled

1972 Untitled Drawing

1972 Untitled Drawing VIII

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