Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Santa Barbara Contemporary Arts Forum - Home Show

Courtesy: Santa Barbara Contemporary Arts Forum
Last week I decided to docent for Santa Barbara's contemporary art museum, Santa Barbara Contemporary Arts Forum (CAF) Home Show, Revisited.  The site-specific show breaks down to the notion of exhibiting work in a traditional white cube art museum  -- and, instead, displays art in people's homes. The curators of the Santa Barbara Contemporary Arts Forum invited 10 Los Angeles-based contemporary artists to "reconsider the societal and cultural notion of “home” by creating site-specific installations in residences throughout Santa Barbara."

The Home Show includes works by internationally-known artists Piero Golia, Evan Holloway, Bettina Hubby, Florian Morlat, Kori Newkirk, Jennifer Rochlin, Ry Rocklen, Kirsten Stoltmann, Stephanie Taylor, and Jennifer West. The exhibition has been reviewed in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and the Santa Barbara Independent.

The exhibition is kind of like a treasure hunt, asking visitors to traverse homes in Santa Barbara all the way to Carpinteria to see artworks. The Home Show inhabitants must welcome visitors into their homes every weekend  from 11a.m. - 5p.m. on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays through July 17.

As an art appraiser I'm often asked to visit private homes to appraise artworks, so I thought the exhibition was an interesting concept to invite strangers into peoples homes. By inviting the public into private homes, these ten artists explore concepts of privacy, voyeurism, and status.

I served as a docent in the home of art dealer Candice Assassi’s contemporary loft in Carpinteria, California.  Assasi's home looks out onto a beachfront campground populated by summertime campers.  Artist Kori Newkirk decided to play with the exchange of viewership and voyeurism.  Newkirk mounted a neon sign to a roof beam facing the campground that reads “No Visible Neurosis.” Written backwards, viewers must look at it with a mirror from the front porch.  While looking out toward the campers, the viewer must also look at oneself in the mirror, while viewing the the neon sign. The artpiece attempts to make a commentary on a visitor's judgement of a stranger's home -- and perhaps the person in the mirror as well.

Art appraisers often seen great paintings, sculpture, and drawings hidden away in private collections. While it's interesting to see art on museum walls it is magical to see how people live around art in their everyday lives. This exhibition is a great way of inviting visitors into the personal spaces of those who surround themselves with art.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Millard Sheets: California Watercolorist

Some of my favorite artists to appraise are those California artists who worked in and around Santa Barbara. Millard Sheets (1907-1989) who was born in Pomona, California and became one of the most prolific artists on the West Coast.

"Padua Olive Hills Drive" 1940 (Image Courtesy: Otis Art Institute)
Millard Sheets grew up on a ranch and developed a love for horses and the rustic life of Southern California. Sheets gained his art degree at the Chouinard Art School in Los Angeles (1925-29). As a young artist during the 1920s, he became familiar with the work of the American scene painters, Thomas Hart Benton and Grant Wood, who were part of a movement called American Regionalism. Wood and Benton were interested in painting American life. Sheets decided to focus on his native Los Angeles area.

As an art appraiser in Santa Barbara, I often come upon collectors of the California Watercolor school. Millard Sheets, Milford Zornes, Rex Brandt, Phil Dyke, George Post and others developed the California Watercolor style of painting. These artists used watercolor instead of oil to paint on-site and outdoors.

Depicting daily life of everyday people, laborers, and immigrants, Sheets captured the struggles and tribulations of Californians during the 1920s. The California Watercolorists found watercolor and paper a more versatile and easy medium to transport than oil. Up until the 1920s, watercolor had been seen simply as a sketching tool for artists, not a medium in itself. Sheets and his colleagues changed this.

Upon completing his schooling, Sheets decided to travel to Europe, where he became exposed to the modernist movements of the 1930s. Millard Sheets returned to California and began teaching at Chouinard. He also taught at Scripps College and Otis Art Institute, where he became an influential member of the art community. He was a member of the California Art Club; American Watercolor Society; Bohemian Club; National Academy.

During the Great Depression he began painting under the WPA as part of the team of muralist painters. Sheets painted more than 100 murals  and mosaics in and around Claremont, Pomona, and greater Los Angeles. While some have been destroyed many still remain.

With his signature style, his works depict the landscapes of Pomona, Los Angeles, Laguna Beach, Santa Barbara, Palm Springs, and throughout California. Sheets eventually moved north to the Mendocino coast and painted throughout the Bay Area.

As an art appraiser, Millard Sheets paintings are among the most sought-after and valuable of the California Watercolorists. His unique aesthetic and prolific output place him as one of California's much beloved artists.