The seeds of rebellion, characterizing American culture in the 1950s and ’60s, wrought profound changes on painting of the period that continue to resonate today. Experimentation and risk-taking, which had been absent from American painting, became dominant features of the art scene.
Capturing that spirit is “Momentum of a Movement,” an exhibition of paintings and sculptures by Bay Area artists on view at Hackett Mill gallery through the end of the month. The show features 17 pieces by major figurative and nonobjective artists working at the time.
The show reflects the experimentation and collaboration that began at the California School of Fine Arts (now the San Francisco Art Institute) and moved into cafes, artist-run galleries, apartments and studios.
The jazz scene and Beat poets influenced the artists — including Joan Brown, James Budd Dixon, Edward Dugmore, Frank Lobdell, Manuel Neri, David Park and others — who approached their work with a similar sense of spontaneity and community.
Some abstract painters in the show recently had adopted a figurative style. Yet the change contained elements of both, and even may be described as a unique language going beyond abstract or figurative.
Although works in “Momentum of a Movement” differ vastly, they have in common a certain inventive, raw quality, and none are slick. As with the beginning of abstraction in the early 20th century, there is a notion that these artists’ feelings had to be expressed in a new way, not via methods currently in practice.
For example, Brown’s “Girl in Water Holding onto Pole,” a large, 72-inch oil on canvas, is a figurative piece, strictly speaking. Yet what sets it apart and what captivates the viewer is her experimentation with forms and colors, their placement and juxtaposition, and the spirited vigor of her gestures as the paint is dragged across the canvas.
IF YOU GO
Momentum of a Movement
Where: Hackett Mill,
201 Post St., Suite 1000, S.F.
When: 10:30 a.m. to
5:30 p.m. Tuesdays-Fridays; closes March 30
Contact: (415) 362-3377, www.hackettmill.com