Past Exhibitions

Cities of Promise: Imaging Urban California

Exhibition Through April 25, 2004

This exhibition explores the representation of California cities and suburbs in 20th-century art. From the 1930s through the 1990s artists such as Phil Dike, Emil Kosa Jr., Millard Sheets, Roger Kuntz, Edward Ruscha, and Wayne Thiebaud captured the city's energy and excitement, density and sprawl in quintessential urban and suburban scenes, with subjects ranging from the towering Los Angeles City Hall and the massive San Francisco/Oakland Bay Bridge to rows of ranch houses and miles of serpentine freeways. 

Cities of Promise focuses on the architectural and transportation structures that mark the state's landscape and on how artists have chronicled the distinctive evolution of its metropolises. The first half of the exhibition focuses on a generation of California Regionalists who turned their attention to the city beginning in the 1930s, using watercolor in dramatic ways to vividly depict local life. The second half of the exhibition looks at classic California views of the post-World War II era in which the man-made milieu presents a spatially defined sense of place. 

The works range across the visual and emotional spectrum from hard edge to painterly, impersonal to passionate, yet all share a vital immediacy. The works capture both the compact and sprawling aspects of California cities, with many reflecting American aspirations of freedom and modernity, as well as a sense of community and civic pride. A lavishly illustrated catalogue accompanies the exhibition, containing essays by Sarah Vure, exhibition curator and OCMA curator of collections, and architectural historian Robert Bruegmann, professor, University of Illinois, Chicago.


Peter Alexander, Thrasher, 1992; oil on canvas, 28 x 84 inches; The Buck Collection, Laguna Hills, CA.


Exhibition Credits

Organized by the Orange County Museum of Art in cooperation with the Automobile Club of Southern California.