Past Exhibitions

Views and Visions: Exploring the California Landscape

Exhibition Through July 20, 2003

Throughout its history, California's distinctive environment has been a potent inspiration for artists in the Golden State. Views and Visions: Exploring the California Landscape compared and contrasted historical moments, artistic movements, and thematic responses to the Southern California landscape. From the real to the imaginary, the environmental to the cultural, this exhibition examined issues surrounding the relationship between humanity and the land. 

Drawing from the museum's permanent collection, this exhibition focused on California's unique quality of light. Glaring with a brilliant white-hot intensity, Southern California light was interpreted in two distinct modes during the twentieth century: California Impressionist paintings in the early years of the century and minimalist Light and Space works in the 1960s. 

In the early twentieth century, California artists such as Anna Hills, Joseph Kleitsch, Guy Rose, William Wendt, and others continued the tradition of the French Impressionists by painting en plein air directly from the subject out-of-doors. After studying at prominent art schools in the United States and Europe, California's Impressionist painters saw themselves as practitioners of a distinctly American style, solidifying the ephemeral brushwork of the French Impressionists and localizing their subject matter with the distinctive gnarled oaks and golden hills of Southern California. These artists found Impressionism's characteristic qualities of bright, jewel-like colors and broken brushwork particularly suited to depicting the region's spectacular scenery. 

By the mid-1960s California artists had embraced Minimalism and given it a uniquely West Coast spin in the Los Angeles Fetish Finish and Light and Space movements. Artists such as Peter Alexander, Larry Bell, Craig Kauffman, and DeWain Valentine were incorporating into their work the latest technologies of the Southern California based engineering and aerospace industries to develop sensuous, light-filled objects. The art of the Light and Space movement investigates human perception and sensation. These Minimalist abstract works are self-contained entities - frequently made of industrial materials such as plastic, resin, and glass - which were designed to convey nothing of the personal touch of the fabricator.


Anna Althea Hills, Golden Hillside, Hemet, California, 1920; oil on panel, 20 x 24 inches. Gift of the estate of Anna A. Hills.