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You See: The Early Years of the UC Davis Art Faculty

May 3 - June 22, 2008


On view at the Hearst Art Gallery at Saint Mary's College from May 3 through June 22, 2008 will be the largest public exhibition ever of work by University of California, Davis faculty members Robert Arneson, Roy De Forest, Manuel Neri, Wayne Thiebaud and William T. Wiley.

"History was made in the Central Valley in the early '60s when five great artists came together on the same faculty for over a decade and changed the nature and perception of art in California forever," said Nelson Gallery director Renny Pritikin. "We are tremendously excited to be able, for the first time, to display the best of these little-seen works in a single exhibit -- and to be able to travel the collection."

The exhibition includes 36 works from the Nelson's permanent collection. "The Palace at 9 a.m.," Arneson's enormous ceramic ode to his '50s-era Davis tract home, will anchor the show, together with three Thiebaud masterworks and three of Neri's most admired figurative sculptures. "Crash," Arneson's bronze homage to Jackson Pollock, is also included, together with rarely seen paintings, drawings and prints by De Forest and Wiley. The five Davis artists are sometimes identified with "California funk," characterized by bawdy irreverence, iconoclasm and self-deprecating humor.

All five artists came to teach at UC Davis between 1960 and 1965. Thiebaud, at 86 one of the most popular and respected American painters of the 20th century, continues to teach UC Davis art students. Arneson, who played a critical role in the elevation of ceramics from craft to fine art, remained on the faculty until his death from cancer in 1992 at age 62. Neri, regarded as one of America's most important figurative sculptors and the leading Latino artist of his generation, was a faculty member for 25 years. De Forest, who died last May at age 77, also spent nearly a quarter century on the faculty, amassing a body of work that continues to reflect and shape Northern California culture today. Wiley, who developed perhaps the most original and influential drawing style of his time, spent a decade teaching and creating art on the Davis campus. The three surviving artists continue to make strong work well into their 60s, 70s and beyond.

Julia Marshall, an art historian at San Francisco State University, notes that "the UC Davis campus was originally an offshoot of the Bay Area art world but soon became a center of its own, one that in many ways eclipsed the Bay Area scene and invigorated and shaped the entire region. Perhaps the biggest accomplishment of the Davis/Bay Area artists at this time was the development of an alternative to New York, a regional art that spoke to and for Northern California and replaced the pretensions of the East Coast art world with an earthy, honest and vital local West Coast authenticity."

The "You See" exhibition was made possible in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.


(above: Manuel Neri, credit line pending)

(above: Manuel Neri, credit line pending)


(above: Robert Arneson, Crash, credit line pending)


(above: Robert Arneson, Crash, credit line pending)



Related event

A panel discussion with Neri, Renny Pritikin, exhibition curator, Brian Gross, longtime representative of Arneson's and De Forest's work, and moderated by San Francisco artist Jessica Dunne, will take place on Sunday, May 4, at 2 p.m., in the Soda Activity Center. A reception in the Hearst patio will follow the program.

RL readers may also enjoy:

and these earlier articles and essays in chronological order:

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TFAO also suggests these DVD or VHS videos:

Behind the Scenes with Wayne Thiebaud is a 30 minute 1992 video released by First Run Features based on a series by PBS. Follows American painter Wayne Thiebaud (b. 1920) as he uses drawing to expand children's understanding of line from simple outline to its creation of volume, shape, feeling, and movement
Wayne Thiebaud: Line: 30 minutes 1992 "When is a line not a line? When it's volume, shape, movement, and feeling. At first glance, the lines in Wayne Thiebaud's drawing look simple. Gradually, the line becomes more complex as the linear structure of a portrait of an ice cream cone is revealed. Hosted by the comedy team Penn and Teller, this program is designed to instill creative and critical thinking skills in children through the exploration of the visual and performing arts."

TFAO does not maintain a lending library of videos or sell videos. Click here for information on how to borrow or purchase copies of VHS videos and DVDs listed in TFAO's Videos -DVD/VHS, an authoritative guide to videos in VHS and DVD format.

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rev. 3/10/08

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