While Obama’s stimulus package primes the pump of our nation’s economy—including and extra fifty million for the NEA—the Long Beach Museum of Art shows us the fruits of direct funding for artists during the last big economic downturn.Leonard Cutrow's The Gravel Pit ca 1950
Joseph Weisman's Backyards of North Broadway, 1940
Besides the government commissioned paintings, California, Seen gives us an overview of artists connected to the California Watercolor Society and the Chouinard Art Institute, where the artists both studied and taught. The work in this show predates the boom/bust cycle of the Los Angeles art scene, and even the era of the cool school's gallery row on La Cienega. Most of the artist in the show held down paying jobs, from working on New Deal projects, teaching, working as scene painters for the movie industry, and a few who worked as technical illustrators for the aerospace industry, long before the invention of computer-aided design. Perhaps something can be learned about making art despite tough economic times.
There are a small handful of idyllic landscapes in the show, but for the most part, the New Deal’s social realism prevails. Even Klinker's idyllic harbor scene above has political undertones. Fish Harbor was home to Japanese fishermen and their families before they were forcebly removed to internment camps. A few scenes—like the pergolas along the Venice boardwalk—can still be seen, but for the most part the artists have captured the long-vanished streetscapes of Bunker Hill and the Long Beach Pike.Orpha Klinker's Untitled (Fish Harbor) ca 1930's
California, Seen: Landscapes of a Changing California, 1930 - 1970 is on view at the Long Beach Museum of Art through April 5, 2009. The Museum is free on Fridays.Dana Bartlett's A Laguna Hill Top 1936