Jessica Z Schafer
Marketing and Publications Manager
Racine Art Museum Dreams of California
Racine, WI February 25, 2016
Warmer weather may be on the horizon, however, a visit to Racine Art Museum may warm the soul a bit sooner. Open through June 5, 2016, California Dreamin’: Mark Adams and Frank Lobdell features two artists who both made their way to California where they spent the better part of their artistic careers producing work and teaching. While the work of Mark Adams (1925-2006) and Frank Lobdell (1921-2013) may not be similar in terms of subject matter, the artists share a desire to explore how pattern and color develop a composition.
Born in Fort Plains, New York, Mark Adams attended Syracuse University’s School of Fine Arts. He then went to New York City to study under Abstract Expressionist Hans Hoffman. After that, Adams moved to San Francisco to help with the restoration of a Southern California mission. It was in California, in 1954, that he met his wife, printmaker Beth Van Hoesen and attended Columbia University.
Adams began his professional career as a tapestry and stain glass designer, having apprenticed for a time in Europe with famed tapestry designer Jean Lurcat, “a French painter and designer who is frequently called the most instrumental figure in reviving the art of designing and weaving tapestries in the 20th century.” Adams designed windows and large scale tapestries for worship spaces in San Francisco, including Grace Episcopal Cathedral, Lafayette-Orinda United Presbyterian Church, and Temple Emanu-El (San Francisco’s largest synagogue). His tapestries can also be found in secular buildings, including the San Francisco International Airport, the Marina branch of the San Francisco Public Library, the Clarendon School, and the Dallas Fairmont Hotel.
Adams eventually shifted to watercolor, printmaking, and acrylic painting as his primary forms of expression. Drawing on his experience building images with large planes of color, Adams created realistic, color-infused compositions. He favored everyday subjects, such as still lives—reflecting on items that could be both personal to him and understandable to others.
Frank Lobdell was born in Kansas City, Missouri, and raised in Minnesota. He studied art at the St. Paul School of Fine Arts, before leaving to serve in Europe during World War II. During his time in the U.S. Army, Lobdell witnessed many horrific scenes, including discovering nearly 1,000 charred concentration camp victims, an event that would become known as the Gardelegen Massacre. This experience influenced Lobdell tremendously and eventually became a pivotal factor in determining the kind of subject matter he would address in his work. Lobdell once said, “no one who is involved in one of these wars truly survives.”
Lobdell returned to the United States after the war and settled in California, where he continued his art studies under the GI Bill, at the California School of fine Arts, now the San Francisco Art Institute. Not surprisingly, his post-war work eschewed the human form. After witnessing so much as a soldier, Lobdell embraced abstract shapes and bright colors as his means of artistic expression. He participated in weekly figure drawing sessions with famous San Francisco Bay area artists, including Elmer Bischoff, Richard Diebenkorn (also featured in RAM’s collection), and Nathan Oliviera.
Although primarily a painter, Lobdell also produced lithographs, etchings, and monoprints. He taught briefly at the California School of Fine Arts (San Francisco Art Institute) before taking a position at Stanford University, first as a visiting artist and then as a professor. Until his retirement in 1991, he taught at Stanford, all the while producing an extensive and innovative body of work. A laconic and disciplined individual, Lobdell would tell his students that “nothing worth anything is easy.” After his wartime experiences, and as his career developed, he sought to explore humanity in broader terms––utilizing a “vocabulary of archetypal themes and abstract symbols.”
California Dreamin’: Mark Adams and Frank Lobdell is made possible at Racine Art Museum by: Platinum Sponsors – Karen Johnson Boyd and William B. Boyd, SC Johnson, Windgate Charitable Foundation; Diamond Sponsor – Osborne and Scekic Family Foundation; Gold Sponsors – Herzfeld Foundation, Johnson Bank, National Endowment for the Arts, Racine Community Foundation W.T. Walker Group, Inc.; Silver Sponsors – Racine County, Real Racine Wisconsin Arts Board; Bronze Sponsors – Burlington Graphic Systems, Inc., EC Styberg Foundation, Educators Credit Union, In Sink Erator, The Norbell Foundation, Orkney Springs Retreat, Rasmussen Diamonds, Ruud Family Foundation, Inc., Wisconsin Public Radio.