Clyfford Still and the San Francisco Scene, 1946–1950 – Clyfford Still Museum



Left: Mark Rothko, Clyfford Still, and Douglas MacAgy in Sutro Heights Park, 1946. Unknown photographer. Right: Undated postcard from the California School of Fine Arts. Images courtesy Clyfford Still Museum Archives

Clyfford Still and the San Francisco Scene, 1946–1950

May 20–Oct 9, 2016

This small exhibition, held in conjunction with the Denver Art Museum’s new exhibition, The Women of Abstract Expressionism, draws particular attention to Clyfford Still’s galvanizing role in the San Francisco Bay Area as both a teacher to a subsequent generation of abstract artists as well as a catalyst and thought leader for ideas about what it meant to be a modern American artist in the aftermath of World War II.

Clyfford Still spent most of the 1940s in the San Francisco Bay Area, interrupted only by an 18-month teaching stint in Virginia beginning in 1943, and a New York City residency beginning in 1945. In 1946, Still returned to San Francisco and began an important four-year tenure as the head of the graduate painting program at the California School of Fine Arts (now San Francisco Art Institute). This period coincided with the blossoming of the abstract expressionist movement and the pinnacle of Still’s 20-year quest to redefine painting in which “space and figure,” the artist wrote, “had been resolved into a total psychic entity.”

The exhibition includes six major paintings Still made in San Francisco between 1946 and 1950, illustrating the key formal developments he pioneered which came to define abstract expressionism. The works also exemplify how Still influenced the work of younger artists, including several who are featured in the DAM exhibition. Clyfford Still and the San Francisco Scene, 1946–1950 also includes materials culled from the Clyfford Still Museum Archives, such as Still’s teaching materials, photographs, and correspondence related to these and other artists active in San Francisco at this time.

Clyfford Still and the San Francisco Scene, 1946–1950 is curated by director Dean Sobel and Bailey Harberg Placzek, assistant curator and collections manager.

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