de Saisset Museum

South Bay's free museum of art and history

Frank Lobdell, 1921-2013

January 24 - March 16, 2014
and April 10 - June 15, 2014

Frank Lobdell Untitled (Nude) and 10.13.1981

Best known for his intense and brooding paintings, Frank Lobdell is among the most compelling artists to emerge from the San Francisco School of Abstract Expressionism. Though he remained an "artist's artist" throughout the early years of his career, gaining recognition in New York and abroad while living in relative obscurity locally, Lobdell eventually emerged as one of the most celebrated painters and teachers in the Bay Area. Along with fellow Abstract Expressionists Richard Diebenkorn, Hassel Smith, and Clyfford Still, Lobdell resisted the overriding influences of the modern art world and developed his own uniquely personal mode of expression. Often dark and introspective, his works are characterized by their tireless exploration of human experience and raw emotion.

Art figured strongly in Lobdell's life throughout his childhood, and from an early age he displayed a great talent for drawing that was openly encouraged by his parents and teachers. As a young art student at St. Paul School of Fine Arts in Minnesota, he traveled to Chicago to see a retrospective of Picasso's work at the Art Institute. For the first time, he became acutely aware of the power of art to evoke a strong emotional response.

Lobdell joined the U.S. Army in 1942, and like many, witnessed the atrocities of war first-hand. His experiences serving as a lieutenant during World War II, coupled with the heightened sense of distrust during the McCarthy Era of the 1950s, profoundly shaped his artistic vision. He wrestled with the challenge of understanding art's role in a world plagued by brutality and conflict.

In 1946, as World War II came to a close, Lobdell returned to the United States and took up residence in Sausalito. He enrolled at the California School of Fine Arts (now San Francisco Art Institute) with the benefit of the G.I. Bill, and it was there that he encountered the community of artists who would later form the San Francisco School of Abstract Expressionism.

True to the style of San Francisco Abstract Expressionism, Lobdell's paintings, drawings, and prints rarely utilize figurative representation. Instead, they are characterized by a vocabulary of abstract forms and symbols. Lobdell often chose to leave his works untitled, or to title them after the date on which they were completed. As a result, the artist's intent behind the works often eludes us. Still, the raw emotions and tumultuous experiences behind them are evident.

This exhibition is comprised of eight works on paper housed in the de Saisset Museum's collection. The exhibition celebrates the life and contribution of Frank Lobdell, who passed away at age 92 on December 14, 2013.

Images: Frank Lobdell, Untitled (Nude), 1948, offset lithograph, de Saisset Museum permanent collection, Gift of Robert Prentice, '48, 3.1146.1987. Frank Lobdell, 10.13.1981, monotype, de Saisset Museum permanent collection, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Phillip Kirkeby, 2014.2.