A strong slate of new exhibitions opens today at the Fresno Art Museum
I had a chance yesterday to take a sneak peek at the new six-month round of exhibitions opening Saturday, Feb. 11, at the Fresno Art Museum, and I was inspired. Each of the four new shows is beautifully curated. There’s a strong mix of Fresno artists (including a fun salute to esteemed architect Arthur Dyson, and a glimpse at the work of the wonderful fine-art photographer Cay Lang, who recently moved back here) and a hearty nod to some big California names (including sculptor Bruce Beasley, along with a terrific show of rarely seen works of Nathan Oliveira, a noted name in the San Francisco Bay Area Figurative Movement).
I’ll be following up on all the exhibitions in the coming months, with my first coverage an interview with Dyson — responsible for such iconic Fresno buildings as University High School and the Woodward Park Regional Library — as part of the next episode of “The Munro Review on CMAC.” (The episode will be released next week.)
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Along with the Dyson exhibition, I’m particularly drawn to the Oliveira show. Titled “Nathan Oliveira: Rare Works from the Private Collections of His Children,” it includes more than 50 rare drawings, monumental and small paintings, assemblage, lithographs and bronzes. Oliveira’s work is held in many of the world’s major museums, including the Tate Modern in London, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and — of course — such Bay Area museums as the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Oakland Museum of California.
Michele Ellis Pracy, who curated the show, says the works have rarely, if ever, been seen before by the public in either museum exhibitions or gallery presentations during the artist’s lifetime.
As Oliveira got older, he would bequeath various of his works to Joe, Lisa and Gina, his children. As curator, Ellis Pracy got the chance to pick from this private body of work, many of which come directly from the walls of the artist’s children. (One small personal piece usually hangs in his daughter’s bathroom in her Fresno home.) Filling two galleries in the museum, the show puts an emphasis on Oliveira’s monumental works in the first and then smaller, more intimate works — including a drawing he made at the age of 4 1/2 — in the second. I already know I want to learn more about Oliveira’s creative process, which involved, according to the exhibition notes, working like an Abstract Expressionist in terms of applying pigment to the canvas almost at random until an image began to appear. It’s this cross between tangible figurative forms and abstraction that feels fresh and substantial.
The exhibition includes examples of Oliveira’s haunting “red paintings,” done in the last year of his life.
A reception for the new exhibitions was held Friday, and the shows officially opened to the public today (Feb. 11). The museum is open Saturday and Sunday this weekend (9 a.m.-4 p.m.). Regular hours are noon-4 p.m. Thursdays & Fridays, and 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturdays & Sundays.
A programming note: A lecture by Arthur Dyson planned for 4 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 11, has been postponed.