The Phillips Collects: Lorser Feitelson and Helen Lundeberg

Lorser Feitelson and Helen Lundeberg

Left: Lorser Feitelson, Untitled (March 14), 1972, Acrylic on canvas, 60 x 40 in. The Phillips Collection, Director’s Discretionary Fund, 2016; Right: Helen Lundeberg, Untitled, 1961, Oil on canvas, 36 x 20 in., The Phillips Collection, Gift of The Feitelson/Lundeberg Art Foundation, 2017

Lorser Feitelson (b. Savannah, Georgia, 1898-d. Los Angeles, 1978) and Helen Lundeberg (b. Chicago, 1908-d. Los Angeles, 1999) were two of the most significant forces for the advancement of modern art in Southern California.

Feitelson was an influential teacher, gallery director, WPA mural administrator, collector, and host of a popular television show, “Feitelson on Art.” For decades, his work was overshadowed by the fact that he was living and working in Southern California while critical attention was focused on the New York School. In 1963, Feitelson became interested in the quality of lines as lines rather than as descriptions of forms. The single line became a major motif of Feitelson’s work of the late 1960s and early 1970s. With paintings such as Untitled (March 14), Feitelson was able to show that with the most subtle adjustments of width, volume, and curve, his paintings can be perceived as serene, exciting, lyrical, sensual, or austere.

Feitelson met Lundeberg at the Stickney Memorial School of Art in Pasadena in 1930, where he was her professor. Together they founded Subjective Classicism (also known as Post-Surrealism), a more conceptual version of European Surrealism’s dream worlds. She moved toward abstraction in the 1950s, and her untitled painting depicting angular planes in hues of olive and brown is typical of her mid-century “hard-edge” style.

“These elegant paintings by Lorser Feitelson and Helen Lundeberg are important additions to the Phillips’s holdings of California modernism, which also encompasses works by Richard Diebenkorn and Frank Lobdell. They provide visitors and students with a richer and more nuanced view of the history of modern American painting.”-Vradenburg Director and CEO Dorothy Kosinski

Bice Lazzari: Music and Poetry

Bice Lazzari in her studio in Rome_Photo by Sergio Pucci

Bice Lazzari in her studio in Rome. Photo: Sergio Pucci

“Bice Lazzari had a unique mind. Her early work was a precursor to abstraction in many ways, as she was always striving to go beyond the usual vision to the next level, seeking the essence, the core of the painting.”-Renato Miracco, curator of Bice Lazzari: The Poetry of Mark-Making (on view at The Phillips Collection through February 24) and former cultural attaché to the Embassy of Italy

Born in Venice, Bice (Beatrice) Lazzari (1900-1981) was a pioneer in postwar Italian art. For most women in the early 20th century, there were limited opportunities to pursue a career in the fine arts. Although trained as a figure painter, Lazzari began her career in the late 1920s in the applied arts, which emphasized a geometric style. In the postwar years, she made Rome her permanent home and it was there that she found her own artistic path. Her paintings of the 1950s are expressive and abstract, while her works of the 1960s and 70s, though increasingly reductive, are highly experimental in materials and have a singular focus on rhythmic mark-making.

Lazzari’s work resonates with utmost control and minimal gesture. Using pencil, ink, and pastel, Lazzari creates poetic compositions that resemble graphs, maps, musical staffs, and notes. Later in her career, she used acrylics and further simplified her imagery, creating grids, lines, rows of dots and dashes, and irregular shapes using a limited palette. Reflecting her lifelong passion for music and poetry, Lazzari’s lines and forms create rhythms that interact with each other, making her works come alive in a manner akin to musical notation.

Through February 24, The Phillips Collection is proud to showcase four paintings by the artist recently gifted to the museum by Lazzari’s family and the Lazzari Archive in Rome, the first of her works to enter the collection, along with several loaned works on paper.

“Everything that moves in space is measurement and poetry. Painting searches in signs and color for the rhythm of these two forces, aiding and noting their fusion.”-Bice Lazzari, 1957

Bice Lazzari, Sensa titolo, 1974, Acrylic on canvas, 9 13/16 x 9 13/16 in., Gift of Mariagrazia Oliva Lapadula and the Archivio Bice Lazzari, Roma 2018, courtesy of the Embassy of Italy, Washington, DC

Bice Lazzari, Sensa titolo, 1974, Acrylic on canvas, 9 13/16 x 9 13/16 in., The Phillips Collection, Gift of Mariagrazia Oliva Lapadula and the Archivio Bice Lazzari, Roma 2018, courtesy of the Embassy of Italy, Washington, DC

Staff Show 2018: Michael McSorley

In this series, Manager of Visitor and Family Engagement Emily Bray highlights participants in This Is My Day Job: The 2018 James McLaughlin Memorial Staff Show, on view through September 30, 2018.

Drivers by Mike McSorley

Drivers by Michael McSorley

Tell us about yourself.

At the age of eight, I was allowed to take some photos with an old camera. My photos of bicycle wheels, sewage pumps, and other inane objects vexed my parents (film and developing was expensive), but predicted some of the art I now produce.

What do you do at The Phillips Collection? Are there any unique or interesting parts about your job that most people might not know about?

I’m a museum assistant. I help visitors with information and also protect the art. Before or after visitors arrive, I get to study the art, mostly looking at the value and color themes. I have found that the majority of paintings in the galleries use a complementary color scheme or a variation on that.

Photo of Mike McSorley

Mike McSorley

Who is your favorite artist in the collection?

Pierre Bonnard’s Children and Cat. I love the cool violet-blue light on the kids’ foreheads and the analogous color scheme.

What is your favorite space within The Phillips Collection?

The Goh Annex and Sant Building, second floor.

What would you like people to know about your artwork on view in the 2018 Staff Show (or your work in general)?

My process varies piece to piece, but on this painting the image was composed and drawn using graphite. Paint was applied, pulling the graphite into the paint and using it to darken and tone down the edges. This layer was thin and the ground of the board reflects back through. This increases color variety which was also enhanced by brushing, scraping, rubbing, using contrasts of color and other concepts. Sometimes the original lines are still visible in the finished painting, and at other times I redraw the edges with pencil to add strength. Initially I had drawn the tools lying down, but when that wasn’t working, I wiped out the drawing using turpentine. That left a dark stain, so I flipped the painting over, covered the stain with a velatura of white, and let the history of it show. I thought this added an interesting element.

This Is My Day Job: The James McLaughlin Memorial Staff Show is on view through September 30, 2018. Join us for a reception in the exhibition on September 20, 5-7 pm.