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Paradise, Found in a California Coast Culture Exhibition

'In the Land of Sunshine' traces a history of artistic influence along 840 miles of California coast.
The Cove (Monterey), 1982, Dennis Hare. Watercolor on paper, 22 x 30 inches. Courtesy the Mark and Jan Hilbert Collection

Soaking up the rays and surfin’ USA, the Golden State of California can confidently boast a myriad of uplifting songs, catchphrases, and undeniably freewheeling imagery.

The exhibit, In the Land of Sunshine: Imaging the California Coast Culture, opening at the Pasadena Museum of California Art in September, takes hold of surf and sand imagery and places the viewer under the rays of the hot sun—minus the burns and tanlines. The show takes its influence from Cali’s long history in movie-making, bodybuilding, and laid-back West Coast attitude to form a transportative trip down the Pacific coast.


Mid-Winter, Coronado Beach, c. 1907, Louis Betts. Oil on canvas, 29 x 24 inches. Courtesy the Irvine Museum

Newport Fish Market, c. 1955, Phil Dike. Oil on Masonite, 24 x 48 inches. Courtesy the Buck Collection through the University of California, Irvine

The show includes a combination of 90 different  paintings, posters, magazine, photographs, among other mediums. As an official exhibit release describes, the group show highlights the daily activities many walks of life: the toils of cargo ship workers and fishermen, and the leisurely lifestyles of surfers and boaters, are all given the same light.

Surfriders, 1959, Rex Brandt. Oil on canvas, 26 x 36 inches. Courtesy the E. Gene Crain Collection

Interior with Figure (from Girl Against the Light series), 1966, Roger Kuntz. Oil on canvas, 40 x 48 inches. Courtesy the Gary Lang Collection

On the Beach, 1917, Donna Schuster. Oil on canvas 29 x 29 inches. Courtesy The Irvine Museum

The glue of the show is, predictably and appealingly, the surf. Most, if not all of the paintings in In the Land of Sunshine, are willing adherents to beach culture, seemingly following an unspoken rule to include a backdrop of lapping waves consistently throughout the show.

“Like the coastal communities of Newport Beach, Balboa Island, Laguna Beach and San Francisco, Pasadena has attracted and inspired a significant number of artists, yet the creative outputs vary from sea to Seco,” elaborates Gordon McClelland, the show's curator and a California historian. “Pasadena is just far enough away from the shoreline that when artworks depicting and created on the Pacific Coast are viewed there, they take on a fresh, inland context and a distinct meaning.”

Ebullient, youthful, and replete of an East Coast mirth, In the Land of Sunshine is a display of pride in an awe-inspiring location.

Portrait of Tanya Booth, 2000, Kerne Erickson. Acrylic on canvas panel, 40 x 27 inches. Courtesy the Austin McClelland Collection

Golden Gate from Angel Island, 1884, Raymond D. Yelland. Oil on canvas, 28 x 48 inches. Courtesy the Collection of Ray Redfern

Old Post Office, 1922-23, Joseph Kleitsch. Oil on canvas, 40 x 34 inches. Courtesy the Laguna Art Museum Collection, a gift of the estate of Joseph Kleitsch in memory of his wife Edna

In the Land of Sunshine: Imaging of California Coast Culture shows at Pasadena Museum of California Art from September 25, 2016 through February 19, 2017. See more details about the exhibit, here.


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