Gold Medal Exhibition

Dry Dock, Long Beach by Calvin Liang. painting, southwest art.
Dry Dock, Long Beach by Calvin Liang

By Bonnie Gangelhoff

In January 1910, a cadre of artists gathered at the studio of painter Franz Bischoff in South Pasadena, CA. Many were refugees from the Painters Club of Los Angeles that had disbanded the year before. The like-minded souls formed a new organization that day and called it the California Art Club. Well-known painters Oscar Borg, Hanson D. Puthuff, Jack Wilkinson Smith, and William Wendt were among those present. Wendt, who was elected president in 1911, soon began a tradition of high-profile member exhibitions and educational programs.

Today, the historic club lives on thanks to Pasadena-based painter Peter Adams and his wife, Elaine. In 1993 the couple resurrected a mostly dormant group and transformed it into a highly visible force—one on the forefront of the current resurgence in plein-air painting.

After a Summer Rain by Joseph Mendez. painting, southwest art.
After a Summer Rain by Joseph Mendez

What started out as a group of 40 or so artists based in Southern California nearly a century ago currently boasts more than 300 artist members. Also, Wendt’s tradition of member exhibitions continues on into the new millennium. For example, this month CAC’s annual Gold Medal Exhibition unfolds at the Pasadena Historical Museum from May 6 to July 29. Ten art experts have reviewed more than 500 paintings and sculptures by CAC members. The panel singled out works by 142 artists for inclusion in the show.

CAC members today are realists who paint landscape, still-life, and figurative works. What’s different from Wendt’s day is that members hail from across the Golden State, not just from Southern California. Another difference, according to Elaine Adams, is that the original members were largely of German, Austrian, and Swedish descent. “Today, we see the growth of the Chinese and Russian artists in the organization,” Adams says. “It’s really exciting because they have brought with them the academic training that is pretty much lost in this country.”

Buena Vista Gold by Jack Johnson. painting, southwest art.
Buena Vista Gold by Jack Johnso

Expect to see some familiar names in this month’s Gold Medal Exhibition, such as Calvin Liang, Mian Situ, Jack Johnson, Rick Harper, and Joseph Mendez. Also on view are works by newcomers Jeanette Le Grue, Jeremy Lipking, Dali Higa, and Mark Kerckhoff.

This year’s exhibit is accompanied by a 156-page catalog documenting the careers of the artists and the works on display. The catalog includes an essay by Jane Dini, art historian and Woodrow Wilson Fellow in the Humanities at the University of California—Los Angeles.

Featured in May 2001

Portrait of Grace by Rick Harper. painting southwest art.
Portrait of Grace by Rick Harper