Stremmel Gallery Presents
February 5– May 16
Looking back on a 45-year career as an art dealer, it has been interesting
to note how the art world has changed, and subsequently, how our
point of view as a gallery has evolved and shifted along with it. Over
the years, we have represented artists who outgrew us and moved onto
mega-galleries. Conversely, we have represented artists who, for one
reason or another, have found that making art over the period of a
lifetime has proved too daunting or they have simply run out of things
to say. Through it all, we have tried to maintain a certain balance, by
exhibiting works that we felt were provocative, topical, and sometimes
even confrontational – while still maintaining a certain standard we
established in the early years. It has been somewhat challenging for us to
try to remain relevant in the face of certain realities of maintaining an
art gallery, with a large staff and facility, in what is essentially a regional
market. However, we have been fortunate over the years to have the
support of a limited, but enthusiastic collector base throughout the
The works being shown here represent a handful of artists who we feel
best epitomize the overall focus of Stremmel Gallery. Many of them
work on a much larger scale, but we hope their visions and their voices
will resonate and, to some extent, find an audience at Sacramento State’s
University Gallery – an institution which over the years has nurtured
the talents of many of today’s leading contemporary artists.
“It’s something how the life will fall as to how the heart is tossed.”
John Stewart, songwriter (1939 - 2008)
As my grandmother would say whenever the occasion presented itself, “It’s not right, but it’s so.” So, even though Charles Arnoldi, today, is a mature and profoundly innovative artist at the zenith of a thirty-year career, to the Venice Beach artists with whom his life and career has always been associated, he is still “the kid”-the d’Artagnan of the Venice Musketeers, prone to spontaneous acts of profound innocence, generosity, enthusiasm and aesthetic impropriety. He shares with them a passion for the material world and a commitment to unflagging studio production; he shares their comfort level with the business of the art business and with the insouciance of California social life. But he’s still “the kid.” Like Ed Ruscha, Joe Goode and Billy Al Bengston he is a refugee from the flat banality of the American Middle West, from the concrete grids of streets called Elm and Jefferson punctuated with Circle Ks and hardware stores. Like them, he came to Los Angeles to be a commercial artist and fell among evil companions. Worse even than being “the kid,” however, Arnoldi is also “a natural,” has always been “a natural,” has always been told that he was, in fact, “a natural.” As Robert Rauschenberg (who should know) once explained to him, once you are regarded as “a natural,” no matter how hard you work, no matter how much you struggle and sacrifice, people will always think it’s easy for you. And, in a sense it is, since work is not labor. “Naturals,” Rauschenberg told me once, have “smart bodies, smart hands and smart eyes.” This, however, doesn’t mean that they don’t have smart minds, as well. It just means you can’t sort out the fields of intuition after the fact. “We used to call that talent,” Bob said, “but that’s too positive a word these days.” Henry James said much the same thing when he observed that ideas are the food of art, which, in “the art of ideas,” remains mostly undigested.
by Dave Hickey
Rudy Autio (1926-2007) was one of the most masterful and influential artists working with clay in the United States. Born in Butte, Montana, Autio lived in his native state throughout most of his career. He headed the ceramics area at the University of Montana for 28 years before retiring as Professor Emeritus of the School of Fine Arts. Before his appointment at the University of Montana, Autio was a founding resident artist at the Archie Bray Ceramics Foundation in Helena, Montana. Autio received a Tiffany Award in Crafts in 1963, the American Ceramic Society Art Award in 1978, and a National Endowment grant in 1980, enabling him to work and lecture at the Arabia Porcelain Factory and the Applied Arts University in Helsinki, Finland. While there, he was elected honorary member of Ornamo, Finland’s Designers organization. In 1981 he was the first recipient of the Governor’s Award and named outstanding visual artist in the state of Montana. He was a Fellow of the American Crafts Council, Honorary member of the National Council of Education in the Ceramic Arts, and recipient of the honorary Doctorate of Art from the Maryland Institute, College of Art in Baltimore. In November 1999, he was awarded the American Craftsman’s Gold Medal Award in ceremonies at the Mint Museum in Charlotte, N.C. While Autio’s best-known work is figurative ceramic vessels, he worked in a variety of materials and other media. In addition to commissions in ceramic relief and tile murals, he worked in bronze, concrete, glass, fabricated metal sculpture, and design of colorful Rya tapestries. Most of these were commissioned for public buildings in the Northwest and one is in Finland.
Robert Brady began his artistic career as a potter. This lead him into figurative ceramic sculpture and eventually to figurative wood sculpture. He is very prolific and seems to move effortlessly between pottery, ceramic sculpture and wood sculpture, with his unique style and imagery morphing, yet remaining uniquely distinguishable.
Born in Reno, Nevada, Brady is a former professor of Art and taught full time at California State University, Sacramento, CA; Robert Brady earned his BFA at California College of Arts and Crafts, and went on to earn an MFA at the University of California.
Robert Brady’s exhibition history spans almost 40 years with initial showings being at the Museum of Contemporary Crafts in New York and most recently with a travelling exhibition with the Palo Alto Art Center, CA, including time at the Fuller Craft Museum in Brockton, MA.
Artwork by Robert Brady is featured in several major public and private collections in the US including: De Young Fine Art Museum, San Francisco CA; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, CA; Renwick Gallery, Smithsonian Museum, Washington D.C.; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, Holland.
Born in San Diego, California, on the day of the 75th running of the Kentucky Derby, Deborah Butterfield credits this event as determining her career as a modernist sculptor of horses.
Her work is a combination of abstraction and reality. She uses found objects, related to both horses and the discards of modern society, and applies these symbolic objects to armaments that are realistic shapes of horses’ bodies. The overall effect is of a large, strong, loveable animal, gentle and calm, and it is obvious from the gentle personality conveyed by the objects that she has a strong affinity and understanding of her subjects.
Butterfield received a Master of Fine Arts Degree from the University of California at Davis where she was a student of modernists William T Wiley, Robert Arneson, and Wayne Thiebaud. Her training in ceramics and sculpture increased her interest in crafts, but she decided to pursue the subject matter that was of most interest to her–horses.
Her work has progressed through three stages. In the 1970s, she structured large, gentle mares that were highly realistic and were lifesize plaster over steel armatures and were finished with a combination of thin oil paint, ceramic glazes and shellac. She used muted blues and other colors, treating the horse romantically as though it were a canvas to be painted.
In later works she took a more abstract approach, eliminating plaster and using mud mixed with straw, branches and other fibers that had a direct connection to the earth. Sometimes she used paper mache and tar on the outside.
She has taught art in several universities including the University of Wisconsin and the University of Montana and then settled her studio on her ranch in Bozeman, Montana, where she also raises horses.
Jun Kaneko was born in Nagoya, Japan in 1942. He studied painting there with Satoshi Ogawa during his adolescence, working in his studio during the day and attending high school in the evening. He came to the United States in 1963 to continue those studies at Chouinard Institute of Art when his introduction to Fred Marer drew him to sculptural ceramics. He proceeded to study with Peter Voulkos, Paul Soldner, and Jerry Rothman in California during the time now defined as The Contemporary Ceramics Movement in America. The following decade, Kaneko taught at some of the nation’s leading art schools, including Scripps College, Rhode Island School of Design and Cranbrook Academy of Art. Mr. Kaneko’s artwork appears in numerous international solo and group exhibitions annually, and is included in more than fifty museum collections. He has realized over thirty public art commissions in the United States and Japan and has been honored with national, state and organization fellowships and an honorary doctorate from the Royal College of Art in London.
He created series’ of large-scale sculptures from 1982-1983 at his Omaha Project, from 1992-1994 at his Fremont Project in California and from 2004-2007 at his Pittsburg Project in Kansas, both at Mission Clay Products. Recently Jun designed the set and costumes for a new production of Puccini’s Madama Butterfly, which premiered at Opera Omaha in March of 2006 and continues to tours nationally. He is currently designing a production of Fidelio with the Opera Company Philadelphia. He and his wife Ree Kaneko are also in the process of opening KANEKO, a non-profit scholarly and presenting organization for the exploration of creativity in the arts, sciences and philosophy.
John Mason was born in 1927. He was raised in the Midwest and Nevada, and moved to Los Angeles at the age of 22 to study ceramics at Otis Art Institute. In 1954, following a short stint at Chouinard Art Institute, Mason returned to Otis to train in ceramics under artist Peter Voulkos. Mason and Voulkos developed a close working relationship, sharing a studio where they developed new equipment for experimenting with ceramics, exploring new possibilities in scale, surface quality, and technique. After meeting Walter Hopps and Edward Kienholz in 1957, Mason joined the stable of artists at the Ferus Gallery, exhibiting there several times until the gallery’s closure in 1966.
Mason’s early Vertical Sculptures from the early 1960s were associated with contemporary trends in Abstract Expressionism and also with the aesthetics of primitivism. In its “rawness, spontaneity, and expressiveness,” as writer Richard Marshall has described it, the pieces “give the impression of having been formed by natural forces. The formal and technical aspects of balance, proportion, and stability–although purposefully planned and controlled–are subsumed by the very presence of the material itself.”
Mason later equipped his studio to prepare, manipulate, and fire monumental sculptures in clay, many of which had to be fired in pieces weighing over a ton in kilns that had already been adapted to serve his large-scale purposes.
A subsequent series represents a conceptual approach to Mason’s interest in mathematics, one that is concerned less with the physical properties of clay as a medium and more with what those properties allow one to represent.
Manuel Neri was born in Sanger, California, in 1930. He studied in Oakland, California at the California College of Arts and Crafts, and in San Francisco at the California School of Fine Arts. He has participated in, and has been featured worldwide in numerous group and solo exhibitions in museums and private galleries. He is one of the only figurative sculptors to have been connected with the acclaimed 1950s-1960s San Francisco Bay Area figurative painters.
Initially, Neri began sculpting in “junk” burlap, wire, and cardboard and then plaster. His style is unique: he creates a figure, most often the same female used in a variety of poses and then paints it with vibrant colors using very lush and expressive brush strokes. His mediums include bronze, marble, graphite, oil-stick, and plaster. During the 1978-1980 period, his works were mainly created on paper via photographed poses. He would ‘invent’ the bodies underneath the clothes by painting over the glossy pages.
Neri has been influenced greatly by many of his teachers and mentors, including Elmer Bischoff, David Park, Nathan Oliveira, and Richard Diebenkorn, who integrated the lessons of abstract expressionism into figurative painting and drawing. Their approaches emphasized spontaneity, intuition, and an overall formal composition.
Manuel Neri is a member of the Bay Area Figurative School (including Richard Diebenkorn and David Park) and maintains studios in Benicia, California and in Carrara, Italy.
Stephen De Staebler
Stephen Lucas De Staebler was born on March 24, 1933, in St. Louis. While working toward a bachelor’s degree in religion at Princeton, he made art on the side and spent a summer at Black Mountain College studying painting with Ben Shahn and Robert Motherwell. After receiving his bachelor’s degree in 1954, he served with the Army in West Germany. He enrolled at Berkeley intending to teach art in the public schools but, after receiving his teaching credentials, earned a master’s degree in art in 1961.
He exhibited widely, particularly in the Bay Area, where he taught for many years at the San Francisco Art Institute and San Francisco State University.
In 1988 Saddleback College in Mission Viejo, Calif., organized the traveling exhibition “Stephen De Staebler: The Figure.” Reviewing the show at the Neuberger Museum of Art at the State University of New York, Purchase, Michael Brenson, in The New York Times, noted the enigmatic, disjointed nature of Mr. De Staebler’s art.
“In his human comedy, wholeness has no meaning,” he wrote. “His men and women, when it is clear that they are men or women, seem like pieces of a puzzle without a key.” By this time, Mr. De Staebler had begun working in bronze as well as clay.
“Matter and Spirit: Stephen De Staebler,” his retrospective, opened at the de Young Museum in San Francisco in January 2012.
University Library Gallery
Phil Hitchcock, Director
University Library Gallery