San Jose Museum of Art

photo: John Hazeltine

San Jose, CA



Urban Invasion: Chester Arnold and James Doolin

July 28 - October 14, 2001


Realist painters Chester Arnold and James Doolin present two distinct but complementary visions of the urban landscape. Urban Invasion, which is the first major museum exhibition for each artist, includes 33 large-scale paintings. In fantastical works dating from 1973 to the present, Doolin turns the concrete freeways and car-congested city of Los Angeles into visions of unexpected beauty. In contrast, Arnold's richly colored paintings from 1992 to the present caution of man's destructive relationship with his fellow man and his intrusion upon the natural environment. The exhibition is on view from July 28th through October 14th, 2001. (left: Chester Arnold, "The Fate of Durable Goods," 1999, Oil on linen, 42 x 50 inches, Collection of Lisille and Henry Matheson, Photograph: John Wilson White. Copyright and courtesy of the artist)

Bay Area-based artist Chester Arnold depicts the contemporary world on the brink of disaster in technically, narratively, and psychologically complex works. For his paintings, he draws inspiration from the Old Masters - in particular, Flemish Renaissance painter Pieter Brueghel and German Romantic painter Caspar David Friedrich - whose work he encountered as a boy in Germany. To this tradition, Arnold adds modern-day but age-old dilemmas concerning life versus death and man versus nature. His dark and curious narratives feature roadways carved into the countryside, threatening crowds at sports events, and enormous piles of discarded material possessions. Although man inhabits and attempts to control the landscape, he is small and powerless in the cosmic picture. Ultimately, nature and death will always triumph. (right: Chester Arnold, "Colosseum," 1998, Oil on linen, 66 x 80 inches, Collection of Katie and Drew Gibson. Photograph: John Wilson White. Copyright and courtesy of the artist)

Arnold also draws contemporary connections to religious allegories and Biblical stories, as illustrated in the titles and imagery of works such as Four Rivers of Eden (1997) and Thy Kingdom Come II (1999).

By contrast, painter James Doolin celebrates the conquest and ironic beauty of the urban landscape in Los Angeles, where he has made his home for the past 34 years. From shimmering downtown nightscapes to rhythmic freeway interchanges with dramatic sunsets, Los Angeles has never possessed such magical qualities. Doolin does not judge the monumental, manmade landscape. Throughout his career, his painting has primarily been driven by "interesting visual material," which he finds in the world around him. As well, Doolin's diverse oeuvre - moving from geometric abstract paintings, followed by ethereal abstract paintings, to desert paintings, and urban vistas - has always focused on the landscape. Doolin's forte is light, often the glow of the city at night or the silvery light that makes a surreal magic out of smoggy afternoons. His visions of Los Angeles symbolically capture the allure of this city of dreams. (left: James Doolin, "Twilight," 1999, oil on canvas, 82 x 72 inches, Collection of Sam Simon, Los Angeles. Photograph: Brian Forrest. Copyright and courtesy of the artist)

Doolin draws inspiration from diverse art movements such as Impressionism, the Ashcan School, Pop Art, and the California visionary tradition. Doolin often chooses to paint ordinary objects such as storefront windows, neon signs, and graffiti-scribbled freeways. However, as Los Angeles Times critic Christopher Knight recently wrote, the artist "has a gift for endowing the everyday with a sense of estrangement. His best paintings embrace a mad beauty associated with cartoons, which makes their factual realism all the more astounding."

Chester Arnold was born in Santa Monica, California in 1952, and currently lives in Sonoma. He earned his MFA from San Francisco Art Institute in 1987. He has had solo exhibitions at the De Saisset Museum at Santa Clara University; Susan Cummins Gallery; George Adams Gallery, NY; Elizabeth Leach Gallery, Portland, OR; and San Jose State University Art Gallery. Arnold has been an instructor at San Francisco Art Institute and Sonoma State University in Rohnert Park, and currently teaches at College of Marin in Kentfield.

James Doolin was born in 1932 in Hartford, Connecticut. He received his BFA degree from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia in 1954 and attended Pratt Institute before earning his MFA from UCLA in 1971. His work has been shown at California State Fullerton, the University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh, the University of Southern California's Atelier Gallery, Santa Monica, and Victorian College of the Arts, Melbourne, Australia. Since 1984, he has had four exhibitions at the Koplin Gallery in West Hollywood. He has resided in Los Angeles since 1967. (left: James Doolin, "Psychic," 1998, Oil on canvas, 54 x 36 inches, Private Collection. Copyright and courtesy of the artist)

The exhibition is curated by Patricia Hickson, SJMA associate curator. It is accompanied by a 56-page, four-color catalogue with essays by Hickson and assistant curator Karen Kienzle. The catalogue, which is softcover, is available for purchase from The Museum Store at SJMA.

Please also see "Chester Arnold: Realizing Meaning," by Karen Kienzle and "James Doolin's Illusionistic Vision," by Patricia Hickson.

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