Frank Lloyd’s blog

Art, architecture and the people that I know.

The Two Californias

with 7 comments

Camp_Bluff_Lake_letter copyI don’t know how many times I’ve made the drive from L.A. to the Bay Area. The number is well over 100, and spans a time period of over 50 years. Even as a child, I was irrationally obsessed with images of San Francisco, and begged my parents to take me there. My family traveled together on the train in August of 1960. We were tourists that first time, and I recorded the vacation in a short essay for my fourth grade class, with what was my very best effort at penmanship.

I’ve just returned from a road trip; this time it was part business and part pleasure. Stops in Oakland, Fairfax and Sebastopol were for gallery duties—picking up and dropping off artworks, and viewing a painting. During the long drive, I had a chance to reflect on my multiple trips, and my relationship to the oft-cited divide between the two regions of California. The divisions of geography, climate, politics, and culture are often the subjects of debate. The controversies and arguments can grow passionate—especially the rivalry between Dodger and Giant fans.

Road_Trip_1 copyBut what I was recalling—the people I know in the world of art—was a different story. It demonstrates how very much interrelated the lives of the artists and the two regions are. Let’s take, for example, the story of our artist Richard Shaw, who was born in Hollywood and lived in Newport Beach before becoming a resident of the quintessential Northern California town of Fairfax. Or consider the history of my friend, the late Henry Hopkins, a UCLA graduate who went on to become the Curator of Exhibitions and Publications at LACMA, before his tenure as Director at SFMOMA, and then his eventual return to the Hammer. Don’t forget about Richard Diebenkorn, whose first shows were in the Bay Area, but produced perhaps his most well-known series of paintings in a studio in Ocean Park, a neighborhood in Santa Monica. Peter Selz, who had a stay in Claremont before going to MOMA as the Chief Curator of Painting, eventually wound up in Berkeley. Peter Voulkos, a Montana native who attended California College of Arts and Crafts for his master’s degree, came to L.A. during the period of 1954 to 1959, then returned to Berkeley.

This list could go on, but the thought persists: Is there really such a division between the two Californias? I think not. Yes, the politics and culture may differ overall, but the people travel freely through some sort of permeable membrane. I have lived and worked in both the North and South, and so have many of my friends. Though I must be clear about one thing: I’m still a Dodger fan.

7 Responses

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  1. I lived in San Francisco from 1954 through 1965. It’s where I met my wife and had the most meaningful experiences in the amazing theater company, The S.F. Actor’s Workshop. It was the time of ‘the beat movement’ . Poets like Ferlinghetti , Ginsberg ,Gary Snyder and Kenneth Rexroth
    were part of the thriving scene. My work at San Quentin began in 1958. My wife asked if we might move back to San Francisco just before she died. I visit the City often but my life is here in L.A.

    Alan Mandell

    June 28, 2014 at 3:24 am

  2. I should have included your background with San Francisco in the post, Alan. Your work in the Bay Area included the Samuel Beckett play, Waiting for Godot, in 1957, with inmates at San Quentin State Prison. (The San Quentin Drama Workshop is a group that Mandel founded in 1958). And, as you have recalled, the artist Robert Hudson once made a sword for a production at the S.F. Actor’s workshop. I’m glad you are here in L.A., though, and such a great supporter of the gallery.

    Frank Lloyd

    June 28, 2014 at 3:29 pm

  3. Alan and Frank I am glad you are both in LA. I too lived in both areas for college. Art crosses the natural boundaries.

    Joan Takayama-Ogawa

    June 28, 2014 at 6:01 pm

  4. My first trip to the West Coast (from Scotland ) was on a travelling scholarship from Edinburgh in 1979. I was visiting West Coast ceramic artists. Your Blog took me straight back to California and the Richard Avedon show in the Museum in Oakland! On that trip I spent around 6 weeks in San Franicisco and similar in LA. As you mention the contrast between the cities is remarkable both in climate and architecture. Their creative atmosphere also felt very different. I was lucky enough to meet Peter Voulkos, Ron Nagle, Viola Frey,Stephen de Saebler, Clayton Bailey, Bob Arneson and his wife Sandra Shannonhouse and in the north and Paul Soldner and Michael Frimkess and others in the south. The work going on was so unlike anything that was happening in the UK.

    By the way……the stunning photo on your Blog could have been taken in Scotland!
    Sorry this is so long!

    Jennifer Lee

    June 29, 2014 at 11:13 am

  5. Thanks for the comment, Jennifer. I have more photographs, and will post them soon. Some may look even more like Scotland, perhaps.

    Frank Lloyd

    June 29, 2014 at 5:34 pm

  6. […] and France were not far behind. But, what did the viewers comment on the most? A post titled “The Two Californias”, in which I talked about the oft-cited but misunderstood division between the northern and […]

  7. […] I’ve written before about the ways that Northern and Southern California are often compared and contrasted: divisions, disagreements, climates, and permeable lines.  But here’s another example of an artist who traveled back and forth, living in both cities, and exhibiting in related galleries. […]

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