OPENING RECEPTION: 1ST THURSDAY, OCTOBER 4 FROM 5 - 8pm
As part of the gallery’s ongoing commitment to showcase and document the best of Santa Barbara’s historical and contemporary art scene, Sullivan Goss is proud to present The Red-Headed Stepchild: The History of Collage & Assemblage in Santa Barbara: 1955-2018. Santa Barbara’s engagement with collage as a fine art form dates back to the mid 1950s when William Dole (1910-1985) began to make the delicate paper collages that eventually brought him international acclaim. The city’s first assemblage artist, meanwhile, was almost certainly John Bernhardt (1921-1963), who arrived and began making assemblages in 1959.
Collage and assemblage as fine art processes have roots in Synthetic Cubism (1912-1914) and in the Dada readymades of Marcel Duchamp (c. 1913), but with a limited number of exceptions (some major, like Joseph Cornell (1903-1972)), the processes were largely sidelined until the mid 1950s when artists like Gordon Wagner (1915-1987), Robert Rauschenberg (1925-2008), and Edward Kienholz (1927-1994) took them back up again. Santa Barbara’s first assemblage artist, John Bernhardt, took up the art form without the knowledge of any of these other artists’ works.
Building a home for himself and his family in the beatnik “Mountain Drive” community, Bernhardt’s junkyard scavenging trips lead to the development of a new body of work, but it was a short lived practice. He died in 1963 at age 42. The next year, Thomas Leavitt presided over the organization of a retrospective for Bernhardt at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art and a masterwork was taken into the museum’s permanent collection. (Today, his work is rare as much of it was destroyed in the Tea Fire.)
In successive waves, a tradition took hold. Aage Pedersen (1920-2011) – who showed with Bernhardt at the now forgotten Gallery 8 on Anapamu Street – made assemblages that were as bold as any made in L.A. during the same period. Ken Nack (1923-2009) was already an international artist with a major national museum exhibition history when he began teaching at S.B.C.C. in 1962. Ron Robertson followed close on their heels, having already studied at Black Mountain College alongside Cy Twombly (1928-2011) and Robert Rauschenberg when he arrived in 1967. (Robertson is the last living grandfather of the local scene at age 91!) Ron went on to teach virtually everywhere in Santa Barbara.
Local legend and Westmont Professor Emeritus Tony Askew followed close behind, learning his craft from William Rohrbach at U.C.S.B. (His major retrospective at the Westmont Ridley Tree Museum of Art will open shortly.) Mary Heebner studied with William Dole and later taught alongside him. Dug Uyesaka took her class before going on to teach himself. (Uyesaka currently has a show at the Santa Barbara Architectural Foundation.)
In 1986, the Contemporary Arts Forum and UCSB’s College of Creative Studies co-hosted Southern California Assemblage: Past and Present. (It was curated by Elena Mary Siff, who is also in this exhibition.) They also presented a major Reddin-Kienholz exhibition called The Art Show in that same year. In 1990, Art from Scrap started up with the mission of promoting assemblage in environmentalist terms. (Reuse is recycling, after all.) In other words, important institutions both took notice and were created to harness the local tradition.
The story is long, important, and rich with telling details. And yet. And yet, it is a story largely untold. Collage and assemblage certainly don’t enjoy the notoriety that plein air painting does. It is on that basis that artist Sue Van Horsen came up with the title The Red-Headed Stepchild. She and curator Jeremy Tessmer were musing over drinks on Tessmer’s notion that assemblage artists get invited to every family gathering in the Santa Barbara art world, but always seem relegated to the kids’ table. “Yeah, we’re like the red-headed stepchild,” she said.
This exhibition sets out to correct the record. It presents a long tradition with plenty of historical works, but it also tracks current practice. Artists in this exhibition include: TONY ASKEW • TAL AVITZUR • JOHN BERNHARDT • WILLIAM DOLE • PEGGY FERRIS • NANCY GIFFORD • INGA GUZYTE • MARY HEEBNER • ANGELA HOLLAND • FRANK KIRK • PHILIP KOPLIN • DAN LEVIN • MICHAEL LONG • VIRGINIA McCRACKEN • KEN NACK • RON ROBERTSON • JOE SHEA • ELENA MARY SIFF • SUSAN TIBBLES • SUE VAN HORSEN • HOWARD WARSHAW
Curator Jeremy Tessmer has produced a special hardcover book for the exhibition that outlines the general history of collage and assemblage in Santa Barbara and is lavishly illustrated.
5:19 | Narrated by Jeremy Tessmer | Released for THE RED-HEADED STEPCHILD: The History of Collage & Assemblage in Santa Barbara 1956-2018
"I look for microbubbles, that lie among the wheat, and bake them into mutton-pies and sell them in the street," to misquote Lewis Carroll. I've always wondered why the Walrus didn't mention microbubbles as well. He certainly didn't mind talking of those other things, like shoes, and ships and sealing wax. Whenever I see an exhibition of Assemblage Art, it puts me in the mind of Lewis Carroll's masterpiece, Alice in Wonderland.
Following two days of much-needed rain, the sun came through for October's 1st Thursday art walk, humming with crowded streets, galleries, and clubs. The art headliner was the Sullivan Goss Gallery exhibit trying the history of assemblage art in Santa Barbara from 1956-2018, aptly titled THE RED-HEADED STEPCHILD and curated by art historian and Gallery director of Sullivan Goss Jeremy Tessmer.
Amid the bustle of 1st Thursday in downtown Santa Barbara, friends and family slowly trickled into the Sullivan Goss Gallery to see the latest show titled “The Red-Headed Stepchild.”.
The show celebrates local artists who embrace the idea of taking the old and unwanted, and transforming it into something beautiful.
Sullivan Goss (11 E. Anapamu) hosts an important exhibition in October titled “The Red Headed Step-child: The History of Collage and Assemblage in Santa Barbara 1955-2018,” running through Sunday, October 14, and with a reception on Thursday, October 4.
Transforming upper State Street into a hub for visual art and creativity, many downtown venues will be joining forces to become the Santa Barbara Art District. The galleries, stretching from Sola to Figueroa Streets, will each be hosting opening receptions during 1st Thursday, October 4th from 5-8pm.
Collage and assemblage is an art form often overlooked as fine art and is instead considered child’s play. This is how artist Sue Van Horsen and Sullivan Goss curator Jeremy Tessmer came up with the title for this exhibition.
“Yeah, we’re like the red-headed stepchild,” she says, as she explains how assemblage artists get invited to gatherings in the Santa Barbara art world only to be seated at the kid’s table.