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"One Night In California - Contemporary Nocturnes" Co-Curated with the Bakersfield Art Museum
Aiden Kringen
Alan Feltus
Albert Paley
Amy Weiskopf

“One Night In California – Contemporary Nocturnes” Co-Curated with the Bakersfield Art Museum Works Biography

One Night in California: Contemporary Nocturnes

The creative history of California is laced with a dissonance and spirit of innovation that transcends traditional genres and histories, due in part to the state’s geographical location: 5000 miles east of the European establishment and 5000 miles west of the Eastern world, with potentially greater psychological distance from our counter-coast and its epicenter, New York City. Additionally, the pioneering mentality is heavily influenced by the state’s comparatively abbreviated history and the way young societies tend to invent culture and traditions. These two factors have contributed to an exploratory nature breeding experimentation, followed by international excitement and success. The forerunners in many creative fields including music, film, writing, and of course fine art have collectively captured a magnetism of a subversive California-cool culture.  While there are many distinct fine art movements unique to our state such as California Impressionism, Mid-Century Modernism, Fetish Finish, Bay Area Figurative, Funk Art, Light and Space, and F. 64, there is also a distinct practice of reinterpreting and challenging established genre, style and philosophy.  Engaging with the latter, Nocturne Painting has become a primary channel through which the artist explores and exploits convention within the California lens.

Nocturne, a term first used to define a type of music inspired or representative of the night, was initially applied to painting by James Abbott McNeill Whistler (1834 – 1903) in the 19th Century and has come to represent any work that is suggestive of the night and its subjects. Nocturne paintings ultimately explore a subject as it appears in a veil of light, twilight, or in the absence of direct light. For the artist, painting nocturnes is an adventurous way to experience the realm of the unknown: either something never seen before, or a familiar subject seen in an unfamiliar way. While searching for comparisons between light and dark, this work mystifies and intrigues. Delving into the mysterious night, the artist interprets each abstract element in the darkness, courageously embracing the shadows.

The nature of California and its evocative nights have fueled artists who continue to create work within the genre. One of the state’s earliest examples of nocturnal work was produced by Charles Rollo Peters (1862-1928), a Monterey County resident, who specialized in mysterious nighttime paintings often of ruined adobes. Peters’ work established a tradition that has seamlessly aligned with the experimental nature of California. Contemporary Californian artists are mesmerized by the many facets of a California night for in much of the state the mild weather allows year-round outdoor living and exploration and the landscape is dynamic and varied from mountain to sea, urban to rural-each hyper-activated by the vast wildlife, industry, and metropolitan centers. Artists have allowed these subjects to move further away from direct observation and often into the realm of the conceptual, philosophically exploring concepts of dreams and nostalgia.

Organized by Winfield Gallery and hosted at Bakersfield Museum of Art, this exhibition and its accompanying soundtrack (produced by Film Music Supervisor and Archivist, Tim Burnett), highlights over 20 artists and surveys how the environment and energy of California continues to stimulate reinterpretations of what a Nocturne is and how each manifestation becomes a unique documentation of One Night in California.

Rachel Magnus, Curator

Bakersfield Museum of Art

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