Bay Area Figurative Art

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A movement of mid-20th-century American artists based in San Francisco who abandoned the dominant Abstract Expressionist style of the period and returned to figuration. The four artists initially associated with the term were David Park, Elmer Bischoff, Richard Diebenkorn, and James Weeks, who shifted away from the influences of the area’s prominent abstract painters (like Clyfford Still) around 1950. Later on, painters like Nathan Oliveira and Joan Brown, and a single sculptor, Manuel Neri, joined the movement. These artists rendered genre scenes, local landscapes, and figure paintings with a luminous palette. In the 1960s, their works became increasingly idiosyncratic, to the extent that they bled into the Funk Art movement of the San Francisco underground. Aided by Diebenkorn’s return to abstraction in the late 1960s, the movement fell into decline, though artists like Elmer Bischoff, maintained their styles into the 1970s. Seminal to the development of Bay Area Figurative Art were the area’s art schools and institutions such as the Oakland Museum, which mounted an exhibition of these artists in 1957.

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