On the Porch

Roger Kuntz
On the Porch
Oil on canvas, c. 1958
26 1/2 x 32 inches
Gift of the Virginia Steele Scott Foundation
1980.047

Beginning in 1958, Roger Kuntz and his family spent their summers in a ramshackle cottage at the seaside colony of Crystal Cove in Laguna Beach. There he made a series of paintings and drawings of the cottage and its porch, capturing the space and light of the California coast. The Crystal Cove paintings were the catalyst for Kuntz’s greatest body of work, the Freeway series, which brought him national acclaim in the early 1960s.

At this point in his career, Kuntz was searching for what he called “the middle ground” between representation and abstraction, seeking to create an art that was intelligible to the viewer but was sophisticated in its approach. He focused primarily on isolated figures in interiors and landscapes drawn from everyday life. Kuntz usually created multiple versions of the same subject, ranging from detailed, representational paintings such as On the Porch to more austere, abstract works exploring color, form, and texture.

In the foreground of On the Porch, we see a narrow volume of space within the confines of the porch rail, where the artist’s wife Mocky sits reading in the warmth of the sun. Inside, through an open window, we glimpse a loosely rendered tabletop still life. On the far left, lies the deep space of the open sea. Kuntz divides the canvas using the vertical and horizontal elements of the porch railing, allowing a strong vertical to obscure the figure of his wife. This, and the casual arrangement of the table and director’s chairs on the porch, contributes to the quintessential description of the casual California lifestyle.