Hassel Smith is one of the California painters who best understood Abstract Expressionism. His calligraphic canvases retain the freshness, expressive line, and expansiveness that gained him an admiring audience.
Smith helped pioneer the San Francisco School of Abstract Expressionism that arose at the California School of Fine Arts (now the San Francisco Art Institute) in the memorable Douglas MacAgy years from 1945-1950. During that fertile period, he worked, exhibited, and taught alongside Ansel Adams, Mark Rothko, David Park, Edward Corbett, Elmer Bischoff, Clyfford Still, and Richard Diebenkorn.
In 1955, Smith moved to a property in Sebastopol where he grew apples and painted some of his finest abstract expressionist works. The paintings, which he created in his airy redwood shed, have been seen and admired in important museums, art galleries, and private collections in the United States and England. The works of that period reflect the painter’s exuberance, sardonic wit, and understanding of nonobjectivity.
Hassel Smith: 55 Years of Painting was originally curated by art historian Peter Selz for the Sonoma County Museum. Its appearance at Laguna Art Museum continued the Museum’s presentation of exhibitions exploring Bay Area Abstraction Expressionism. In 1996, the Museum originated The San Francisco School of Abstract Expressionism, which traveled to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.
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