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Robert Bechtle: A Retrospective by Janet…
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Robert Bechtle: A Retrospective

by Janet Bishop

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Robert Bechtle A Retrospective encompasses the artist's work from the 1960s to today, published to coincide with a major retrospective exhibition at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. There are four essays along with a text commentary which accompanies the plates. The essays are titled: Robert Becthle: Painting As We Are, A Place in the Sun, Photographic Guilt: the Painter and the Camera, and Alameda Gran Torino. The first essay discusses the artists' work in relation to his chronology, second looks at his paintings in terms of light and then humour and the third essay is self explanatory from its title. Following the section of plates is a Chronology, Exhibition History, Selected Bibliography and a Catalogue of the Exhibition.

The book is illustrated throughout in colour and black and with, the latter being either black and white snap shots or reproductions of charcoal drawings. There are 91 plates, mostly one to a page with a few occupying a double page, plus the many illustrations accompanying the essays and other sections.

There is inevitably a certain amount of repetition in the various essays, and while constant mention is made of Bechtle's use of photography and methods of transference of the images to canvass, none of them discusses in any depth how he his actually applies his paint. While it is frequently pointed out that the finished pictures from a distance, and of course in reproduction as in this book, look photorealistic, we are reminded that in fact the paint on closer inspection is relatively freely applied. Unfortunately we have to take the writers' word on this for there is not one life size detail of an oil painting, the nearest thing is the picture introducing the plates which is about one third life size, but it gives little away. I find this disappointing, it is akin to viewing the exhibition but not being allowed to venture any closer than around 15 feet to the pictures. The water colours and charcoal drawings, being initially smaller do not present such a problem.

It is nonetheless a handsome well produced volume; we can clearly glean the Becthle's primary subjects: cars, urban landscapes and people known to the artist; and the reproductions as here even greatly reduced in reproduction still manage to convey the freedom and vitality of the work. ( )
  presto | Apr 24, 2012 |
Robert Bechtle A Retrospective encompasses the artist's work from the 1960s to today, published to coincide with a major retrospective exhibition at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. There are four essays along with a text commentary which accompanies the plates. The essays are titled: Robert Becthle: Painting As We Are, A Place in the Sun, Photographic Guilt: the Painter and the Camera, and Alameda Gran Torino. The first essay discusses the artists' work in relation to his chronology, second looks at his paintings in terms of light and then humour and the third essay is self explanatory from its title. Following the section of plates is a Chronology, Exhibition History, Selected Bibliography and a Catalogue of the Exhibition.

The book is illustrated throughout in colour and black and with, the latter being either black and white snap shots or reproductions of charcoal drawings. There are 91 plates, mostly one to a page with a few occupying a double page, plus the many illustrations accompanying the essays and other sections.

There is inevitably a certain amount of repetition in the various essays, and while constant mention is made of Bechtle's use of photography and methods of transference of the images to canvass, none of them discusses in any depth how he his actually applies his paint. While it is frequently pointed out that the finished pictures from a distance, and of course in reproduction as in this book, look photorealistic, we are reminded that in fact the paint on closer inspection is relatively freely applied. Unfortunately we have to take the writers' word on this for there is not one life size detail of an oil painting, the nearest thing is the picture introducing the plates which is about one third life size, but it gives little away. I find this disappointing, it is akin to viewing the exhibition but not being allowed to venture any closer than around 15 feet to the pictures. The water colours and charcoal drawings, being initially smaller do not present such a problem.

It is nonetheless a handsome well produced volume; we can clearly glean the Becthle's primary subjects: cars, urban landscapes and people known to the artist; and the reproductions as here even greatly reduced in reproduction still manage to convey the freedom and vitality of the work. ( )
  presto | Apr 24, 2012 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0520245431, Hardcover)

Tracing Robert Bechtle's career from his earliest paintings of the 1960s to the present day, this is the definitive book on one of the founders and foremost practitioners of American Photorealism. Created in close collaboration with the artist, Robert Bechtle will accompany the distinguished painter's first retrospective exhibition. Lavish plates feature reproductions of approximately ninety of Bechtle's most significant artworks, from large-scale oil paintings to intimate watercolors and drawings. These magnificent illustrations portray the range of the San Francisco-based painter's iconic imagery of California--the rows of palm trees, stucco houses, and the ubiquitous automobiles that spurred suburban expansion--as well as his lesser-known but equally compelling family scenes and stark interiors. Bechtle's preference for wide, empty spaces; his flat, sun-bleached palette; and his detached mode of recording random details impart a singular sense of alienation to his subjects. His deadpan paintings capture the essence of the postwar American experience, in which California often serves as the testing ground for the realization of national dreams.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:15:52 -0400)

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