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November, 1961

Frank Lobdell

American, 1921-2013
Oil on canvas
71-1/2 x 60-1/8 in. (181.6 x 152.7 cm)
Norton Simon Museum, Anonymous Gift through the American Federation of Art, Museum Donor Program
P.1962.26
© 2011 Frank Lobdell

Not on view

After serving as a lieutenant in the U.S. Army during World War II, Frank Lobdell settled in California to study at the California School of Fine Arts (now the San Francisco Art Institute), where he subsequently began his teaching career. From 1966–1991, he taught at Stanford University. Walter Hopps, co-founder of the Ferus Gallery in Los Angeles, admired Lobdell’s work and gave him a solo show in 1964 and again in 1966 at the Pasadena Museum of Art (now the Norton Simon Museum), where Hopps was then director. Lobdell is identified with the San Francisco School of Abstract Expressionism, a group that worked parallel to the New York School. This painting evokes the gestural, emotional and personal character of that movement in contrast to the cooler, measured and self-effacing work of most of the artists in this exhibition.

Here, a biomorphic motif’s upward ascent is frustrated by the frame’s edge. Caught in a gloomy environment absent spatial or temporal reference, the coiled, gut-like apparition assumes an existential presence which is heightened by Lobdell’s gritty facture and harsh palette. The belief that an artist can find himself in the expressive act of painting and convey universal truths or emotions was primary to the Abstract Expressionist ethos and may explain the haunting aspect of November. This painting may also communicate Lobdell’s empathy for the “human condition as an endless struggle for meaning, purpose and dignity,” a concern in his art that he has acknowledged.

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