In the Shadow of Mt. Tam
31 January - 17 March 2023
Anthony Meier is pleased to present In the Shadow of Mt. Tam––a historical exhibition that explores the rich artistic history of Marin County from the 1940s through the 1970s. On view from 31 January - 17 March 2023, the exhibition is the first at the gallery’s new flagship location in Mill Valley, California.
In the Shadow of Mt. Tam will thread together the allure of Marin’s distinctive natural environment and Mt. Tam itself, as well as the impact of community and place on these artist’s burgeoning practices. Artists include Etel Adnan, JB Blunk, Jess, Jay DeFeo, Robert Duncan, Gordon Onslow Ford, Luchita Hurtado, David Ireland, Lee Mullican, Bruce Nauman, Wolfgang Paalen, Barbara Stauffacher Solomon, Lawrence Weiner, William T. Wiley, and Rick Yoshimoto. The exhibition will be accompanied by a catalog featuring an essay by art historian Michael Auping.
Across the Golden Gate Bridge and a mere seven miles from San Francisco, Mill Valley is situated in the heart of Marin County, which has remained a haven for artistic production for some of the most influential artists of the twentieth century. While the region is often associated with the California counterculture movement of the 60s and 70s, it may be best known for the view of Mount Tamalpais, surrounded by redwood valleys with an unobstructed view of the bay. The exhibition features artists that have lived there, responded to the landscape, and participated in the distinctive local culture and community of the time. As Etel Adnan once wrote: “Standing on Mount Tamalpais I am in the rhythms of the world. Everything seems right as it is. I am in harmony with the stars, for the better or the worst.”
Michael Auping’s accompanying essay, Away from City Lights: On the Roads Around Mount Tam, chronicles the rich history of artists living in the region, from writers of the Beat generation who found Mount Tam magnetic, to British artist Gordon Onslow Ford. After moving to the Bay Area in 1947, Onslow Ford convinced well-known Austrian Surrealist Wolfgang Paalen and his wife, the Venezuelan-born artist Luchita Hurtado, to move to the region, where they settled in Mill Valley and later rented a room to artist Lee Mullican. Onslow Ford, Paalen, and Mullican quickly formed a collective they called Dynaton, which merged aspects of European surrealism—automatism and the primacy of the unconscious—and the surrounding California landscape as their points of departure. Hurtado, working outside the group, created drawings and paintings in response to the natural vibrancy of the area and her body’s place in it, and, as Auping notes, “Hurtado’s body and the landscape became one.”
It is this communion between the body and nature that connects many of the artists included in the exhibition, including Etel Adnan, who created many paintings of Mt. Tam between 1977 and 2021; JB Blunk, who transformed fallen trees from the surrounding Inverness forests into expressive, fantastical sculptures, and his apprentice, Rick Yoshimoto, whose elegant furniture appears to emerge from its organic form. For others, such as artist Jay DeFeo, who found new inspiration in the region after she had stopped painting, and the reclusive artist Jess, Marin was a place of regeneration and uninhibited experimentation. Bruce Nauman created some of his earliest experimental films in Mill Valley, and Lawrence Weiner, created his first artwork, Cratering Pieces (1960), by exploding dynamite in the four corners of a field in Marin County.
Writes Auping: “The feeling of freedom did seem to be a central ingredient of what made the area attractive to artists, but it was a creative freedom without pressure or competition [...] When I think of the shadows around Mount Tam, I don’t think of art centers or art communities, per se. I think of special places outside of cities—Laurel Canyon near Los Angeles; Santa Fe, New Mexico; or Woodstock, New York—where artists, musicians, and poets go to create a distance from the ‘official art world’ so they can find the unique nature of themselves and their art.”