Arion Lyre

83. The Structure of Rime, by Robert Duncan, with etchings by Frank Lobdell

Frank Lobdell

Frank Lobdell is one of America's premier postwar abstract painters. In his diverse and long career—from his intense and turbulent abstract expressionism of the fifties through the introduction of the figure in the seventies to his present day exploration of archetypal symbols that “speak to the experience of living"—Lobdell has maintained a spiritual engagement with his work, reinventing and recycling the ideas behind his imagery.

Although his work falls into the genre of abstraction, Lobdell's interest in anthropomorphic shapes, pre-Christian iconography, fertility symbols, and his references to textile designs and primitive art are persistent throughout his œuvre. In this sense, his painting shares a strong affinity with certain aspects of surrealism, specifically as practiced by Picasso, Miró, and Klee.

Lobdell's early paintings from the late forties and fifties are dark and powerful abstractions. After fighting in World War II, Lobdell struggled with the effect of war on the psyche. Many of the works contain specific iconographic symbols and mark the beginning of a carefully cultivated personal symbology that Lobdell would return to throughout his career.

In the sixties and seventies, Lobdell began to move away from gestural abstraction and started to explore the possibilities inherent in representation with the introduction of more literal figures. During this same period, Lobdell, a gifted draftsman, participated in a weekly drawing session with other Bay Area artists, notably Richard Diebenkorn, Elmer Bischoff, and Nathan Oliveira.

Born in Kansas City, Missouri, in 1921, Frank Lobdell studied with Cameron Booth at the St. Paul School of Fine Arts in Minnesota. From 1942 until 1946, Lobdell saw active service in Europe during World War II. Upon return, Lobdell attended the California School of Fine Arts (now the San Francisco Art Institute), when Clyfford Still and Mark Rothko taught there. Lobdell taught at CSFA from 1957 to 1965 and later at Stanford University (1966–1991). He resides in Palo Alto with his wife Jinx.

Frank Lobdell is a recipient of the Medal for Distinguished Achievement in Painting from the American Academy and Institute of Arts & Letters. He has been the subject of museum retrospectives at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco's Legion of Honor and the Portland Art Museum, Oregon. His work is included in the collections of the Smithsonian Museum of American Art, Washington D.C.; Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena, CA; Oakland Museum of California; San Jose Museum of Art; Portland Art Museum, Oregon,; and others. In 2003, the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco and Hudson Hills Press published Frank Lobdell: The Art of Making and Meaning, a 400-page monograph charting Lobdell's work and career. Lobdell is represented by the Hackett-Freedman Gallery, San Francisco. We are indebted to his dealers for the foregoing information about him and his work.

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