The Wennesland Collection
From the late 1950’s and throughout the 1960’s, North Beach in San Francisco, California was a creative centre of the USA.
The Second World War had changed the USA forever. The Korean War cast great dark shadows across the nation.Progressive western civilization seemed to lose over and over again and the young post-war generation chose to look for alternatives to the norms and values of the established society. This rebellion was especially pronounced in California. Many of the young and rebellious looked to art for answers.
This now legendary generation is referred to as The Beat Generation. It represented a new attitude towards reality - “a new consciousness” they called it themselves. The Beat Generation considered itself beating the rhythm of life, but also out of step with society, worn out and defeated, beaten by history.
Through this generation, a new environment for visual arts grew in San Francisco.
A Norwegian physician was among the first to take an interest in this art. Reidar Wennesland (1908-1985) met many of the young artists as patients. Such as Arthur Monroe, Jay de Feo,George Herms and Michael Bowen. The word had spread in San Francisco about a doctor who accepted works of art as payment for his medical services. Wennesland also supported the artists by buying their works and got on well with the artists and their circles. Few other people at that time were interested in the artists of The Beat Generation and their art. Dr. Wennesland gathered a significant collection of Beat Art, consisting of about 200 works.
The art works shown in this exhibition are highly diverse and iconoclastic. We are indebted to traditions from American art of the early 1950’s which also heralded the coming iconoclastic tendencies of art in Europe and The United States.
Beat Art history notes the increasing extent of figuration in the paintings of our exhibition. At this point in time, figuration had long been almost absent from the visual arts, especially in New York City. An important basis for much of the new art from San Francisco was the experimentation, formally and thematically. The aesthetic expression through different media, colours, formal and informal, and the lifestyles developed to sustain the artists shows great openness, variety, intensity, and the will to survive. All important progenitors of what was soon to sweep across the world as the new cultural revolution.
As an attempt to describe the works shown here, one might comment that the art works typically change from exalted and vivid celebrations of life, to darker and gloomier expressions. Perhaps a fitting description of the times they were made in; times characterized by switches from enormous optimism to deep doubts about the future of mankind.
In this respect, this is not only an exhibition of art historical interest, but also just as much an insight into social history.
In 1971 and 1978, Wennesland decided to donate his collection to Kristiansand Cathedral School and Agder University College in Norway. The largest collection of Beat Art outside the USA is housed in Kristiansand! From this collection, a representative selection of 49 works by 29 artists is now on display in Sørlandets Art Museum.
By Erlend Høyersten, museum educator
Curators: Frank Falch, Erlend Høyersten, Øystein Laundal
Fletcher Benton, Theodore
Bielfeldt, Michael Bowen, Jack Carrig, Jesse Collins, Jay
DeFeo, Casey van Duren, Dean Fleming, David Freeman, Dimitri
Grachis, George Herms, Solomon Hogerman, Robert C. Jones,
Robert La Vigne, James Massey, Arthur Monroe, Michael
McCracken, William Morris, Edvardo Pajac, Arthur Richer, Keith
Sanzenbach, Robert Simmons, Joseph St. Amand, Leo Valledor,
Jean Varda, Carlos Villa, Neil Williams, Donald
07 49 00
Telefaks: 38 07 49 15
Tirsdag - fredag 11.00 -
Lørdag - søndag 12.00 - 16.00