Decades in the Making
Francis Mill and Michael Hackett, owners of San Francisco’s Hackett Mill gallery, have collected and placed 20th and 21st Century artworks publicly and privately for over 30 years. This October, their highly-anticipated new gallery space opens near the SFMOMA, home to inspired collections, exhibitions and lectures.
By: Kevin Daniel Dwyer
Gallerists Michael Hackett and Francis Mill of Hackett Mill present a respected vision to the Bay Area’s artistic community. Hackett Mill makes its new home this October at 145 Natoma Street in San Francisco. Located next door to the SFMOMA in a building the San Francisco Chronicle’s urban design critic, John King, calls an “idiosyncratic gem,” the new space abandons the traditional gallery model of separated areas for exhibitions, offices and a back room, and is instead boldly and unapologetically open throughout. The way the space embraces and showcases art is more reflective of co-owners Hackett and Mill’s philosophy of living with and experiencing art daily.
An area of personal passion for Hackett and Mill is the Bay Area Figurative Movement (1950-1965) led by David Park. Their gallery is the exclusive representative of the Estate of David Park and recently began the important task of creating Park’s catalogue raisonné. Having placed more than 200 paintings and works on paper, the upcoming Park retrospective at the SFMOMA will be a noteworthy culmination of many years of scholarly curation, study and collection building for the gallery. The gallery’s dedication to the movement also includes showcasing the works of Richard Diebenkorn, Elmer Bischoff, Joan Brown, Manuel Neri, Nathan Oliveira, Paul Wonner and William Theophilus Brown.
Another area of focus is Abstract Expressionism. Through thoughtful research, curation and placement of works by artists including Willem de Kooning, Franz Kline, Hans Hofmann, Joan Mitchell, Lee Krasner, Kazuo Shiraga and Robert Motherwell, among others, the gallery offers a platform for unique, historical juxtapositions. These dialogues are of significance to Hackett and Mill, as they personally identify with the struggle an artist encounters when they circumvent the expected conventional trends of the status quo. Along with Park, the gallery represents David Beck, Manuel Neri, Masatoyo Kishi, Raimonds Staprans and Brian Wall and the estates of Robert Schwartz and Frank Lobdell.
In the following pages, we highlight works featured in the new gallery, opening October 26.
Frank Lobdell – 27 October 1949, 92.75 x 78 inches, 1949, oil on canvas
Artists experimenting in the mid-20th Century were pushing the boundaries of traditional painting in many directions. One of the most significant moves was that the canvas becomes architecture—meaning the scale and imagery intruded into the viewer’s space. Frank Lobdell builds on this concept while also reflecting on an important trait of this period’s art making—the personal and unconscious expression. The presence of Clyfford Still is evident as well as the color theories of Hans Hofmann. The iconography Lobdell develops here in 1947, while he was studying on the GI Bill at the California School of Fine Art (now SFAI), became the architectural structure for much of the following decades.
Conrad Marca-Relli – L-R-8-57, 55.5 x 64.75 inches, 1957, painted collage
Conrad Marca-Relli pushed the boundaries of Abstract Expressionism through his devotion to the medium of collage. Until this time, collage was relegated to an intimate small-scale endeavor, often executed on a table or board within arms reach (think of Kurt Schwitters at the beginning of the century). Marca-Relli made collage on a monumental scale and achieved the “all-around” treatment of the picture plane. Hierarchical space within the picture plane was eliminated so the forms could be read across the same plane, all while co-existing in the viewer’s space. A good example is the large Marca-Relli collage, The Battle, that hangs next to Jackson Pollock’s drip painting, Autumn Rhythm, at the Metropolitan Museum.
Masatoyo Kishi – Opus No. 60-145, 48 x 48 inches, 1960, oil on canvas
Masatoyo Kishi is evidence of how wrong certain art critics were in assessing Abstract Expressionism. During 1950s and 60s America, influences and ideas crossed geographic and cultural boundaries. Nevertheless, the history books placed mainly the white male artists on the mantel of Abstract Expressionism. Just study the varied methods of gestural paint application through Kishi’s hands and perhaps we can see dialogues with many familiar passages in the canons of Abstract Expressionism.
Howard Hodgkin – Navy Blue, 27 x 31 inches, 2002-04, oil on wood
Hodgkin is a major force in 20th Century painting and he continues to be discovered by the most seasoned admirers of 20th Century abstraction. His paintings are an honest and raw introduction to a personal emotion unfolding in physical space. Understanding Hodgkin is a journey in how our own feelings and emotions can create empathy.
Paul Wonner – Untitled (Two Seated Women in Interior), 18 x 12 inches, 1963, watercolor, graphite
Paul Wonner, like his contemporaries David Park, Richard Diebenkorn and Manuel Neri, was labeled as a Bay Area Figurative artist. Though it was a highly significant movement comprising artists who had the guts to go against the tides of Abstract Expressionism, these artists were painters first. They vigorously fought to understand paint as much as their abstract contemporaries but wished to do it on their own terms. Through their figurative subjects, they achieved a personal virtuosity with abstract principles. As they capture a sense of the light, form and pattern, we connect to the European lineage of Édouard Vuillard and Pierre Bonnard, while clearly witnessing the familiar light of California. G
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