- by Jennifer Gunlock, Collections Manager
Peter Alexander's "Chula Vista I"
Peter Alexander (1939-2020) was one of LA’s iconic mid-twentieth century artists who celebrated this town over the span of his fifty five-year career. He has received multiple honors and awards including a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in 1980 and the California Art Award in 2014. His work resides in the permanent collections of the Guggenheim Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Museum of Modern Art and Los Angeles County Museum of Art. He was a Jonathan Club Resident Artist member from 2006-2012, and from that relationship the Beach Club has been beautifully adorned by his works. One such lithographic print, Chula Vista I (1981), was generously lent to the Beach Club by JAF Board member Grafton Tanquary last year.
In the early 1980’s Alexander produced a series of paintings and prints depicting furious rainstorms exploding over the Pacific Ocean. This series interestingly blends the plein air school of art that seeks to capture the landscape at a specific moment in time with expressive, emotive paint application. For an artist known for his cerebral resin-cast sculpture and coolly serene patterning of the ocean’s surface and LA’s street-lit basin at night, these landscapes are unusually energetic.
In our print Chula Vista I, any specific reference to the scene’s location is rendered invisible and unimportant; its only clue is offered in the title. It’s the title that places the viewer on the Southern California coast during what appears to be an especially brutal winter. Thick, angry black lines indicating mighty thunderbolts or heavy downpours blast down on the scene from frighteningly dense rainclouds. Alexander’s characteristic square-and-dot patterning that can be seen in his paintings over the decades appear in this case to portray raindrops or even injurious hail. One can visualize the artist’s hand passionately splashing the “canvas” with his paintbrush in the manner of the 1950’s Abstract Expressionists or to the tune of Stravinsky’s “The Rite of Spring.”
On your next visit to the Beach Club, we invite you to take a moment to contemplate this piece and other works by this artist. Comparing this print made forty years ago to something like Vertical (2002), a calm, abstract depiction of light dappling on the blue ocean surface, there’s a common thread between the two coming from the artist’s thoughtful eye, an artist who was so clearly a devoted lover of the Southern California coast.