Tuesday, September 08, 2015

Branham Rendlen: A different view of Big Sur

Rancho Rico, Big Sur
I spent a lot of my youth on the Monterey Bay, which exposed me to what one contemporary art history professor, Charles Gaines, not so lovingly referred to collectively as "Carmel Art." And he was right to do so. What began as an artists' community in the early part of the 20th century had become a destination for really awful painting, spearhead by the likes of Thomas Kincaid and gobbled up not only by tourists but, gasp, by locals! When I lived there (and worked at Photography West Gallery -- Carmel does still knock it out of the park when it comes to photography) art galleries were filled with cottage scenes, whales breaching in the moonlight and hotel art, huge pretty pictures devoid of any real meaning. And while the town does still have a few frightful places managing the rent on Ocean Avenue, I was ecstatic to learn about artist Branham Rendlen at the Ventana Inn art gallery during a visiting last month. Her paintings document the coastline in a way that's different from what I've seen for the last twenty-five years. They almost feel like an extension of the Bay Area Figurative movement. They're abstract, complex and intimate, yet they capture the vastness of the wilderness, even on canvases as small as 8-inches square. I'm smitten.

Castro Canyon, Big Sur
Oak and Golden Hills
South Coast, Big Sur
From Bixby Bridge
Foggy Morning, Big Sur
Little Sur During the Road Closure 2011