For some, the desert itself is an abstraction: limited palette, limited resources, flat planes, sharp lines. Yet the careful observer is rewarded with a richness of texture and scale, of scents and sounds, of life energy itself. The artists in Foregrounded are steeped in the region’s abundance and harsh truths and bring them to the canvas with care and honesty. Some distill or veil the landscape, some capture the ethereal qualities of light and air, others channel the pulsing of life in this unique environment. All have evolved their practices to evoke the energies of a place that exists both manifest and as idea.
For the last decade, color field artist Luc Bernard has been exploring, through his body of work, social and cultural changes in day to day life. While living in Los Angeles for many years, his work emphasized movement and interaction within a large urban setting, using color and shapes to express how one copes with a continuous bombardment of sound and visual chaos, while still using a minimalist aesthetic.Then came a move to the desert. With a new sense of space and light, he was compelled to further minimize both composition and much of the gestural movement seen in his previous series. The scale also changed. Color took on a new dimension. With slight variances in hues and tones and use of color combinations, the work creates a new sense of energy and tension. Shapes may appear crisp and perfectly drawn, but one eventually observes unexpected lines or deviations that makes the viewer question the overall intention or feeling observed. The challenge has only become greater; the simplicity of the work, even more complex. Luc has enjoyed several solo and group exhibitions across Canada and the US, is a recipient of the Federation of Canadian Artists Grand Prize Award and is represented by Heather James Gallery.
Diane Best was born in Boston, Massachusetts, and studied in the San Francisco area (Stanford & the San Francisco Art Institute) before moving to Los Angeles. In L.A. she created commercial artwork for the entertainment industry and commissioned portraits while pursuing and showing her original artwork. Best left Los Angeles in 1995 and settled in Joshua Tree, California, where her focus shifted towards capturing the intense drama of the desert landscape that surrounded her through painting, photography and moving-image work. Working in the tradition of American conservationist artists of the 19th century, Best strives to modernize landscape painting and film making using contemporary theories of perception— influenced by deep ecology, photography, cinema, digital imaging and animation. Her work has been exhibited widely in regional and national venues.
Ryan Campbell (1981, Los Angeles, California) is an accomplished painter and muralist. He garnered technical skills for painting early on in his years while creating murals in the graffiti culture of the 1990s and early 2000s. Ryan refers to his practice as investigations in geometric abstraction, minimalism, and hard-edge painting. His Line Segments series are evidence of this description with their groupings of hard-edged layered bands of color that intertwine in abstract and geometric patterns. Campbell’s work and practice are inspired by acclaimed artists LeWitt, Martin, Stella, Soto, and Phillip K Smith III. Campbell was commissioned to create a large-scale Line Segments mural for the City of Palm Springs directly adjacent to the Palm Springs Art Museum. Corporate commissions include AEG World wide’s Goldenvoice, Pernod Ricard, Red Bull North America, Covered California and Branded Arts. Campbell’s works are in several important American collections, including the MacMillan collection, and private collections around the world. Campbell works and lives within the scenic backdrop of the Santa Rosa Mountains near Palm Springs, California. He is represented by Melissa Morgan Gallery.
Burzeen Contractor is an Indian born visual artist/architectural designer currently based in Palm Desert, California. He was born in Bombay, India and spent his childhood in a small princely town of Baroda. After graduating with great distinction in the discipline of architecture he pursued his education further at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, NY, where he got his masters in architecture and during which he also did a semester in Venice, Italy. He moved to the Southern California desert to work for the acclaimed light artist Phillip K. Smith III as a designer and visual artist, where he has worked for the past 18 years. His work investigates atmospheric color and the subtle, ephemeral shifts in luminosity, tonality, and light that happen over time creating works of layered luminance, deeply informed by and inspired by his ritualistic sky recordings and contemplative experiences with light in the desert sky. He had his first solo show “Perpetual Light” in November 2021and since been working on private commissions.
John Luckett was born in Humboldt, Tennessee, in 1951, and currently lives and works in Palm Springs, California. He focuses predominantly on painting, and has put together a body of work that also includes photography, installation, assemblage, and sculpture. After finishing undergraduate studies at Vanderbilt University, Luckett completed course work at the Academy of Art in San Francisco, before moving to Atlanta, New York and Los Angeles to pursue a career in graphic design. His process is primarily self-taught, and the textures and shapes that constitute his work often find form in intricate and abstract compositions, using bold color combinations to establish an energetic and complex landscape. Luckett has been featured in several solo exhibitions in San Francisco, New York and Joshua Tree. His work has also been included in a number of group shows, as well as at the Bombay Beach Biennale, Salton Sea CA and at Rob Pruitt’s Flea Market” at the Palm Springs Art Museum as pasrt of DesertX. Luckett’s work is included in both public and private art collections in the United States, Europe and Asia and he is represented by JJ Harrington Gallery.
David Mackenzie was born in Los Angeles and received both his BFA and MFA from the San Francisco Art Institute where he studied ceramics, sculpture and painting. In his words: “I have deliberately and radically reduced the elements in my work in order to clearly understand the painting’s nature. Shifting perceptions, reflected light, color/material and location are what interest me along with spacial tension. My approach is strictly intuitive when it comes to these matters.”His work has been included in the Whitney Biennial and has been shown in Italy, France, Germany, and Russia. He received grants from the Pollack-Krasner Foundation and the National Foundation for the Arts. David has work in the Phillips Collection, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Art in Embassies program, the Oakland Art Museum, and the Rene di Rosa Foundation among others. He was a member of American Abstract Artists, an organization to promote abstract art since 1936. David is represented by Flow Modern.
Kim Manfredi graduated from Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) with a BFA in 1988 and then worked as a skilled decorative painter for many years. She returned to MICA and graduated under the tutelage of Grace Hartigan and Joyce Kozloff earning an MFA in 2009. Her artwork examines how todays crisis of identity, anxieties over humanity’s effect on our planet, and an urgent sense of surviving have complicated our fluency with desire. She immerses in yearning, its pleasure and pain, while making paintings. Using spray paint and traditional oils the resulting bumps, bulges and veils share non-gendered sensuous narratives taking place in remembered spaces. After graduating MICA, Kim was represented by C. Grimaldis Gallery, 2009 – 2013 and has attended residencies at the Vermont Studio Center, VCCA, Maryland Art Place and most recently a portfolio reviewed workshop at Anderson Ranch. Kim is represented by Slate Contemporary in the bay area and exhibits at various venues in the Coachella Valley. She is a founder of the Desert Open Studios Tour.
Julie Weiman is an artist living in Palm Springs and Boston. While abstract, her work is grounded in the landscape, specifically the Mojave Desert of Southern California. She uses a range of mediums including inks and dyes, rust, graphite, soil, pencil, pastel, spray paint, acrylic and wax. She studied at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts University, Massachusetts School of Art and Design, and Anderson Ranch in Aspen, Colorado. She completed a residency at Vermont Studio Center in 2015. Julie has an MBA from Boston University. Her work has been presented in solo and group exhibitions in Boston, Los Angeles, Palm Springs, Joshua Tree, Indio, Bombay Beach, and online, with Asher Grey gallery on Artsy.
Tracy Williams lives in Southern California. She is a graduate of Fashion Institute of Technology and Syracuse University. Her award-winning work has been exhibited in the annual international exhibitions of the American Watercolor Society, Watercolor West, the National Watercolor Society. She most recently represented the United States in the NWS/China exchange exhibition in Shenzhen, China. Her paintings explore the qualities of timelessness and minimalism. These explorations are grounded in observations of the natural world, and subsequently allowed to push to the edge of abstraction and beyond. Tracy is represented by Flow Modern.
Judy Wold began her personal art exploration at the University of Mexico in Mexico City, at San Francisco State College and then at The San Francisco Art Institute studying ceramics and painting. When she traveled for a year in Europe and the Middle East, she discovered Morandi and wept in the presence of Fra Angelico’s frescos at the San Marco Monestery in Florence. Judy moved to New York City in 1964, an exciting time for an American painter. Amidst these many changes of place and influences, she developed a singular and constant love of oil paint, exclusively Old Holland oil paint! To this day, 60 years later, it remains her only medium, now almost exclusively applied on linen, sealed with rabbit skin glue. Her recent work expanded after viewing a retrospective in Los Angeles of the late Agnes Martin and learning about color field painting. This new direction moves toward the continual process of refining, simplifying, reducing; the use of pure color in combination with graphing and the laying down of gold leaf. Living in the high desert landscape of Joshua Tree, Judy is continually inspired by the colors that change through the day and seasons, every moment a new possibility. Judy is represented by JJ Harrington Gallery.