Opening February 28th, the Marin Museum of Contemporary Art presents the 2015 Legends of the Bay Area Exhibition featuring Lawrence Ferlinghetti, a beloved Bay Area icon since 1953. Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s work, in both literature and art, is a drive for liberation, transformation, and union—through love, literature, political struggle, nature, humor, and art. This exhibit features Ferlinghetti’s love of painting with some supportive poetry and video. Exhibit runs from February 28 - April 5, 2015. Opening reception February 28 from 5-7pm.
By his own account, Ferlinghetti’s first foray into art began in the late 1940s almost by accident while in Paris working on his doctorate in literature at the Sorbonne. A roommate left his painting equipment behind and a little dabbling turned into an obsession. For the next three and a half years, Ferlinghetti sketched from live models and attended “open studios” in Paris. In 1950, Ferlinghetti produced what he considers his first significant painting, Deux, a Surrealist reverse image inspired by Jean Cocteau. Deux will be on display at MarinMOCA. Shortly after, he moved to San Francisco and entered the arts scene.
Lawrence Ferlinghetti (born March 24, 1919) is acclaimed as a poet, painter, liberal activist, and co-founder of City Lights Booksellers & Publishers in San Francisco. Jonathan Curiel reports from SF Weekly, “If Ferlinghetti had to choose between poetry and painting, Ferlinghetti says he would choose painting.” Ferlinghetti goes on to say, “Painting is more like play than work.” For more than sixty years, he has continued his passion for image-making in paintings, drawings, prints, and mixed media works that have been widely exhibited, including a major survey exhibition in 2010 in Rome and Calabria. More locally, recent solo exhibitions include a retrospective exhibition in 2012 at the Sonoma Valley Museum of Art and a solo exhibition in 2013 at the George Krevsky Gallery.
In the 1950s, Ferlinghetti created large-scale canvases filled with big-brush body-length gestures. He admired the artists of that time during the Beat Movement, but did not take on the same dark sentiment. Ferlinghetti contributed greatly to socio-political reform, particularly in the area of free speech. However in more recent times he has moved away from art that is politically dominated.
One of the paintings on display, Mother Russia (1999), Ferlinghetti creates a looming female figure with a small bird positioned at the bottom left of the large canvas. Mother Russia is painted as an iconic figure as her face is constructed using a hammer and sickle. Birds are a symbol throughout his work and here is representative of the spirit of the woman. Ferlinghetti has always aimed for the concrete and the ineffable no matter what his subject is. Allowing his art to be intuited rather than intellectualized is essential to retain the mystery of his work.