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Golden Eye: Art from the Robert & Jeannette Powell Collection
Caravan News 5175

Golden Eye: Art from the Robert & Jeannette Powell Collection

Event date: 10/1/2018 - 11/2/2018 Export event

For the first time since this artwork graced their home, selections from the Robert and Jeannette Powell art collection will hang together at the Reynolds Gallery at the University of the Pacific. The exhibition includes sixteen pieces by world-renowned artists representing significant art movements of the mid to late 20th century who have never been exhibited together in Stockton. The show features Californians Charles Arnoldi, Richard Diebenkorn, Joe Draegert, Sam Francis, Gregory Kondos, Tom Lieber, Frank Lobdell, Nathan Oliveira, Ruth Rippon, Yoshio Taylor, and Wayne Thiebaud as well New Yorkers Jake Berthot and Jasper Johns.  Organized by University Curator Lisa Cooperman, the exhibition is a look at the very personal and much-loved collection from the Powell’s estate, gifted to the University of the Pacific in 2012. 

Neither Robert or Jeannette Powell, Bay Area natives, received college degrees but they believed in the value of higher education. Through vision and grit Bob became a successful Sacramento developer and Jeannette a professional interior designer. Both were gracious though shy philanthropists. Introduced to then President of Pacific, Don DeRosa and his wife Karen by mutual friend Ed Westgate, their enthusiasm for the University grew as their friendships deepened. 

For over 20 years the Powells generously supported Pacific. Both served as regents; gave the lead gift to build and name the Jeannette Powell Art Center; and endowed the Powell Scholars Program, Pacific's premier academic merit program. Their crowning bequest made posthumously in 2012 will benefit deserving students, faculty, and staff through endowments well in to the future. 

The Powells were immensely private despite the public real estate projects they created. Bob insisted on a low profile as the developer of the Pavilions shopping center in Sacramento and builder of over 7000 residences beginning in the early 1980s including the master-planned community of Gold River where they made their home. Jeannette, a designer and self-taught artist, developed much of the aesthetic for the model homes they created and she too preferred to exert her influence by cultivating artists directly and displaying their work in public places. Ruth Rippon, a Sacramento based ceramic sculptor and teacher whose work is in this show, was commissioned by Jeannette to create a series of tableaux of her life-sized ceramic ladies or LOLLIES which were exhibited at the Pavilions. 

The Powell collection is Californian in spirit and substance. This exhibition represents only a fraction of the large amount of work the Powells amassed during their lifetimes. Additional art was gifted to the Crocker Art Museum, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and other institutions.  Per Jeannette’s instructions their gift to Pacific was installed in public spaces on all three campuses and is seen by hundreds of people every day. It is an expression of personal taste; a collection they lived with representing a love of energy, action, and the human touch.

The paintings, prints and sculptures in the Powell Collection are considered contemporary, that is art made after 1970 when no single ideology or -ism held sway. Most of the artists themselves were direct contemporaries of the Powells and the work itself was freshly made. Not for them were stodgy old masters or bland pastoral scenes, rather the artists, most of whom were loosely affiliated with the Bay Area Figurative School, rejected the lingering, dominant trend of Abstract Expressionism favoring overall, less drama and more light. Abstraction, figuration, and landscapes exist happily side by side.  

Johns and Berthot are the geographic exceptions to the Powell’s collecting taste; both are New Yorkers. Diebenkorn – whose first teaching job in Southern Illinois led him to paper over his studio windows in despair of the bleak landscape before he returned to Berkeley –Lobdell, Oliveira, Thiebaud, Rippon, Taylor, Draegert, and Kondos represent the Bay Area and Central Valley. Arnoldi, Francis, and Lieber make up the Los Angeles contingent. These artists are also exceptional educators, affiliated with the San Francisco Art Institute (formerly the California School of Fine Arts), San Jose State, Stanford University, California College of Art (formerly California College of Arts and Crafts), Sacramento State, and UC Davis. They are all exhibited, published and written about as well as held in major collections around the world. 

It was the Powell’s wish to support both deserving students at Pacific and the community as a whole by sharing their success. Their art collection is a manifestation of this success; this exhibition offers a new audience the immense pleasure of looking, the golden reward that comes in at the eye. 

The Reynolds Gallery is located in the Jeannette Powell Art Center on the campus of the University of the Pacific at 1071 W. Mendocino Ave in Stockton. Follow us on Facebook, Instagram and visit us at Exhibition Dates October 1 – November 2. Opening Reception Thursday, October 4 from 6 – 8 pm. Gallery hours Monday – Friday, 9:00 am – 4:30 pm. 

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