IMCA Announces Fall 2021 Exhibition | The resonant surface: movement, image and sound in …


Agnes Pelton, San Gorgonio in Spring, 1932. Oil on canvas, 61 x 61 cm. The Buck collection at the UCI Institute and Museum of California Art.

The Institute and Museum of California Art (IMCA) at the University of California, Irvine (UCI) today announced its fall exhibition, The resonant surface: movement, image and sound in Californian painting visible from September 11, 2021 to January 15, 2022 at the temporary location of the IMCA Museum at 18881 Von Karman Avenue. Showcasing 24 paintings and two films spanning the early to mid-20th century, the exhibition invites viewers to explore the works beyond the immediacy of visual perception to discover musical landscapes, rhythmic abstractions and sound experiences and colored. The exhibition and associated programs are free and open to the public.

The resonance surface considers this kind of perceptual inquiry from the point of view of both artists and spectators. Incorporating works from IMCA’s The Irvine Museum and The Buck collections, Erin Stout, PhD, Curator and IMCA Research Associate, organized the exhibition into four central themes with prompts to reveal connections and comparisons:

  • Correspondence – Is it possible to see the sound or hear the color?
  • Rhythm and abstraction – How do line, shape and color activate the physical sensations of movement, sound and touch?
  • Dynamism and Flow – What role does the imagination play in the perception of the world?
  • Visual music – Can a painted surface convey acoustic elements and movement?

Stout said: “The resonance surface draws connections across time, space, images, objects and sensations, presenting works of art as connective tissues for engaging and understanding the world. This suggests that they can be experienced as interconnected surfaces that “resonate” within and beyond the spaces they occupy, the time in which they were created, and the intentions of the artists.


In this section, 11 paintings and a film by 10 artists explore the interdisciplinary correlations between sound and vision or music and painting. Works of art convey a mood, emotional quality, or spiritual undertone, traits commonly associated with music. Tonalists like John Bond Francisco, Amédée Joullin, Xavier Martinez, Arthur F. Mathews, Gottardo Piazzoni and Calthea Vivian have used subtle compositions of colors and blurred shapes in landscape paintings to create atmosphere, both literally and metaphorically. . In Scrub Oak in a canyon (c. 1910), Francisco – who was also an accomplished musician – depicts a stormy landscape evoking a natural soundscape with dark clouds suggesting thunder and vegetation rendered to allude to the rustle of the wind.

Visualizing expressive content by analogy or metaphor led artists of the time to think about how to paint all kinds of invisible phenomena. Some Californian painters were influenced by Theosophy, an esoteric belief that artists were very sensitive to colors, shapes and sounds imperceptible to others. Maurice Braun, Agnes Pelton, and Frederick John Schwankovsky incorporated the theory into their practices. Pelton San Gorgonio in spring (1932) conveys a metaphysical dimension through his distinctive use of color, light and depth.

Rhythm and abstraction

Based on scientific theories of how colors interact optically, techniques such as pointillism, the use of individual dots of pure paint to form an image, and Divisionism, which uses dabs of paint, rely on the eye and the viewer’s mind to mix colors in order to see shapes. Long after falling out of fashion in Europe at the end of the 19th century, Californian painters continued to experiment with these techniques. William Henry Clapp and William A. Gaw both used staccato brushstrokes and pure pigment dots to construct rhythmic landscapes. Seen up close, the Clapp’s Countryside road (1943) goes from representation to abstraction. The same interactive and perceptual elements are present in outdoors compositions by John M. Gamble and Alfred R. Mitchell for the same period in the mid-20th century.

Dynamism and Flow

In 1942, Knud Merrild began to create what he called “flow paintings” foreshadowing a few years later the drip paintings of Jackson Pollock and the field paintings of colors by Helen Frankenthaler. By spreading house paint over a flowing surface, then tilting it to let the colors interact and combine by both the artist’s hand and gravity, he generated spontaneous images. Merrild’s “automatic” or improvisational method signaled a wider tendency of modern Californian artists to embrace forces beyond their control, such as gravity, to produce unique results.

The Dynaton — Wolfgang Paalen, Gordon Onslow Ford, and Lee Mullican — showed their work together in the late 1940s in San Francisco, taking their name for the Greek word for “the possible.” The group’s goal was to visualize alternate realities using improvisation to help free their imaginations. Ford’s interest in the natural world, the cosmos and spontaneous gesture is evident in Constellations and grasses (1957); the combination of these elements results in a dynamic composition that seems to vibrate with an energy that extends outward from the surface.

Visual music

In the first half of the 20th century, some painters like Oskar Fischinger began to imitate musical structures in their work, hoping to evoke sensations in the same way that music does: by acting directly on the senses rather than simply suggesting them with images. Stanton Macdonald-Wright and Morgan Russell were the founders of the Synchromist movement which argued that the sensations of time and movement could be transmitted using systematic color arrangements. They used the musical metaphor to illustrate their philosophy. Just as a symphony was made up of sounds, their paintings were made up of colors for sound / visual effects.

A list of public programs is planned and details will be released as they are confirmed. Visit for more information.

About the UCI Institute and Museum of California Art

The UCI Institute and Museum of California Art (IMCA) houses two fundamental collections of Californian art: the Irvine Museum Collection, comprising over 1,300 Californian Impressionists and outdoors paintings and The Buck Collection, comprising over 3,000 works of post-war modern and contemporary California art. The university plans to build a permanent museum and research institute to serve as a global magnet for the exhibition and study of California art in its social, historical, environmental and cultural settings. Open to the public Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., IMCA is located in a temporary museum space at 18881 Von Karman Avenue, Suite 100, and admission is free. For more information, visit

About the University of California, Irvine

Founded in 1965, the UCI is the youngest member of the prestigious Association of American Universities. The campus has produced three Nobel Laureates and is known for its academic achievements, leading research, innovation, and anteater mascot. Led by Chancellor Howard Gillman, the UCI has more than 36,000 students and offers 222 degree programs. It is located in one of the safest and most vibrant communities in the world and is Orange County’s second-largest employer, contributing $ 5 billion annually to the local economy. To find out more about the UCI, visit

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