Roger Kuntz – The Freeway Paintings

17 May

kuntz-freeway-shadowRoger Kuntz, Freeway Shadow (c. 1960) kuntz-concrete-canyonRoger Kuntz, Concrete Canyon (c. 1960)

Note: click on any image to enlarge

Roger Kuntz (1926 – 1975), a member of the Claremont Group, was one of the most popular Southern California landscape artists of the early 1960s.   Kuntz’s “Freeway” paintings, in particular, are often deemed a statement on the creeping modernism of Los Angeles in the late 1950s and early 1960s.  While some critics group Kuntz with abstract artists, if you pay attention you will  immediately notice he renders his subjects quite realistically, albeit stripped down to their bare essentials — reminiscent of Edward Hopper.  As the Los Angeles Times noted in 2009:

“[Kuntz’s] relative anonymity stems from the nature of his work. With the benefit of hindsight, it’s clear Kuntz was not a Pop artist. His traditional oil paintings don’t use the pictorial language of mass media to critically undercut establishment ideas about Modern art, as did radical Pop artists like Ed Ruscha, Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein. Instead, Kuntz renders the built environment with a traditional attention to optical naturalism.

Kuntz’s freeway paintings seemed Pop because they represent full immersion in unprecedented subject matter, which had rarely turned up before him. Edward Hopper, for example, painted the somewhat similar concrete canyon of a railroad approach into a city in 1946. But that’s the point: Like Hopper, Kuntz was an American Scene painter. What makes Kuntz’s work distinctive is its singular subject.”

kuntz-freeway-painting2Roger Kuntz, Title Unknown (c.1960) kuntz-freeway6Roger Kuntz, Title Unknown (c. 1960)

Kuntz intentionally walks a fine line between representation and abstraction that is quite provocative.  In that way he reminds me of Cezanne.  I’ve seen a few of Kuntz’s Freeway paintings in various places from time to time, but I’ve never seen a group of them together.  I think they’re more striking when seen as one.  For you Kuntz purists out there, yes, I missed the  2009 Kuntz retrospective at the Laguna Art Museum.  Bummer.   I hear it was a Grade-A convergence of Kuntz Freeway art.   In my defense, I reside in Chicago.

kuntz-freeway8Roger Kuntz, Title Unknown (c. 1960) kuntz-freeway9Roger Kuntz, Title Unknown (c. 1960) kuntz-freeway4Roger Kuntz, Title Unknown (c. 1960) kuntz-freeway7Roger Kuntz, Title Unknown (c. 1960) kuntz-freeway5Roger Kuntz, Title Unknown (c. 1960) kuntz-freeway-painting1Roger Kuntz, Title Unknown (c. 1960)

2 Responses to “Roger Kuntz – The Freeway Paintings”

  1. Robert Hayden III November 17, 2013 at 10:35 pm #

    The titles, dates, and dimensions of the paintings shown above are (top to bottom): 1. “Arches”, 1961 (not “Freeway Shadow”), 40 x 60 in.; “Concrete Canyon”, 1962, 60 x 72 in.; 3. “Baldwin Avenue Overpass”, 1962, 60 x 72 in.; 4. “Freeway Tunnels”, c. 1961, 36 x 48 in.; 5. “Inside Out”, 1961, 24 x 30 in.; 6. “Double Underpass”, 1961, 40 x 50 in.; 7. “Asphalt Arrows”, c. 1962, 50 x 72 in., 8. “Condominium II”, 1965, 36 x 40 in.; 9. “Slow 25”, 1962, 24 x 30 in.; 10. “San Diego”, 1962, 60 x 72 in.

    • bobbalouie November 17, 2013 at 10:44 pm #


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