Robert Bechtle

American (San Francisco, California, 1932)

Alameda Gran Torino

painting | oil on canvas
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  • Alameda Gran Torino

    Robert Bechtle, Alameda Gran Torino, 1974; oil on canvas, 48 in. x 69 in. (121.92 cm x 175.26 cm); Collection SFMOMA, T. B. Walker Foundation Fund purchase in honor of John Humphrey; © Robert Bechtle

For more than 40 years Robert Bechtle has pursued a quiet realism, working from photographs of familiar subjects to depict precise moments in time. Despite their photographic origins, however, his canvases are resolutely and finally about painting. Underneath the smooth sheen of their surfaces lies a textured web of strokes and dabs, where abstract shapes meet edges to form an intricate, layered view of our environment.

Bechtle has often spoken of the "dumbness" of his car paintings, suggesting that the images are so everyday as to be meaningless. But they are anything but ordinary snapshots. As an artist with roots in the California middle class, Bechtle early on recognized both the cultural significance of cars and the relative lack of artistic representations of them. The pristine gloss of his automobile paintings suggests advertising images, though he typically depicts family cars, such as this station wagon, in mundane settings. While he sometimes portrays cars as members of the family, in Alameda Gran Torino, the car appears as its own entity. Its isolation lends the scene an uneasiness: if automobiles exist to move people, then this car's utter stillness emphasizes the absence of passengers.

48 in. x 69 in. (121.92 cm x 175.26 cm)
Acquired 1974
Collection SFMOMA
T. B. Walker Foundation Fund purchase in honor of John Humphrey
© Robert Bechtle


station wagons, cars, Ford, garages, driveways, suburbs, realism, Photorealism, Bay Area, California

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