Tracing the full arc of Robert Bechtle’s career from the 1960s to the mid-2000s, this publication illuminates the artistic practice of one of the most significant painters associated with the photorealist movement. Bechtle’s wry, snapshotlike compositions, signature sun-bleached palette, and clinical mode of recording random details impart a poetic sense of stillness and alienation to commonplace scenes of everyday life. His deadpan yet seductive works capture the ethos of the postwar American experience, in which California has often served as a proving ground for the realization of our cultural ideals.
Published to coincide with a major retrospective of his work, this volume features nearly one hundred lavish reproductions of Bechtle’s most important paintings as well as intimate watercolors and drawings. These magnificent plates demonstrate the range of the San Francisco–based painter’s iconic imagery of California — the rows of palm trees, the stucco houses, and the ubiquitous automobiles that spurred suburban expansion — in addition to his lesser-known but equally compelling family scenes and stark interiors. Created in close collaboration with the artist, this publication also includes a series of incisive essays that provide a fresh perspective on his output and reevaluate his importance in the wider context of American painting. Exhibition curator Janet Bishop offers an overview of Bechtle’s artistic development, while Michael Auping focuses on Bechtle’s distinctive manner of using paint to describe light. Jonathan Weinberg confronts the often conflicted relationship between painting and photography in Bechtle’s work and in the history of modern art generally. Artist Charles Ray contributes a brief appreciation of Alameda Gran Torino (1974), one of Bechtle’s finest works.