Oh How Much It Hurt: Fred Martin and Friends in the FiftiesPost an Event »

Oh How Much It Hurt: Fred Martin and Friends in the Fifties

Works by Fred Martin, Jay De Feo, Wally Hedrick, Deborah Remington, David Simpson and Roy De Forest, many of which have not been seen in 60 years since they were first shown at the legendary Six Gallery (1954-1957), one of San Francisco’s first alternative art spaces and the site for the first reading of Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl” in October 1955.

Fred Martin is well known in the Bay Area as a past Director of the College (1965-1974) and Dean of Academic Affairs (1983-1992) at the San Francisco Art Institute, where he continues to teach as a Emeritus professor. He is also a former columnist for Artweek magazine (1976-1992), but at heart he has always been a painter, and this Ever Gold show delves deep in exposing the roots of the 87 year old painter’s work, and those of his friends, in the 1950s.

Graduating from the University of California, Berkeley (BA 1949, MA 1954), Martin, with classmates Sam Francis and Jay De Feo, entered into the fresh terrain of new thought and currents in art dominated by Abstract Expressionism. Receiving additional instruction at the California College of Fine Arts (now the San Francisco Art institute), he studied under David Park, Mark Rothko and Clyfford Still. While there, he came into contact with fellow students, who would go on to open Six Gallery.

Martin had three solo shows at the Six Gallery (founded by painters Hedrick, Remington, Simpson, Hayward King and poets Jack Spicer and John Allen Ryan) with works hung during Ginsberg’s reading of “Howl.” While Jack Kerouac shouted, “Go! Go! Go!,” at the event, Martin’s abstracted cityscapes, painted on Masonite while leaning on the steering wheel of his car as he traversed The City, captured the transition from abstraction to figuration, which would come to dominate San Francisco’s artistic climate by the end of the decade.
These works, along with three other oils on canvas, capture the spirit of Martin’s enthusiastic beginnings.

In the current Ever Gold exhibition, Martin’s early works are placed in the context of artists with whom he came of age, including Jay De Feo, Sam Francis, Roy De Forest, David Simpson and Wally Hedrick. De Feo is represented by the 1955 painting, Landscape with Figure, which was shown at her 2013 retrospective at San Francisco Musem of Modern Art and the Whitney Museum of American Art. Early paintings by Deborah Remington and David Simpson, have never been shown before. A large De Forest painting, created at the end of this period, was shown at the Dilexi Gallery in 1961, marking the transition from artist run spaces to commercial venues in the San Francisco art scene.

The exhibition captures the spirit of experimentation these artists wrestled with during the turbulent Beat Era, ushering in increased recognition for both the artists and The City in which they came of age. The majority of the works are from Fred Martin’s own collection acquired directly from his artist friends.