Archive » June 14, 2006
Eye on Santa Barbara
By John Watson
MODERN ABSTRACT MEETS TRADITIONAL SPANISH
Artists are extremely sensitive to their environments – to each other. After World War I, the architects in Europe were faced with the daunting task of rebuilding a continent ravaged by war. Recognizing that decorated surface treatments cost significant amounts of money – yet these same surfaces do not produce any useable space – they developed a stripped down architecture that has been described as both bold and grand, although it has also been described as severe, even harsh. These works became known as the International Style and this style dominated the Western world for most of the 1900s. At this same time, painters such as Piet Mondrian began producing painting that also left the lyrical, romantic and soft surfaces for abstract shapes distinguished by large rectilinear blocks of color (including significant amounts of white) separated by bands of black paint.
Though they would be reticent to admit it, George Washington Smith and Joseph Plunkett both exhibited a fondness for abstract architectural form. Smith’s Lobero Theatre is hardly warm and fuzzy, nor is his house on Middle Road. Likewise, in the building depicted here, Plunkett’s powerful hand produced a structure of great strength and boldness, though he refrained from the severe. Without fear of large walls devoid of surface modulation or treatment, Plunkett’s design dominates an entire region of the city’s landscape while making reference to the Abstract.
Though this building is widely known, few are aware of this particular view. To find out which of Plunkett’s buildings this is and from what vantage point this painting was taken, come to the Montecito Fourth of July Parade and Festival.
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