News Release
University Affairs Office
1801 E. Cotati Avenue
Rohnert Park, CA 94928-3609
(707) 664-2057
    February 20, 2003      File #325
    Contact: Carla Stone, Art Gallery, (707) 664-2295


Wally Hedrick's 'Pre-emptive Peace' Now at University Art Gallery

The University Art Gallery at Sonoma State University is pleased to announce the opening of an exhibition of paintings by Sonoma County resident and Bay Area legend Wally Hedrick.

On view from Feb. 20 through March 16, Wally Hedrick: Preemptive Peace, will include several "image" paintings from the past few years and a larger group of elegiac all-black canvases produced primarily during the 1960s and early 70s in protest of the Vietnam War—works eerily relevant today as the United States prepares for a new war, this time against Iraq.

In fact, it is the impending violence in the Middle East, and Hedrick’s reaction against it, that has prompted the artist to exhibit his "veterans" (as he has referred to these paintings) once again in protest of military action by the United States.

Wally Hedrick was born in Pasadena, California, in 1928. He studied at the Otis Art Institute in Los Angeles before entering the infantry and serving during the Korean War, an experience that had a major impact on his life.

Following the war, Hedrick moved to the Bay Area and resumed his art education, studying at the California College of Arts an Crafts in Oakland and ultimately receiving his B.F.A. and M.F.A. degrees from the California School of Fine Arts (now the San Francisco Art Institute) and San Francisco State College (now San Francisco State University) in the mid 1950s.

In addition to being a central figure in--and an important influence on--the Bay Area’s Beat, Assemblage, and Funk movements, Hedrick was a co-founder of the now-mythical The Six Gallery in San Francisco’s North Beach district, where art was displayed, Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg read poetry (including the premiere of Ginsberg’s poem Howl), and party-like events, eventually known in the art world as "happenings," took place.

By the late 1950s, Hedrick’s work began receiving national recognition, including an invitation from Dorothy Miller in 1959 to participate in her Sixteen Americans exhibition at The Museum of Modern Art in New York (along with artists such as Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, and Frank Stella).

Although some of Hedrick’s early work centered around assemblages made of urban debris and paintings that poked fun at the art establishment (Here’s Art For ‘em and Art Through the Aged), he was also making politically-themed work, such as Peace (the word "Peace" painted across an image of the American flag), as early as 1953.

During the early years of the war in Vietnam, Hedrick expressed his displeasure in paintings with titles such as Madame Nhu’s Barbeque and Napalm Sundae.

He then began the Vietnam Series (several of which are included in this exhibition), a group of rough-textured, completely black canvases initially created by "painting out" (and virtually destroying) some of his existing paintings.

As the war in Vietnam escalated in the late 1960s, Hedrick began stretching new (and quite large) canvases and continued to use only black oil paint to cover them.

This series, in addition to being a direct protest of the Vietnam War, was Hedrick’s method of going "on strike" and withdrawing his services from society as a maker of images.

As America’s failure to achieve victory in Vietnam seemed more and more inevitable around 1970, Hedrick created an 11 foot square installation, composed of freestanding black canvases that the viewer actually enters, symbolizing the artist’s notion that the United States had "boxed ourselves in" in Southeast Asia.

The Black Room (more recently referred to as The War Room) will also be part of this exhibition.

Following the end of America’s presence in Vietnam in the early 1970s, Hedrick began creating mostly black and white works that reproduce, in painstaking detail, pages from old Sears and Roebuck catalogs and other vintage advertisements.

Although at first glance seemingly banal images, these paintings gradually reveal themselves as the work of an artist who for more than 50 years has been a sharp-eyed social and cultural critic. The exhibition includes a recent group of these paintings.

Just as he did during the Vietnam and Gulf wars, Wally Hedrick has once again gone "on strike". For the time being, he has stopped making new work and has focused his creative energies on Wally Hedrick: Preemptive Peace.

Following its presentation at Sonoma State University, the artist plans to exhibit these paintings at other museums and galleries across the United States.

Wally Hedrick: Preemptive Peace was organized by the University Art Gallery, Sonoma State University, in collaboration with Wally Hedrick. Special thanks to LINC REAL ART, San Francisco, for making available many of the works in this exhibition, and L.G. Williams, for his assistance at critical stages of this project.

For more information and press images, please call (707) 664-2295.


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Last Modified: 02/20/2003