Human in Nature # II, 1990.
Fritz Scholder (Luiseño, 1937–2005)
Oil on canvas, 80 x 68 in. Crocker Art Museum, gift of the Artist, 1997.6.

“I’ve always contended that whatever my current interests are, they show up in my work. This is not a conscious thing, but it has always been there. My life and my art are inseparable, and it is natural for me to express what I am involved with at the time.”(1)

What separated Scholder from other artists offering social critique was the isolation of the figure in his color fields. His paintings were emotional and meant to speak over time to universal values. With this process, Scholder exhibits the lessons of Bay Area Figuration and especially the influence of Wayne Thiebaud and Gregory Kondos, with whom he studied in Sacramento. Scholder’s sardonic wit registers only after we realize the pathos of his subjects.

Scholder has always painted in series based around the human figure, as in this example from the Human in Nature series. The inspiration for setting the figure, his most important subject before chaotic fields of jarring colors came from Scholder’s 1990 involvement with a California environmental group. From this experience, he began to view painting as a tool of consciousness-raising, a vehicle by which to steer others inward. His approach is moral, not didactic, and thus the aggressive painting with slashing swipes and jabs of the loaded brush are choreographed to stir emotions and inspire action.

(1) Charlene Acevedo, Interview with Fritz Scholder, Fritz Scholder: Paintings and Monotypes (New York: Alexander Gallery, 1991).

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