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Sunday, October 31, 2010

New Deal Art:1935-1943 now on view at the Bedford Gallery



The Bedford Gallery brings history to life with its new exhibition, The American Scene: New Deal Art 1935-1943, opening on October 3. An opening reception will be held on October 5 from 6:00 – 8:00 p.m. and will be free and open to the public. This compelling and timeless exhibit celebrates the 75th anniversary of the Works Progress Administration (WPA) and Federal Art Project (FAP) in California— programs that put thousands to work at the height of the Great Depression. The Bedford Gallery is the only art space in Northern California to hold a full exhibit around this historic milestone.

The Bedford Gallery selected artworks from several WPA repositories including the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. Most of these works have been in storage and unseen by our community since the 1940s.
The American Scene features a selection of prints by American documentary photographer Dorothea Lange (1895–1965). Lange's photographs humanized the tragic consequences of the Great Depression and profoundly influenced the development of documentary photography. The exhibition also includes well known WPA artists Ben Shahn, Beniamino Bufano, Mine Okubo, Diego Rivera, Emmy Lou Packard, Bernard Zakheim and Reuben Kadish.

Created by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the WPA was the largest New Deal agency, employing millions to carry out public works projects. Under the program, artists working for the FAP created more than 200,000 works, including posters, murals, and paintings.

The American Scene: New Deal Art 1935-1943 was organized by Bedford Gallery curator Carrie Lederer in collaboration with Harvey Smith, project advisor to California’s Living New Deal Project and board president of the National New Deal Preservation Association. Lederer and Smith have brought together works by more than 65 artists who worked for the FAP. Visitors to the gallery will see works by men and women from a diversity of backgrounds—Japanese-American, African-American, Russian-American, and Mexican-American. Each played a role in bringing the arts to those suffering tremendous economic setbacks, many of whom had never before been able to afford a cultural experience.

Curator Carrie Lederer states, “During Roosevelt’s presidency, America was grappling with an economic situation that feels all too familiar today. Even in the midst of the Great Depression, Roosevelt’s administration understood how essential art was to sustaining America’s spirit. The FAP not only employed struggling artists but also provided them with a sense of pride in serving their country.”

The American Scene includes paintings, drawings, posters, and photographs from the private collections of Alan Selsor, George Krevsky and M. Lee Stone Fine Prints, Inc. Oakland resident Adria Peterson is lending artworks from the estate of her grandfather, New York WPA artist Domenico Mortellito. The estate of Santa Fe sculptor Milton Hebald contributed several bronze and wood sculptures. A sculpture by Benny Bufano comes from the collection of Beth Danysh, widow of Joe Danysh, who headed the FAP in the West, and William Maynez has lent a Diego Rivera portrait from the Diego Rivera Archive at City College San Francisco.

Telephone: 925/295-1417


Admission: General $5; Youth (17 and under) $3; Children 12 and under, free; First Tuesdays free; Free for Friends of the Bedford, members of Diablo Regional Arts Association and ticket holders to events in the Lesher Center for the Arts (LCA) on ticketed date. First Tuesday of each month is free.

Hours: Tuesday—Sunday, Noon to 5:00 p.m. and evenings from 6:00 – 8:00 p.m. when there are productions in the LCA ( for calendar). The Gallery is closed on Mondays.

BEDFORD gallery    1601 civic drive    walnut creek, ca 94596

Saturday, October 30, 2010

11/3/10 Book talk with Jeanne Reesman and Sue Hodson - Jack London, Photographer

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Book talk with Jeanne Reesman and Sue Hodson - Jack London, Photographer

California Historical Society, 6:00 – 8:00 p.m., Free

Jack London (1876–1916) remains one of the most widely read American writers, known for his naturalist fiction, socialist novels and essays, journalism, and the many adventures that he shared with the world. London was also an accomplished photographer, producing nearly twelve thousand photographs during his lifetime. Jack London, Photographer, the first book devoted to London’s photography, reveals a vital dimension of his artistry, barely known until now.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Zakheim: The Art of Prophetic Justice at the Jazz Heritage Center

Bernard Baruch Zakheim, Untitled 1931

Lehrhaus Judaica Presents : Zakheim: The Art of Prophetic Justice at the Jazz Heritage Center

BERKELEY – Lehrhaus Judaica will present Zakheim: The Art of Prophetic Justice at the Jazz Heritage Center in San Francisco this fall. A photographic history of Bernard Zakheim's life and work will be showcased in the Koret Heritage Lobby from October 17-December 30, and approximately 25 original Zakheim paintings will be displayed in the Lush Life Gallery from October 17-November 30.

The exhibition is made possible by a lead grant from the Koret Foundation, the Laszlo N. Tauber Family Foundation, the Fleishhacker Foundation, Fred Levin & Nancy Livingston, The Shenson Foundation, and The Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life, The Bancroft Library, UC Berkeley, collaborated on the exhibition.

The Zakheim exhibition is a follow-up to the highly successful Jews of the Fillmore exhibit presented by Lehrhaus Judaica and the Magnes Museum in the fall of 2009. Zakheim lived and taught in the Fillmore District, a predominantly Jewish neighborhood in the 1920s and 1930s, during the interwar period before moving to Sebastopol where he set up his studio in an apple orchard. Rosenbaum's recently published cultural and social history of Bay Area Jewry, Cosmopolitans (UC Press, 2009), includes a five-page section on Zakheim in the context of his times.

Although he is little known today, Bernard Baruch Zakheim (1896-1985) was one of the leading artists in California in the middle decades of the 20th century. Born and raised in a Hasidic family in Warsaw, Poland, he immigrated to San Francisco in 1921 and except for lengthy periods of study in Paris and Mexico City, he resided in the Bay Area until his death.

"My father's work speaks to humanity; it speaks of humanity," said Nathan Zakheim. "As a diarist, he recorded the Holocaust in vivid paintings from afar. He recorded the horror of man's inhumanity to man, but then, from the depths of personal pain, the pain of losing his whole extended family in the Warsaw Ghetto, he emerged with lush green grasses, and scorched dead trees blooming with fresh red flowers. From those dark days onward, his art brimmed over with golden waves of the resurgence of life, of darkness giving way to light. In today's troubled world, his work has taken on a new light."
Reproductions of Zakheim's main works may be viewed at

Zakheim, a protégé of Diego Rivera, won fame primarily as a muralist. His Jewish Wedding, commissioned for the new San Francisco Jewish Community Center in 1933 (and removed, restored, and reinstalled when that institution demolished its building and erected a new facility in 2004) is considered one of the most notable works of art in any Jewish building on the West Coast.

In 1934, he oversaw the entire Coit Tower mural program, the largest publicly funded art program in the country, and his own work, Library, ignited much controversy because it starkly reflected the class conflict during the Depression. At the end of the 1930s, he painted the monumental 12-panel fresco, The Story of California Medicine, which hangs in the amphitheater of Toland Hall on the campus of the UCSF Medical Center.

In addition, Zakheim produced a large oeuvre of watercolors, oils, other works on paper, and sculpture. He was one of the first American artists to depict the Holocaust, and his huge wooden sculpture Genocide (initially displayed at the Magnes Museum and since 1969 in Mount Sinai Memorial Park in Los Angeles) was among the earliest Shoah monuments in the United States. He traveled to Israel in 1970 and portrayed the achievements of Zionism. He also painted a series of vivid scenes showing the Jewish contribution to the American Revolution.

In the 1930s, Zakheim was one of the foremost Jewish artists in the country," said Rosenbaum, the 2010 Cowan Award recipient. "He was also among the most controversial. The Jewish symbols of his youth in Warsaw, the narrative fresco techniques he studied in Mexico City, and the postimpressionism he absorbed in Paris, all served his artistic plea for human dignity. "

Other than the murals, the majority of Zakheim's work is in the possession of his son, Nathan Zakheim of Los Angeles. The family also has an invaluable photo collection dating from the artist's birth to his death at the age of 89, as well as an extensive archive of his personal correspondence and other papers. The Zakheim family and its exclusive representative for Bernard Zakheim's art, Albert Neiman, have pledged full cooperation for this project.

In addition to the public opening lecture by Rosenbaum, there will be additional Zakheim presentations in San Francisco. Contemporary art specialist Susanne Strimling will speak about Zakheim on Sunday, November 14, at 11 a.m. at the Jazz Heritage Center.

For more information, please visit or
Seating is limited, so please register early HERE

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Local History Mapped has just been launched on Calisphere!

Click to see larger Images

Local History Mapped consists of five maps of California with approximately 350 images from Calisphere plotted on the locations they depict. Users can browse the maps to find images, explore their neighborhoods, and learn about local history. Each map is on a different theme—civic buildings, disasters, transportation, city scenes, and everyday life—and includes a short essay with selected images and a “teachers’ toolbox” with ideas and activities for K-12 educators.  The California Historical Society has contributed to this project with several period photographs.  The maps will be accessible from the Calisphere homepage.

From Calisphere:

Local History Mapped: How We Mapped the Images

As we selected images for this feature, we tried to ensure representation of a variety of regions and communities. Even if their precise locations could not be determined, we decided that some images were worth including because they are visually rich and document what was happening in a defined area at a specific time in history. For all of the images in this collection, we have identified and mapped their locations to at least the city level.

Finding the Geo-coordinates

Pinpointing the geo-coordinates of each image in Calisphere’s Local History Mapped took some historical detective work. We followed five steps to find the address or cross-streets for each image:

1. We mapped the image to any location information contained in its description. For instance, the titles of some photographs contain the addresses of buildings pictured.

2. If there was not enough information in the description, then we looked for any landmarks and features in the image that could help identify its location.

3. We compared whatever information we could find there with information on trusted websites, like those of local historical societies.

4. We also searched the Internet for contextual information that would help define the location (for instance, looking up a modern-day stretch of historical Route 66).

5. Finally, in some cases, we submitted a reference request to the institution that contributed the image. Staff at these repositories applied their knowledge of local and regional history to help us map the images.

If you have additional information about an image that will help us more accurately map it, please let us know at

What “Location on map is approximate” Means

When you see the statement “Location on map is approximate,” it means that we were not able to identify its exact geo-coordinates (address or cross-streets). We plotted these images to the most specific known level of detail, such as “the waterfront” or “the north side of town.” There are several reasons why we might not have been able to find the exact address for every image:

1. Something changed: Sometimes, the physical environment had been altered since the photograph was taken. For example, we could not map some structures destroyed in the 1906 earthquake because the street patterns of some of the affected towns were changed in their rebuilding. And as a result of California’s rapid population growth in the mid- to late 20th century, areas of farmland were transformed to strip malls and housing developments. Urbanization also brought re-zoning and new ways of organizing and naming the landscape.

2. Not enough information: Other times, we found photographic evidence of people and places but did not have the metadata (location, date, and other information about the image) necessary to support exact mapping. Some family photographs that help us understand the diverse individuals living in California throughout its history did not include specific enough information about where the photograph was taken.

3. No information: Finally, and perhaps most frequently, we do not know much about an image because its creator or collector did not record its details. Libraries, archives, and museums work hard to identify all the facts about the articles they collect, but sometimes these details are simply lost to history.

All of the maps are available from the Calisphere homepage; you’ll notice a new space highlighting this in the “Collections for Educators” section. Or, if you’re feeling adventurous, you can view a map at random with the URL:

Monday, October 18, 2010

"Wheels of Change" Wins Major Car Book Award

Wheels of Change by Kevin Nelson, co-published by CHS and Heyday Books, has won a prestigious car book award: The Valentine Memorial Award for 2010, presented by the Society of Automotive Historians.   The award has been presented annually since 1999 to honor the late James Valentine, a founder of the chapter, who had a great interest in the relationship between the automobile industry and the state of California .

It is not possible to think of California without the influence of cars, nor can anyone imagine how the modern automobile would have developed without California. In Wheels of Change, author and historian Kevin Nelson brings to life the adventures and personalities that have shaped the story of California’s car culture, from engineering wizards to rebels without a cause to "gearheads" and dry lake racers. Nelson’s lively account covers the early days of horseless carriages all the way up through the 1950s and early ’60s, during the glory years of hot rods, customs, drag racing, and imported sports cars. He reveals the movie industry’s influence on cars, including the raucous off-screen racing exploits of Gary Cooper, Clark Gable, James Dean, and Steve McQueen.

About the Author

Kevin Nelson is the author of eighteen books. His Operation Bullpen: The Inside Story of the Biggest Forgery Scam in American History is currently under development to be a motion picture. Another highly praised book of his, The Golden Game: The Story of California Baseball, co-published by California Historical Society and Heyday Books, was named one of the top ten books of 2004 by the San Francisco Chronicle. Nelson devoted three years to researching and writing Wheels of Change, driving thousands of miles around California on road trips to car shows, car museums, car clubs, racetracks, the El Mirage dry lakes area, and other significant spots in the state’s automotive history. Nelson currently lives in the Bay Area with his wife and children.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

11/4/10 Book Talk and Signing with Inge S. Horton – Early Woman Architects of the San Francisco Bay Area

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Book Talk and Signing with Inge S. Horton – Early Woman Architects of the San Francisco Bay Area – The Lives and Work of Fifty Professionals, 1890 – 1951

California Historical Society, 5:30 - 7:00 p.m., Free

Inge Schaefer Horton is a retired city planner with a strong background in architecture who has been researching early women architects who lived and practiced at the same time as Julia Morgan, the eminent California architect. Her passion for discovering the careers and work of these lesser-known professionals began when she and her friends mounted an exhibition on European women architects at the San Francisco AIA (American Institute of Architects.) One of her friends remarked that the Europeans are lucky because they have so many role models while we in the United States have only Julia Morgan. Inge thought that it was highly unlikely that Julia Morgan was the only female pursuing architecture and started her search for her cohorts. Her research was full of surprises and eventually led to her decision to write a book about these amazing women. This program was developed in collaboration with William Stout Books.

Monday, October 4, 2010

California's Day of Inclusion

Assemblymember Mike Eng (D-Monterey Park) authored Assembly Concurrent Resolution (ACR) 76 to have December 17th designated as the “Day of Inclusion” in California. December 17th was chosen as a way to memorialize the historic Magnuson Act, signed into law on December 17, 1943, which repealed the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 and marked a turning point regarding society’s harsh attitudes towards immigration and immigrants. By repealing the “Chinese Exclusion” prohibitions, the United States expressed its commitment to continue to break down cultural barriers, appreciate differences, enrich cultural diversity, and further racial, religious and cultural tolerance. 

One of the photographs used in this production came from the collection of the California Historical Society.  Many images from our collection are available on Calisphere, the image database for the Online Archive of California.