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William Robert Brun (b. 1936)

Updated: Feb 22, 2023

Untitled (Hard-edged Pop Abstraction)), 1964, acrylic on canvas, signed with name and symbol and dated (2/13/64) verso, 50 x 36 inches, exhibited at Ten Southern Californians at the Pasadena Art Museum, Pasadena, California, June 6 through June 30, 1964 (label verso)


About the Painting

This 1964 William Robert Brun work is a striking example of mid-century California painting which combines hard-edged abstraction with Pop Art sensibilities. The reputation of hard-edged tradition in Southern California was solidified by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s 1959 exhibition, Four Abstract Classicists, which included the work of Benjamin, Feitelson, Hammersley and McLaughlin. Pop Art burst onto the Los Angeles scene in 1962 when the ground-breaking Ferus Gallery exhibited Andy Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup can paintings for the first time on the West Coast. Walter Hopps was the co-founder and director of the Ferus Gallery who left that position in 1962 to become the Curator and Director of the Pasadena Art Museum, which somewhat surprisingly, was a national beacon for modern art during the 1960s through the early 1970s. Under Hopps’ leadership, the Pasadena Art Museum organized the first retrospectives for Joseph Cornell and Marcel Duchamp and the first museum retrospective exhibition focused on Pop Art, American Pop Art: New Painting of Common Objects. In 1964, Hopps selected Brun’s Untitled for inclusion in Ten Southern Californians, an exhibition at the Pasadena Art Museum designed to showcase emerging artists working in a variety of media and styles. Hopps described his selections as being “off beat” and a continuation of the Pacific Profile of Western Artists exhibition from 1961. With its bold colors, edited design and recognizable forms, Brun’s Untitled fits into the prevailing Pop aesthetic of the early 1960s, but his approach is more severely stripped down compared to Warhol and other contemporaries, making his a unique artistic vision.

About the Artist

William Robert Brun is a Southern California painter who first gained recognition in the 1960s. Born in San Diego, Brun began artmaking while serving in the US Army in Germany during the mid-1950s. Upon his return to the United States, Brun enrolled in the Chouinard Art Institute where he studied with Robert Irwin, Richard Rubens, and Robert Graham, though Brun also considers himself to be largely self-taught. During the 1960s, Brun exhibited at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Pasadena Art Museum, Claremont University and the Feigen Palmer and David Stuart Galleries. He has served as an art instructor at the Watts Towers Art Center. His early works draw on hard-edged and pop influences as well as Dada, Surrealism and German Expressionism, while is later works combine figures, text and symbols which take on an outsider and almost extraterrestrial quality.


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