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Arthur Monroe - Ajijic 1964 to Jack London Square 2019




In Ajijic, Mexico I met painter, Charles Littler living in his van with wife, 2 children and a dog. He was on sabbatical from his teaching position at the University of Arizona in Tucson and had been there about 6 months becoming friends with visiting painter Arthur Monroe. Arthur’s painting was of the New York School, Charles’ quite different more mid western, intimate. A year later I met Charles’ best friend, Andy Rush in NYC on his way back to Arizona after setting up a printmaking workshop in Florence, Italy on behalf of the University. He invited me to visit next time I passed through Tucson which I did the following year. Charles and a couple of faculty members had purchased the old dude ranch in Oracle to establish an artist community. Andy moved there the following year. It was here I would stop with my family and say hello on my way across the country eventually becoming an artist in residence for 8 months in 1972. In 1990 I sublet my studio and moved to Oakland CA. Per-chance on a studio visit by artist Charles Strong, I was asked to join the Berkeley Breakfast Group at their weekly early morning, 6 am, get together. It was this group of artists who made my transition to California most enjoyable. For starters I was in my 50’s, one of the youngest participants. The first day I heard a familiar voice, one I had not heard in over 30 years, Arthur Monroe. I felt like I had come full circle, completely at home and although accepted I was suspect, like Arthur, a New York painter. Another thing about the breakfast group, founding member Elmer Bishoff, an icon among California painters, an inspiration really, and unbeknownst to me, the father of my junior high school sweetheart, although Elmer was not present at the time, separated from the family and moving on. He died a year after I joined the group and the Oakland Museum held a mini retrospective of his drawings. Arriving unsuspecting I was drawn to the center when someone said Laurie is looking for you and in the next moment I reunite with the family I had known intimately 37 years before, in 1954. Arthur and I had reconnected and when he learned we had a mutual friend, artist Dean Fleming he went into a story about traveling to Norway to see a special a museum of a doctor who had lived in north beach san Francisco collecting art of the beat painters of the time before returning to Norway and eventually establishing the museum. Arthur was working on a catalogue of the collection and wanted to get in touch with dean. I called dean that very moment setting in motion a rich vain of information connecting us in a profound way to a period in the art history of San Fransisco. Later visiting Iranian artist Parviz Kalantari with whom I had traded art work a few years earlier popped into town and wanted to get together, Arthur was organizing a community event through the Oakland Museum doing art work with children at a north Oakland playground so we joined him with Parviz doing some drawings for the project and becoming fast friends with Arthur. In the breakfast meetings Arthur ever the historian was always pursuing the nitty-gritty insisting on the chronology of facts, irritatingly so and certainly not one to argue with. In the spring 2019 visiting family I joined the breakfast for camaraderie and general update on my friends. I heard that Arthur Monroe’s son had lovingly installed a major retrospective of Arthur’s work. After breakfast Guilermo Pulido and I went to see it, a fabulous show taking over the entire ground floor of a building owned by the City of Oakland in the heart of Jack London Square. The show was both intimate and personal and very unorthodox, a real and complete loving portrait an only son could conceive. It included a number of large-scale paintings, tons of smaller work, personal artifacts, photographs, and work and photos by and of various friends influential in his long life plus posters and post cards. A real tour de force. After the show Guillermo and I drove by Arthur’s studio unfortunately after a half hour of attempts we were unable to gain access. Arthur died a few months later.

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