AUG. 29, 2003
CONTACT:Mike Stepanovich at 661/664-2456 or mstepanovich@csub.edu

An exhibition of art works from the world-renowned collection of the late philanthropist and art collector Frederick R. Weisman will open in the Todd Madigan Gallery at California State University, Bakersfield on Friday, Sept. 12.

The exhibition, titled “Made in California: Selected Works, The Frederick R. Weisman Art Foundation,” will feature 50 works of modern and contemporary California artists, including Ed Ruscha, David Hockney and Joe Goode.

A gala grand opening is planned for the evening of Sept. 12, presented by the CSUB Foundation’s Fine Arts Committee. The gala will begin at 6:30 p.m. in the Madigan Gallery and Dore Theater, and will feature a festive buffet supper, a talk by Billie Milam Weisman, director of the Frederick R. Weisman Art Foundation; and the unveiling of the exhibition, which will run through Nov. 15. A silent auction of original painted neckties painted by selected exhibition artists is planned for the gala opening, with proceeds helping to underwrite the exhibition and providing funds for the CSUB Fine Arts Merit Award scholarships.

“Frederick Weisman was very passionate about his collection and wanted his works to be seen,” said Judy Fritch, chair of the CSUB Foundation’s Fine Arts Committee. “We are absolutely thrilled that we are able to bring this exhibition to CSUB and to Bakersfield. It was his belief that art was important in people’s lives. The Weisman Foundation’s mission is to provide people the opportunity to view Mr. Weisman’s collection, and to continue his legacy of encouraging emerging artists.”

The exhibition is under the auspices of the CSUB Foundation’s Fine Arts Committee, and Fritch feels that this and other events are the committee’s major responsibility. “It’s important to provide the community with exposure to the arts, but at the center of our decisions is the benefit to the students,” she said. “The Weisman show is a win-win situation.”

Rebecca Weller, professor of art history at CSUB and interim director of the Todd Madigan Gallery, said the show should help viewers understand the evolution of California art. “The show is not so much a historical or chronological retrospective as it is an exploration of contemporary art issues,” she said. “The Weisman Foundation’s policy is to group established, well-known artists with emerging ones, focusing on issues of abstraction, postmodernism, and the uniquely California art movements. My hope is that the exhibition will function as a tutorial for students unfamiliar with contemporary art and be simultaneously interesting to our community."

The show is being curated by Billie Milam Weisman. “We sent her digital photographs of every possible angle of the gallery, and from that she chose the art works to display,” Weller said. “There will be a lot of emerging artists. It’s really very exciting.”

Twelve artists whose work will be exhibited at the show have volunteered to paint the ties that will be auctioned off at the gala opening, Weller said.

The show was initiated by Bakersfield art gallery owner Jill Thayer in connection with her master’s thesis at CSUB. Los Angeles Times art critic and writer Suzanne Muchnic arranged a meeting between Thayer and Billie Milam Weisman, which got the ball rolling. CSUB art faculty member Margaret Nowling, and CSUB development director Laura Wolfe worked with Thayer, the project’s coordinator, to complete the arrangement.

According to biographical sketches available on the Internet from the University of Minnesota and the Frederick R. Weisman Foundation, Weisman was regarded during his lifetime as one of the top 200 art collectors in the world, and acquired art with a bold and creative vision. He favored works that were vibrant, colorful and thought provoking. Works in his collection reflect vital trends in the contemporary art scene from Pop Art to Postmodernism.

A native of Minneapolis, Weisman moved to Los Angeles at age 7. He later attended the University of Minnesota for a short time, but returned to California to continue his studies at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Through a series of successful business ventures, Weisman became involved with a small canning company, Val-Vita, which later merged with Hunt Brothers Packing Co. to become Hunt Foods. By age 31, he had become the company's president. In the late 1950's, Weisman left Hunt to pursue a number of business ventures. In 1970, he established Mid-Atlantic Toyota, which was one of the first Toyota distributorships in the United States.

As Weisman's business enterprises grew, so did his interest in art. Recognized as one of America's foremost collectors of contemporary art, Weisman was an ardent supporter of new and emerging artists. He provided funding to various art institutions, including museums at the University of Minnesota and at Pepperdine University.

After his death, Weisman left a significant portion of his estate to the Frederick R. Weisman Art Foundation, which operates his former home of Carolwood as a museum.

Billie Milam Weisman had a great interest in science in her younger years. She studied metallurgy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and took an art conservation internship at the Fogg Museum at Harvard University. She has a master’s degree from UCLA in art history, and is recognized for her curatorial and consulting services in art conservation.

Prior to becoming director of the Frederick R. Weisman Art Foundation she was head of objects conservation at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, as well as a sculpture conservator at the J. Paul Getty Museum. Since Weisman’s death she has worked to continue his commitment of sharing his art with a broad audience. The collection has more than 1,000 works, of which more than 500 are on display at Carolwood.

The art the Weismans collected reflects a sense of fun. It has been described as uplifting and positive. He was particularly drawn to illusionism.

The “Made in California: Selected Works, The Frederick R. Weisman Art Foundation” exhibition at the Todd Madigan Gallery runs from Sept. 12 through Nov. 15. Gallery hours are Thursdays through Saturdays, 3:30 to 9:30 p.m., and Sundays 1 to 5 p.m. Cost is $5 general admission, $2 for students and seniors, free for children 12 and under. Admission is included with the purchase of a “Made in California” catalog. Catalogs cost $25.

The Todd Madigan Gallery is located on the CSUB campus, 9001 Stockdale Highway, Bakersfield. For more information about the Weisman exhibition, please call (661) 664-2487.