Master Pieces Gallery
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Masterpieces? Of San Diego? Yep

The exhibition celebrating a building expansion at Oceanside Museum of Art is titled “Masterpieces of San Diego Painting: Fifty Works From Fifty Years, 1900-1950.” If that doesn’t stop you dead in your tracks, nothing will. Masterpieces? Of San Diego painting? From before World War II?

Surely the museum jests. Or, more likely, it’s making provincial boasts. A visit to the show reveals that a third explanation for the claim is closer to the truth. Guest curator Bram Dijkstra pretty much means what the cheeky title says. Surely he knows that it will be received with skeptical regard, but Dijkstra wants to provoke a conversation about a specific history of art where virtually none has existed before.

And “Masterpieces of San Diego Painting” delivers -- no, not 50 pictures I’d trade for a mess of Matisses and Picassos from the same era, or even O’Keeffes, Hartleys and Doves. But it does tell a compelling story of regional aesthetics with cosmopolitan ambitions, which more museums ought to do. Click here for the full story.

Here are some highlights from new exhibition, which runs through June 29. (Collection of San Diego Museum of Art)
Belle Baranceanu (1902-1988) finished “The Yellow Robe” in 1927. In it, she combined a woman’s profile and a fabric design to form a domestic environment. Baranceanu was famous for the murals she painted for the Works Progress Administration during the Depression. The painting is part of the exhibition at the Oceanside Museum of Art. (Collection of San Diego Museum of Art)
Charles Reiffel (1862-1942) has seven paintings on display at the Oceanside Museum of Art. For “The Old Farm,” he blended paint on the canvas instead of on a palette, creating a rough chromatic density. (Oceanside Museum of Art)
“Matilija Poppies” by Albert Valentien (1862-1925) suggests a life cycle with its buds, blossoms and fading petals. Valentien painted vases for Rookwood, the famous pottery in Cincinnati, before moving to California. (Oceanside Museum of Art)
The untitled 1936 Abstract painting by Fred Hocks (1886-1981) derives from Pablo Picasso. It is among the artworks in the Oceanside exhibition. (Oceanside Museum of Art)
Inspired by machinery, Marius Rocle (1897-1967) painted “Trigon” in 1939. Rocle was a self-taught French expatriate. (Oceanside Museum of Art)