San Francisco

Robert Bechtle

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA)

The midday sun beats down mercilessly in Robert Bechtle’s signature 1960s Photorealist canvases of solitary American cars sitting on the hot asphalt alongside California stucco homes or in empty parking lots. It’s a clean, hard light that Bechtle renders with uncanny veracity. This illumination even seems to brighten his interior scenes such as Xmas in Gilroy, 1971, a painting of three women in a nondescript living room. The flash blurs the faces, which belong to the artist’s relations, but there is no doubt that the scene is a generic American family function. It is difficult to see, yet somehow already familiar.

One of the pleasurable revelations of this expansive exhibition was how it revealed subtle shifts in light and perspective taking place over a four-decade oeuvre focused on a singular milieu. Even in the Bay Area, where Bechtle has lived, worked, and taught his whole life, his

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