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Helen Lundeberg, Water Map, 1963, acrylic on canvas, 60 × 60".

Helen Lundeberg

Cristin Tierney

Helen Lundeberg, Water Map, 1963, acrylic on canvas, 60 × 60".

Helen Lundeberg (1908–1999) is an important if underrecognized figure in California art. Perhaps best known for her enigmatic “post-Surrealist” figurative paintings of the 1930s, she made a transition to hard-edge geometric abstraction in the ’50s; the latter works, marked by their austere and ingenious eccentricity, were the focus of this revealing show at Cristin Tierney Gallery.

Abstract without purely being so, pieces such as Seascape, 1962; By the Sea II, 1962; and Water Map, 1963, clearly allude to the sea. It must be a serenely unruffled sea, for its surface is flat and unmoving (suggesting, perhaps, that Lundeberg is not exactly “moved” by it). Three other, browner works—Sunny Corridor, 1959; Desert Road, 1960; and Arches 5, 1962—evoke the earth, although they all also have hints of blue. In comparison with these, Untitled, 1959, is in a class by itself: A sequence

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