Sylvia Fein, Kite Eye (or Eye Kite), 2006, egg tempera on board, 5 × 7".

Sylvia Fein, Kite Eye (or Eye Kite), 2006, egg tempera on board, 5 × 7".

Sylvia Fein

Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAMPFA)

Born in 1919 in Milwaukee and engaged early on with a circle of artists associated with the University of Wisconsin, Madison, Sylvia Fein moved to California in the late 1940s after a yearslong stay in Mexico and received her MFA from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1951. She has long since been based in and associated with the East Bay (where she still resides, in Martinez, cultivating an orchard of olive trees that appears in some of her paintings). Yet her work has willfully eluded such paradigms as Abstract Expressionism or, closer to home, Bay Area Figuration. Instead, her diminutive pictures—egg tempera on gesso on panels—continue a sort of Magic Realism indebted to Renaissance techniques and oriented toward archly absurd, often convulsive or miasmic visions of a world. Her current presentation—expertly curated by Lawrence Rinder as one of his last shows while director

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