San Diego History Center Reveals Bob Matheny: Almost Anonymous on December 15th

When you think of San Diego art, what artists do you think of? If your mind draws a blank, I won't blame you. One of San Diego’s pioneering artists will have his first major museum survey of his work – a six-decade career – this month.


The San Diego History Center will be opening the Bob Matheny: An Almost Anonymous exhibit on December 15th to pay tribute to the remarkable influence Matheny has had on San Diego art in his lifetime. The exhibit will run through March 24, 2019, showcasing key works from Matheny.

Kaytie Johnson is the curator of the Matheny exhibition and a long-time fan of his work. “Because this is Matheny’s first museum retrospective, I think there will be many revelations for visitors. Many of the works in the show have never before been exhibited. He has produced a large body of work in his six-decade career – he is incredibly prolific. This exhibition, although more comprehensive in scope than any previous shows, only scratches the surface. The History Center is thrilled to present this long overdue survey of Bob’s life and career, which recognizes his broad influence as both an artist and teacher, and celebrates his significant – yet under-recognized – contributions to San Diego’s art community.”


Of note in the exhibition are some of Matheny’s earliest works, his more conceptual, Dada-inspired pieces, which he began producing in the late 1960s (notably, the Art Disposal Service, 1969-2016); his ‘Aviation Art’ series of works, which he created for a decade after learning to fly gliders and powered planes in 1972; and his legislative campaign to establish a Great State of Art in southern Utah, and the series of works and actions produced in support of that project (1990-ongoing).  And, for the past few years, Matheny has returned to painting, creating hard-edge paintings on 12” x 12” panels that connect back to his paintings from the 1960s.


Matheny’s legacy in San Diego’s art community also extends to his role as a committed and progressive educator.  In the early 1960s he was the first full-time art instructor at Southwestern College in Chula Vista, a position he held for three decades.  During his tenure at Southwestern Matheny founded and programmed the college’s art gallery, established its permanent collection of contemporary art, and organized a series of public programs and events – including film screenings, performances, and happenings – that were forward-thinking and often controversial. In 2018 he was a recipient of the San Diego Art Prize, an annual honor awarded by the San Diego Visual Arts Network for excellence in the visual arts.

Johnson shares, “This exhibition is special because the History Center doesn’t often exhibit the work of living artists.  This show more comprehensively showcases San Diego’s cultural and artistic history by connecting the present with the past,\ and shows the History Center’s commitment to engaging artists working a living in our region today, and in the future.  Bob Matheny is, literally, a living local treasure.  His contributions to shaping the city’s cultural landscape – from the 1950s to the present day – are sadly under-recognized, yet profound and vital. He is a living link to the city’s art history.”


An opening reception for the exhibition is scheduled for Saturday, December 15, 2018, from 4-6pm at the San Diego History Center in Balboa Park. Johnson believes there will be a great turnout for the event. “Matheny is well loved and respected in the San Diego art community, so we can likely expect many members of SD’s art community from all generations.”


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