Futzie Nutzle: The Missions

  • SAN JUAN BAUTISTA, California
  • /
  • November 01, 2011

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San Juan Bautista: the Mission

Gene Oliver Gallery presents a solo show dedicated to California artist Futzie Nutzle.

"Futzie Nutzle: The Missions" features a collection of oil and pastels evocative of the long history of the twenty-one California missions built along historic El Camino Real from 1769 to 1823.

Futzie Nutzle is better known for his minimalist black inked drawings published in every issue of Rolling Stone from 1975 to 1980-a real job after exhibits in New York City in the early 70s-, in Tokyo's Japan Times from 1985 to the late 90s, in Bay Guardian and Metro Santa Cruz, among many others.

In 1989, the elusive Nutzle tiptoed away from the social and famed scene he enjoyed for roughly thirty years in Santa Cruz, preferring now seclusion and privacy in San Juan Bautista, half an hour away from the coast. Since his last exhibit at the Cabrillo College Gallery in the spring of 2011, his name is associated with the series of vases evolving into cornucopia that he took to somewhat provocative social, cultural and political levels.


His series of pastels and oil paintings representing the California Missions take anyone used to his former artwork by surprise.  And yet, don't they reflect the Ohio native's emotional relationship with California, the state he considers home since 1965 when he left Cleveland for Santa Cruz?

"I'm moving," Nutzle says, "from statement or cleverness to the purity of painting and spontaneity."

Four major colors evoke California: the blue of the sky and of the Pacific Ocean, the gold of the vegetation during dry season, turning green during rain season, and the earthy adobe of the early California architecture.  These four colors are intricately woven in each of Nutzle's missions, and yet each canvas and pastel keeps a distinct uniqueness from one another.  Painted at different times of the day, in different seasons, the missions are shown under California's extraordinary light which varies so dramatically and yet so subtly over the course of a day.

The whitish color of the adobe missions, that distinguishes them from any other religious building in the nation, appears bland in the work of most artists.  Nutzle manages to show texture to the plain material and each mission becomes the main protagonist of its unique story. Movement defines California as much as color. Nutzle's skilled brush and pastel chalk strokes render a gentle breeze dancing through the grass or a gust of wind blowing through the olive pepper trees.

The San Andrea Fault digs its way near the artist's studio, and runs along the base of the hill below the mission's cemetery. In 1906, a violent earthquake shook Central California, destroying the sidewalls of the mission.  They were restored in 1976 as well as the original chapel and the well.  Nutzle employs the new additions of architecture in a style that represents these vintage views. Nutzle spent three to five years drawing and painting the missions.

 His many pastels and oil paintings of the missions showcase them at different periods of time, under different angles allowing the viewer to appreciate the history behind the missions of California.  And of course, the talent of a man who is pursuing his solitary artistic journey, following his heart more than a trend. 

Works from Nutzle have been or are currently shown at:

- The Modern Museum of Art, New York City

- Fresno Art Museum, Fresno CA

- Cabrillo College Gallery, Santa Cruz CA

 - Santa Cruz Art Museum, Santa Cruz, CA

Gene Oliver Gallery
1 (831) 250-0189

Gene Oliver Gallery
31 Washington St.
po box 588
San Juan Bautista, California
(831) 250-0189
About Gene Oliver Gallery

Gene Oliver Gallery is located in the heart of historic San Juan Bautista; the gallery occupies a small space in the Plaza Market building. All Drawings and Paintings sold by the gallery are original European and American works from the 19th and 20th centuries, with a particular emphasis on Post-Impressionism, Fauvism, Pop Art and Abstract Expressionism artists. Evelyne and Gene, long time art collectors, also occasionally open their gallery space to a few contemporary artists.

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