Raimonds Staprans’s Emotional Tenor

May 8, 2013

Originally from Latvia, Raimonds Staprans (b. 1926) creates paintings that unite the warm still lifes of the Bay Area Figurative Movement with the expressive capabilities of Color Field painting. Like many 20th century painters, Staprans experienced external turmoil early in his life that eventually informed his artistic sensibilities. Soviet tanks arrived in Latvia, forcing Staprans and his family to immigrate to the Pacific Northwest in 1940. “I decided to become a painter – [the invasion] also ended my innocence and forced me to become aware of aggression, injustice, and cruelty. Thus, in an oblique way, I owe my career as an artist to the misfortunes that befell us during that time.” After studying under Mark Tobey at the University of Washington, Staprans moved to the Bay Area to pursue his graduate studies.

While his work shares many similarities with his Bay Area contemporaries Richard Diebenkorn, Paul Wonner, and Richard Park, Staprans focused on still lifes and distorted landscapes with color and light at the forefront. In Red Sky (1968) (Lot 240) and Landscape (1972-78) (Lot 239), color shards compete for space, yet reveal an expansive and dense spatiality. The subject matter is reminiscent of works by Richard Diebenkorn and Wayne Thiebaud, as seen in Paint Can (1999) (Lot 238), though according to poet and curator John Yau, Staprans’ work achieves a distinct “emotional tenor” unlike Diebenkorn’s: “His landscapes are like tectonic plates. One senses that their alignment is precarious, and that everything could shift suddenly and violently in the blink of an eye.” Staprans’ work is held in the permanent collections of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, and a career retrospective was exhibited at the Pasadena Museum of California Art in 2006.

Yau, John. “Harsh and Forgiving Light.” Raimonds Staprans. Los Angeles: Peter Mendenhall Gallery, 2008. Print.
Staprans, Raimonds. “Four Reflections.” Raimonds Staprans. Berlin: Redmann Galerie and Kunsthandel, 1988. Print.

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