While there were some incipient artistic directions taking hold among Southern California artists—variously described as the “Beat Generation” (Ed Kienholz, Wallace Berman, George Herms), the “Light-and-Space” artists (Robert Irwin, James Turrell, Larry Bell), and figures pioneering in a distinctively narrative art form that did not yet go by the name of “Conceptual Art” (John Baldessari, Ed Ruscha, Eleanor Antin)—they peaceably coexisted in the wide-open creative space of the SoCal art world of the day.
In this milieu, a welcoming, nondoctrinaire embrace of individual visions flourished. Brice’s choice to remain in the burgeoning, laid-back, artistically libertine artistic community of Los Angeles proved fortuitous, providing a supportive environment that nurtured his inner nature and enabled this complex, jovial and private soul to develop his idiomatic art in its varying forms. Brice explored numerous stylistic shifts through his artistic development. A rhythm of artistic wanderlust united with an abidance by figuration, eroticism and sexuality defined his art throughout. Doing what he did—working in quiet isolation in his studio—where he did—in the gregarious, supportive intellectual climate of the emergent Los Angeles art world—enabled him to thrive as “an artist’s artist.”
Howard N. Fox is curator emeritus of contemporary art,
Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
1 — Unless otherwise noted, citations to John Brice are from unrecorded discussions with the author in Spring and Summer 2010.
2 — Untitled, undated, unpublished manuscript; collection of the Estate of William Brice.
3 — “Interview: Part I” by Wendy Diamond, Crown Point Press, San Francisco, December 1985; reprinted in View, Vol. IV, No. 6, Spring 1988, Point Publications, San Francisco, p. 6.
4 — Unpublished manuscript, 1953; collection of the Estate of William Brice.
5 —David Acton, “The Prints of William Brice,” in William Brice: Works on Paper, 1982—1992, Los Angeles: Grunwald Center for the Graphic Arts, University of California, Los Angeles, 1993, p. 19.
6 — Diamond, p. 18, 20.
7 —Michael Duncan, “William Brice at L.A. Louver,” in Art in America, February 1999, p. 118.
8 —Diamond, p. 2.
9 —Richard Armstrong, “William Brice’s Essential Elements,” in William Brice: A Selection of Painting and Drawing, 1947—1986, Los Angeles: The Museum of Contemporary Art and the Fellows of Contemporary Art, 1986, n.p.