Sullivan Goss
AN AMERICAN GALLERY
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William Dole

(1917-1983)

Pioneer Collage Artist and Abstract Expressionist

by Kelly Brent

William Dole was a significant artist who turned from Abstract Expressionism to create a new visual vocabulary in his collage work. Using appropriated typographic elements and other mixed media, Dole's work bridged the Dada tradition of collage to the theories and compositional practices of Abstract Expressionism.




Table Of Contents

I. Biography

William Dole was born in 1917 in Angola, Indiana to his postmaster father, W. Earl Dole and his mother, Edna Cowen Dole. Throughout his adolescence, Dole was enthralled by the reproductions of artworks embedded in the pages of women’s magazines such as the Ladies’ Home Journal and Vanity Fair. From highschool he was offered scholarships to the John Herron Art School and Olivet College. Dole chose to further his education at Olivet and studied English Literature. He also apprenticed under George Rickey, receiving a degree in Art History and went on to receive his teaching credentials in art. It was during the 1940s that Dole enrolled in art classes at Mills College in Oakland, California were he met and married his wife, Kate Holcomb Dole in 1941. Soon after his marriage to Kate, Dole was enlisted in the army where he was given a position teaching art to fellow cadets.

With three children and an end to his war duties, Dole attempted a job as a commercial artist for Virgil A. Advertising. He quickly changed his mind when he entered graduate school at the University of California, Berkeley in the summer of 1946. It was here that he continued on for two years as a lecturer in the Arts Department. During these years Dole began professionally exhibiting his work. In 1949, he took on a position as an Assistant Professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara. In 1955 he took sabbatical from the college in order to take his family to Florence, Italy for two years. Enthused by a leather journal filled with scraps of paper, Dole diverged on his path of watercolors and began creating collages inspired by Italian landscapes.

Returning to the United States, the artist was appointed Department Chairman in 1958 and went on to become a full time professor in 1962. Collage quickly became his medium and developed interest in the work of George Braque, Kurt Schwitters (1887- 1948) and Joseph Cornell (1903-1972). Throughout the 1950s, Dole’s exhibited in Berlin, Mexico City, Rome, and London. At this time, Dole was appointed Department Chairman in 1971 until 1974. The “William Dole Retrospective 1960-1975” Exhibition traveled from 1976 from the Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery to the Santa Barbara Museum of Art. Dole was also awarded with an honorary degree as a Doctor of Fine Arts by Olivet College in 1978 and continued working till his death in Santa Barbara in the year 1983.

II. AN ANALYSIS OF THE ARTIST’S WORK

As a child, Dole was enthralled by European oil paintings at the World Fair, and it these early observation that inspirsed Dole to pursue the arts. He is well-known for his oeuvre of oils, drawings, water colors, prints, and his infamous works in collage. The artist began his career under a Social Realist influence working as an apprentice under George Rickey in 1937-38 and later as an art teacher for the US Army. Dole’s return to graduate school lead him to teach a variety of art classes at both the University of California Berkeley as well as Santa Barbara, leaving little time to paint. When he did find time, Dole consistently sketched his surroundings. As curator Paul Mills noted Dole’s art was a “product of his looking”. Whether it was his children playing, the fields around his Santa Ynez home, or the papers on his desk, Dole’s works transformed into personal examinations of the world he was experiencing.

During his time in Florence, Dole’s watercolors and drawings were heavily influenced by the new and unfamiliar landscapes. Dole created faux settings by piecing disparate elements of these landscapes together which turned him to experiment with collage. It wasn’t until his return from Italy around 1958 that Dole converted his main medium to collage.

He was quick to abandon his representational use of collage for something less referential. Intrigued by a collection of Japanese papers and an Italian leather journal full of book pages, letters, maps, and more, Dole began to produce what many refer to as “magical” and seemingly “poetic” visual entities. His use of commonplace elements shapes, colors, and letters become unfamiliar as they are arranged to recreate the known world for the viewer. The artist’s inspiration often derived from the visual environment by which he was surrounded. One series titled Memos reflects the visual landscape such as letterheads and work documents from his office in the Art Department.

Dole’s passion for collage did not stem from the influence of one particular artist but his passion and intrigue for materials. The texture of certain papers, the shape of a Chinese character, the geometric quality of scientific diagrams, inspired Dole to combine these fragments onto one canvas. His goal was not for the viewer to derive a particular meaning but to view the collage as a new visual experience. The artist comments on the respect he holds for the written word that goes beyond its meaning when he states,

“I believe that if you place a letter or a word or a group of words in a composition, you create a kind of visual energy that is different from an intense color…I sometimes use words in this way to create an area of interest or to create a kind of texture that has visual weight that a purely abstract texture wouldn’t have. Being able to create this kind of visual effect is almost like adding another primary color to your palette”.

III. COLLECTIONS

  • Oakland Museum of California, Oakland, CA
  • Joseph H. Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.
  • San Diego Museum of Art, San Diego, CA
  • Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, Colorado Springs, CO
  • Smith College Museum of Art, Northampton, MA
  • Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Santa Barbara, CA
  • The Brooklyn Museum of Art, Brooklyn, NY
  • Museum of Art at Brigham Young University, Salt Lake City, UT
  • Phoenix Art Museum, Phoenix, AZ
  • Mills College Art Museum, Oakland, CA
  • Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA
  • Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, CA
  • The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C.
  • Museum of Art, University of California Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, CA
  • Allentown Art Museum, Allentown, PA
  • Mead Art Museum, Amherst College, Amherst, MA
  • Arizona State University Museum of Art, Phoenix, AZ
  • Long Beach Museum of Art, Long Beach, CA
  • Atlantic Richfield Company, Los Angeles, CA
  • Fine Arts Gallery of San Diego, San Diego, CA
  • St. Paul Art Center, St. Paul, MN
  • Storm King Art Center, Newburg, NY
  • Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN
  • McCrory Corporation, NY
  • ARCO, Los Angeles, CA
  • Fort Worth Art Museum, Fort Worth, TA
  • Honolulu Academy of Fine Arts, Honolulu, HI
  • Minnesota Museum of Art, St. Paul, MN
  • Palm Springs Desert Museum, Palm Springs, CA
  • Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Philadelphia, PA
  • Museum of Art, Iowa University, Iowa City, IA
  • Olivet College, Olivet, MI
  • Rockefeller University, New York, NY
  • IV. EXHIBITIONS

    Solo Exhibitions

  • 1951, 1954, 1958, 1962, 1968, 1977 Santa Barbara Museum of Art
  • 1951 Art Barn, Salt Lake City, UT
  • 1951 M. H. De Young Memorial Museum, San Francisco, CA
  • 1951 Mills College Art Gallery, Oakland, CA
  • 1952 Geddis-Martin Studios, Santa Barbara, CA
  • 1954 Arts Center in La Jolla, CA
  • 1954 Rotunda Gallery, San Francisco, CA
  • 1956 Galerie Springer, Berlin
  • 1956 Eric Locke Gallery, San Francisco
  • 1957 Galeria Sagttarius, Rome
  • 1958 Duveen-Graham Gallery, New York
  • 1958, 1965 University Art Gallery, University of California, Santa Barbara
  • 1959 Bertha Lewinson Gallery, Los Angeles
  • 1959 The Artists’ Workshop, Santa Barbara
  • 1960 Graham Gallery, New York
  • 1960, 1961, 1963, 1966, 1970, 1971, 1973 Esther Bear Gallery, Santa Barbara
  • 1960 The Thacher School, Ojai, CA
  • 1961 Galeria de Antonio Souza, Mexico City
  • 1961, 1963, 1964, 1965, 1966, 1968, 1969 Rex Evans Gallery, Los Angeles
  • 1962 California Palace of the Legion of Honor, San Francisco
  • 1963 Ojai Arts Center, Ojai, CA
  • 1964 Galerie Springer, Berlin
  • 1964 La Jolla Museum of Art, San Diego, CA
  • 1966 McRoberts and Tunnard Gallery, London, England
  • 1969 Marion Koogler McNay Art Institute, San Antonio, Texas
  • 1969 Cowell College Gallery, University of California, Santa Cruz
  • 1971 Mary Moore Gallery, La Jolla, CA
  • 1971, 1974, 1977 Jodi Scully Gallery, Los Angeles
  • 1972 The Graphics Gallery, San Francisco
  • 1974 Mount Holyoke College Art Museum, MA
  • 1974, 1976, 1978-79, 1980, 1982-83, 1984 Staempfli Gallery, NY
  • 1976 Municipal Art Gallery of Los Angeles, Retrospective Exhibition, Los Angeles, CA
  • 1976 Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, Retrospective Exhibition, CO
  • 1976 Fine Arts Gallery of San Diego, Retrospective Exhibition, CA
  • 1977 Santa Barbara Musuem of Art, Retrospective Exhibition, CA
  • 1977 William Sawyer Gallery, San Francisco
  • 1978-79 Pennsylvania State University Museum of Art, PA
  • 1978-79 Allentown Art Museum, PA
  • 1978-79 Indianapolis Museum of Art
  • 1978-79 The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C.
  • 1980 Oakland Museum, CA
  • 1980 Loyola Marymount University Art Gallery, Los Angeles
  • 1980 William Sawyer Gallery, San Francisco
  • 1981 Tennessee Fine Arts Center, Nashville, TN
  • 1981 Art Museum of Santa Cruz County, CA
  • 1981 Mekler Gallery, Los Angeles
  • 1982 William Sawyer Gallery, San Francisco
  • 1982 Peppers Art Gallery, San Francisco
  • 1983 Santa Barbara Museum of Art, In Tribute to William Dole, CA
  • 1983 Gray Gallery, East Carolina University, Greenville, NC
  • 1992 Santa Barbara Museum of Art, William Dole: The Collage Years, 1955-1989, CA
  • Group Exhibitions (selected list)

  • 1945, 1948, 1949, 1950, 1951, 1954, 1960 San Francisco Museum of Art, CA
  • 1946, 1948, 1950, 1959 Oakland Museum of Art, Oakland, CA
  • 1947, 1948, 1952, 1957 California Palace of the Legion of Honor, San Francisco, CA
  • 1948 Denver Art Museum, CO
  • 1949 Albany Institute of History and Art, Albany, NY
  • 1949, 1952 M. H. de Young Memorial Museum, San Francisco, CA
  • 1950, 1951, 1952, 1953, 1955, 1958, 1959, 1961, 1962 Santa Barbara Museum of Art, CA
  • 1950, 1952, 1962 Pasadena Art Museum, Pasadena, CA
  • 1950, 1960, 1965, 1968, 1986 The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, PA
  • 1950 Herron Museum of Art, Indianapolis, IN
  • 1950, 1951, 1953, 1954, 1959 California State Fair, Sacramento, CA
  • 1951 Los Angeles County fair, CA
  • 1951, 1953, 1955, 1958, 1959, 1961 Los Angeles County Museum of Art, CA
  • 1953, 1960, 1963 Long Beach Museum of Art, CA
  • 1955, 1957, 1959 Santa Barbara Museum of Art, CA, Pacific Coast Biennial Exhibition
  • 1957 Seattle Art Museum, WA
  • 1957 Portland Art Museum, Portland, OR
  • 1957 Duveen-Graham Gallery, NY
  • 1959 Graham Gallery, NY
  • 1959 Amerika Haus, Berlin, Germany
  • 1959 Boston Arts Festival
  • 1959 University Art Gallery, University of California, Santa Barbara
  • 1959, 1962, 1964 University Art Gallery, University of California, Santa Barbara
  • 1960 Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, CT
  • 1960 The Silvermine Guild, New Canaan, CT
  • 1960 City Art Museum of St. Louis, MO
  • 1961, 1963 St. Paul Art Center, St. Paul, MN, Drawing U.S.A., Biennial Exhibition
  • 1961 Instituto de Arte Contemporaneo, Lima, Peru
  • 1961 Brooklyn Museum, International Watercolor Biennial, NY
  • 1962 Walker Art Center
  • 1962 Wildenstein Gallery, NY
  • 1962 Auckland City Art Museum, Auckland, New Zealand
  • 1962, 1964 Esther Bear Gallery, Santa Barbara
  • 1963 Feigen Gallery, Chicago, IL
  • 1963 Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center
  • 1963-64 University of California, all campuses, “Artists of the University of California
  • 1963, 1964 Downtown Gallery, NY
  • 1964 McRoberts and Tunnard Gallery, London, England
  • 1965 University of Illinois, Krannert Art Museum, Urabana, Biennial Exhibition of Contemporary American Painting and Sculpture
  • 2005 Upcoming Exhibition: Light, Line, and Color: American Works on Paper 1765-2005, June 25 to September 4, Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, PA

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