Karl Kasten "Island Notes" 1961, Oil on Canvas, Signed, 32" x 39"
Price upon request
Karl Kasten, Painter, Print Maker, 1916-1910
Kasten works are in the collections of the San Francisco Museum of
Modern Art; the Oakland Art Museum; New York Public Library; Museum of Modern
Art, New York City; M.H. de Young Museum; Achenbach Collection; Musee des Beaux
Arts, Rennes; Musee des Beaux Arts, Brittany, France; Auckland City Museum, New
Zealand; and the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.
focused on abstract expressionist work and large-scale geometric paintings in
the period from 1954 to 1987, but he is also known for his graphics and
collographs, prints characterized by rich textural surfaces and often using
coins and found objects. Kasten was convinced that printmaking could equal
traditional painting through creative exploration.
He remained active
in recent years, working in the attic studio in his home in the Berkeley hills
and writing his memoir, “Foghorns and Peacocks: The City. Art. War. The
Berkeley School,” published in 2009.
Born on March
5, 1916, in San Francisco, Kasten recalled in a 2002 interview with the San
Francisco Chronicle that his interest in art began at an early age. He said his
sixth-grade teacher sent him home with a note to his father. “Dear Mr. Kasten,”
it read. “Do something about your son. All he wants to do is draw.” Kasten
remembered his father’s response: “Let him draw.”
attended the College of Marin and transferred to UC Berkeley, where he became a
teaching assistant for artist and mentor Worth Ryder, considered the father of
the Berkeley School, which focused on line quality and color flow and dominated
American art from the late ’40s on.
undergraduate, Kasten was art editor for the Daily Californian and drew
football cartoons for the student newspaper. He earned his B.A. in art from UC
Berkeley, and his M.A. in art from UC Berkeley in 1939, the same year he
designed card stunts for the Cal Bear’s winning Rose Bowl game with Alabama’s
studied modern etching techniques and printmaking at the University of Iowa
under the G.I. Bill and attended the California School of Fine Art.
When World War
II broke out, Kasten went into the Army medical corps and became a captain and
intelligence officer with the Corps of Engineers. In 1996, he was awarded a
medal for his wartime service in France.
at the California School of Fine Art in 1942, at the University of Michigan
from 1946 to 1947, and at San Francisco State University from 1947 to 1950.
When Worth Ryder asked him in 1950, for the third time, to join the UC Berkeley
faculty, he agreed.
experimented with Cubism and non-objective painting, but turned to abstract
expressionism after attending the Hans Hofmann School of Art in Provincetown,
Mass., in 1951.
In 1951, Kasten studied with Hans Hoffman in Provincetown Massachussetts, which
signaled a more pronounced foray into Abstract Expressionism painting. Hoffman
maintained many ties with the UC Berkeley Art Department having first taught
there in 1930 and 1931. Several UC faculty members also studied with Hoffmann in
Europe and America beginning with Glenn Wessels and John Haley in the 1920s.
Susan Landauer, the
biographer of the San Francisco School of Abstract Expressionism, considered
Kasten to be the artist who most closely represented the tenets of Hans Hoffman.
Of that time, Kasten said, “It was a great period to work in. Just letting
things flow and seeing what happens … I think I got more color into painting
during that time than most guys.”
“We ceased to
be provincial,” Kasten said in the 2002 Chronicle interview. “Everybody got
into it. It was sort of a mass movement. It was a great period to work in. Just
letting things flow and seeing what happens.”
abstract expressionist Willem de Kooning of New York to explore printmaking
ideas at UC Berkeley’s print studio. Using a large lithograph press, de Kooning
produced a lithograph titled “Waves” that now belongs to UC Berkeley’s Berkeley
Art Museum. It was exhibited as part of a campus tribute to Kasten in 2008. De
Kooning, who had never made prints with a printing press before, also made one
other lithograph while on campus.
designed and built UC Berkeley’s first printmaking facility. Also, working in
1960 with a manufacturer, the Berglin Corporation, he devised a lightweight,
portable press known as the KB press that is still used today in schools and
studios around the world. His method of using vacuum-formed plastic plates with
insertable parts that allowed the creation of multi-colored images in a single
press run was considered revolutionary.
In addition to
introducing the campus’s printmaking operation, Kasten launched a course at UC
Berkeley in new materials and methods that was designed to challenge students’
ideas of how artwork is constructed and executed.
at UC Berkeley until 1983.
numerous awards for his watercolor and oil paintings as well as his graphics,
including the Purchase Prize in Graphics at the Fourth Annual Art Festival in
San Francisco in 1977. In 1997, he received the Distinguished Artist Award of
the California Society of Printmakers. He is also a recipient of a Humanities
Research Fellowship and the Tamarind Lithography Fellowship.
Kasten told a
Daily Californian reporter in 1977 that an artist’s life presents its own
opportunities and risks. “The artist in our society is free to do pretty much
what he pleases,” Kasten said. “But he does it at his own expense. There is no
guarantee that anyone else is going to appreciate his work. But there is always
was exhibited around the world at major public and private museums, including
San Francisco’s M.H. de Young Memorial Museum and California Palace of the
Legion of Honor; the Art Institute of Chicago; the Musee des Beaux-Arts in
Rennes, France; the Galerie Sho in Tokyo; the Whitney Museum of Art in New York
City; the Victoria and Albert Museum in London; the Sao Paolo Bicentennial; and
the World Print III traveling show.