The collector’s tale
For monCA’s first public “pop-up” exhibit Reed Applegate gets to do the choosing
At the rate Reed Applegate is adding new artworks to his already large collection, the Museum of Northern California Art (monCA) will have to find two homes for it. One won’t be large enough.
When he donated the collection to the museum a few months ago, it contained slightly more than 350 works; now it’s up to nearly 400, he said. He laughed when he told me this; he’s a little obsessive about art, but in a good way, a wonderful way, really. He’s having fun doing what he loves to do, and his collection will benefit the community for decades to come.
He and I were chatting during the opening reception Friday (April 6) for monCA’s first “pop-up” show of works taken from Applegate’s collection, which is being held in the large empty storefront at 325 Broadway through April. In fact, one of his most recent purchases, purchased just three weeks ago, is included in the show, which Applegate himself curated.
That piece is a large, vertical oil painting titled “Incandescent Four” by Heather Larson, a BFA student at Chico State. The painting shows a standing figure, presumably female, draped head to toe in a piece of fine but opaque off-white cloth. She’s in a dancer’s pose, and the fact that no part of her body, including her face, can be seen emphasizes the sculptural aspects of the figure and the classically realistic way Larson has rendered the drapery, with all its folds and other subtleties. It’s remarkable from a technical standpoint, for such a young painter, and it’s easy to see why Applegate liked it.
Larson is the youngest artist in a show that, like the rest of Applegate’s collection, includes works dating back to the 1950s in a wide range of styles. What they have in common is that they were all done by Northern California artists, many famous far beyond the region.
There are 28 pieces in the show, including several sculptures, so they give only an inkling of the riches to be found in Applegate’s collection. He’s mixed it up here, putting artwork by acknowledged greats in West Coast art (Nathan Oliveira, Robert Arneson, Wayne Thiebaud, Roy DeForest) chockablock with Chico-based artists whose work is perhaps less well known but every bit as good.
There’s a terrific piece by Salvatore Casa, “La Zingarella,” as well as one of Ruben Heredia’s masterful charcoal studies of space, texture and form called “Mystery #22.” I also very much liked Elizabeth Newman Kuiper’s large digital photograph, “maxfieldparrishlinda,” which Applegate said was of Kuiper’s sister. It cast her in a richly ethereal light, as suggested by its title.
As you might expect, there’s an autobiographical quality to this show, since it’s from Applegate’s collection and he did the choosing. So it’s not surprising that he included “The Collector (Portrait of Reed Applegate),” done in pastels by widely known Chico artist Waif Mullins.
The painting shows Applegate standing in front of the very Sal Casa piece that’s included in this show—another fun little autobiographical touch. So what we have is one artist who painted, in his style, another artist’s work in the process of portraying the man who later chose both pieces for the inaugural monCA exhibit of works from his collection. It’s an inside joke, one that I imagine had Applegate laughing as he thought it up.