Zingg and the art of California

University Art Gallery hosts the Chico State president’s collection

HEAD FOR ART Chico State president Paul Zingg shares two of his treasures, two Wayne Thiebaud paintings, (from left) “Park Place (Variation)” and “Steep Streets,” both part of the new University Art Gallery show.

HEAD FOR ART Chico State president Paul Zingg shares two of his treasures, two Wayne Thiebaud paintings, (from left) “Park Place (Variation)” and “Steep Streets,” both part of the new University Art Gallery show.

Photo By Tom Angel

Contemporary art evokes a love-or-hate response in many people. As a collector of art for more than 25 years, Paul J. Zingg, the president Chico State University, definitely fits into the “love” category.

Zingg and his wife Candace Slater’s collection of prints, paintings and photographs are on display in the University Art Gallery in an exhibit entitled Memory & Landscape.

Jason Tannen, curator at the UAG, first heard about the recently hired president’s collection from other university faculty and encouraged Zingg to exhibit the works.

“I had no thoughts about an exhibition, until Jason encouraged me to do so,” said Zingg. Sharing something that others might enjoy, he said, was the deciding factor, and he’s touched by the interest in the exhibit and is delighted to share these works with the Chico community.

The collection, which features contemporary California artists, is an eclectic mix of pieces. Intricately rendered still lifes intermingle with grand landscape photographs and abstract and non-objective compositions. Tannen said that he wanted to use a light hand for designing the show and keep a sense of the individuality of each piece. Representing Zingg’s interest in the pieces and the collection were tantamount to his composition of the exhibit.

Overall the pieces evoke a muted and introspective tone; dark hues dominate most of them, and many are monochromatic. But there is humor in the work too. Edward Ruscha’s “L.A.S.F. #3,” one of Zingg’s favorite pieces which represents two different street intersections, Columbus and Broadway in San Francisco, and Holloway and Sunset in Los Angeles, is stripped of visual clues save for the street names.

Zingg consults with his wife about the art works but said, “I’m basically the collector. She hasn’t wanted to throw anything out—yet.”

The creative process of the artist is what interests Zingg. “I’m attracted to the works in my collection for several reasons: composition, artistic/creative process, artists, importance of individual works.” But, he said, “most important, I think, because of the ‘story’ within the works—especially the story that focuses on different landscapes, and their mostly abstract representation, and the memories within those landscapes.” Zingg added “I’m sure my intellectual roots in the study of history and interest in the relationship between place and memory has affected my art appreciation, too.”

The works span the past decade and include prints by Anne Appleby, William Bailey, Robert Becthle, Christopher Brown, Richard Diebenkorn, Ed Ruscha, Wayne Thiebaud and Yutaka Yoshinaga. An outstanding mixed-media piece, Manfred Muller’s “Echo,” mixes a breathtaking landscape photograph of the French Alps mounted above a square panel of rich coppery color.

The works offer an excellent learning tool for art students, Tannen said, as most students only see artwork of this caliber represented in slides or in books. Those formats cannot show the true scale and colors of a piece, making this an excellent opportunity for the public to view these works by influential artists.

Tannen praised Zingg as the kind of collector who has a deep interest and appreciation in the artwork and in collecting.

There are a few pieces that Zingg lamented over having not acquired over the years.

“There’s a Diebenkorn or two I wish I had acquired when I had the chance. Also a Chris Brown or two from among his earlier work in the 1980s.” But, he said, maybe those chances will come again. Crown Point Press in San Francisco keeps Zingg informed of new works and artists in which he might be interested, he said.

“I’m a great art gallery visitor," he added "whenever and wherever I come across them."