Born in Chicago in 1908, Helen Lundeberg moved with her family to Pasadena, California, in 1912. After studying English literature at Pasadena Junior College, Lundeberg enrolled in 1930 at Stickney Memorial School of Art in Pasadena. Among her teachers was Lorser Feitelson, whom she would later marry and with whom she would collaborate artistically for decades.
From 1933 to 1942, Lundeberg worked as an artist for the Works Progress Administration’s Federal Art Project (FAP), making easel paintings and designing mural projects. Lundeberg described her mural projects as “straightforward storytelling,” and their realistic imagery reflects the dominant style of the time. Among the murals she designed during this period was The History of Transportation, 1940, commissioned by the city of Inglewood, California. The 240 ft. long “petrachrome” mosaic mural, made of cast concrete and terrazzo panels, told the story of transportation from Native Americans on foot and horseback to modern scenes of car, train and air travel. Lundeberg described the mural as straightforward storytelling, made in a style and with a purpose that differed from those of her easel paintings. During these years, she and Feitelson also spearheaded a small group of Southern California artists who identified themselves as Post-Surrealists. The ideas behind Post-Surrealism grew out of Feitelson’s interest in the psychological aspects of European Surrealism—particularly its exploration of juxtaposition and incongruity as ways to produce new meanings.
In 1950, Lundeberg made a painting that began as a series of abstract planes, which she planned to use as the setting for a still life. After finishing the background, however, she set the painting aside. It was nine years before she would make another fully abstract painting, Sunny Corridor. Sunny Corridor embodies her unique approach to abstraction—hard-edged paintings with a subtle palette and a flexible geometry that bring to mind elements of architecture or landscape. Lundeberg insisted, in fact, that she never made painting that didn't refer to the real world in some way.
Work of Fiction Published October 22, 2009