BRIGHTLY LIT Santa Cruz meadows. Technicolor cityscapes. Wind-whipped coastal cypress. Depicted in the work of more than 75 artists and printmakers, the Golden State never has looked so good.

But "California in Relief: A History in Wood and Linocut Prints" isn't just a celebration of the region's abundant beauty.

Curated by noted printmaker Art Hazelwood, the exhibit — on display at St. Mary's College of California's Hearst Art Gallery in Moraga — explores the development of the relief print in Northern California and offers a visual history of an incredibly complex state.

Opening with a suite of woodcut prints by early 20th century artists such as Gustave Baumann and Ambrose Patterson, the show offers a look at some of the state's most famous natural landmarks.

There are views of Yosemite, including William S. Rice's 1920 color woodcut "Winter Morn." And there are atmospheric takes on California's towering trees, such as Bertha Lum's 1916 print "Road to the Forest."

But nestled in the accompanying wall texts are nuggets of information: Baumann was a New Mexico-based printmaker who used Western printmaking techniques at a time when his contemporaries were fascinated with those from the East; Lum pioneered a method of adding textural interest to her Japanese-influenced prints.


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Heavily researched notes add depth to the works and provide historical and cultural contexts as well as abbreviated biographies of the artists. They prove invaluable as the exhibit delves into the state's cultural, social and political history.

They also illuminate many techniques used, and explain the confluence of Western, Japanese and Mexican printmaking styles, which have strongly influenced many contemporary works on display.

Here are a few works you shouldn't miss:

  • "It Must be the Angels," by Diego Marcial Rios. This large woodcut, printed in 1995, is one of the first images that greets viewers as they walk into the gallery. The large print features androgynous, elongated figures and religious iconography, and hints at some of the more expressive and politically influenced works found later in the show.

  • "Topaz with Coyote" and "Topaz with Water Tower," by George Matsusaburo Hibi. These small color woodcuts draw you in with their intimate scale. The two also pack an emotional punch. Hibi created the stark and melancholy prints while incarcerated with his family in internment camps during World War II.

  • "Air Raid Wardens" and "Vineyard March" by Richard V. Correll. These bold black-and-white prints reflect Correll's experience as an air raid warden with the Civilian Defense Corps during World War II, and his interest in social and political issues such as labor rights.

  • "Canyon Walls — Noon," by Hildegarde Haas. Hass imbued her abstracted 1953 woodcut with the earthy colors of California's landscape. You'll find echoes of her work in Jill Storthz's 2005 woodcut "Lanterns."

  • "The Defenders" by Artemio Rodriguez. There's a definite Jose Guadalupe Posada influence in the work of this contemporary Mexican printmaker. This satirical linoleum print features a skeletal horse and rider battling a three-headed monster shackled to the iron weights of TV and oil.

    The exhibit is on display from 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays through Sept. 20. A sale of original, affordable prints by many artists in the show will be from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Aug. 12. Meet printmaker Diego Rios and curator Art Hazelwood, who will demonstrate printing techniques and answer questions, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. in Art Studio One near the gallery. The Hearst Art Gallery is at 1928 Saint Marys Road, Moraga. Gallery admission is $3. For more information, call 925-631-4379 or visit www.hearstartgallery.org.

    Art on the shoreline

    Sip wine, listen to live jazz and view the artwork of some of the Bay Area's premier plein air artists at Scene on the Strait in Martinez. The annual outdoor art festival gives fans of landscape painting a chance to observe artists at work and contribute to a good cause.

    The yearly benefit for the Carquinez Regional Environmental Education Center supports education and wetlands restoration. It also provides a setting where people can interact with artists and watch as they paint live models or put the landscape on canvas. Look for regulars such as Benicia painter Jerrold Turner, Orinda mother-daughter duo Pam and Ann Marie Glover and Antioch painter Nancy Roberts.

    Scene on the Street runs from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday at the Martinez Regional Shoreline. Admission is free. For more information, call 510-787-9772 or visit www.sceneonthestrait.org.

    Reach Jennifer Modenessi at jmodenessi@bayareanewsgroup.com.