Puzzling prints on view at architectural foundation gallery
Known in Los Angeles and Santa Barbara as a skilled scenic artist, Ed Lister created the series of vibrant, abstract silk screen prints or serigraphs that are on view through May 6 at the Architectural Foundation of Santa Barbara Gallery.
Titled “Impossible Objects: Screen Prints by Ed Lister,” the exhibition was curated by Bay Hallowell, who describes the artwork as “post-pop and pre-digital,” according to Mr. Lister.
“They are improbable, mind-bending objects that cannot exist other than on a flat surface. They play with our contemporary sensibilities and logical brains in their resemblances to imaginative digital images,” said the artist by phone from his Santa Ynez home. “Of all the printing techniques, I most relish executing screened images with areas of pure color put down in a clean and direct manner.”
What is surprising about the 15 prints on display is that they were created 50 years ago when Mr. Lister, who was born in London, was teaching printmaking and figure drawing at the Chelsea College of Art & Design in London.
“I taught there for 12 years, and during four of the summer recesses, I worked in the United States,” the artist told the News-Press. “The first time was in 1960 at the original Hotel Californian on lower State Street in Santa Barbara.
“I had met a guy at a party in London who was stationed at Vandenberg, and he referred me to a friend at Hotel Californian. I made $1.25 an hour. Later, I worked at the Biltmore in Montecito and at NBC studios in Burbank and New York City.”
In 1976, Mr. Lister made a permanent move to Los Angeles, where he worked for 10 years as the lead scenic artist for the Center Theatre Group at the Mark Taper Forum and Ahmanson Theaters.
“I painted backdrops and installations for TV, movies and destination resorts, hotels and casinos. The largest was a 400-foot round background for a Japanese cigarette commercial,” said Mr. Lister.
More recently, he was commissioned to paint the 60-foot wide mural encircling the Bisno Schall Clock Gallery at the Santa Barbara Courthouse that depicts artistically the history of horology from ancient times to 1929 in Santa Barbara.
“It took nine months in the basement of the courthouse to produce the four panels explaining the history of time-keeping from 2500 B.C. to the 20th century,” said Mr. Lister.
Although he loved working on such a large scale, he was forced to find another way to make a living when “the bottom dropped out of scenic work because of computers, and I’m not at all computer savvy.”
Since moving to Santa Barbara in 1995 and Santa Ynez in 201 with his wife Karin Lister, the father of two grown sons and grandfather of three has been painting landscapes and seascapes on a smaller scale that range in price from $5,500 to $12,000.
“It was during the moves that I discovered the silk screen prints, and they were still in perfect condition after 50 years,” he said. “Everything was hand drawn with a pen.”