Bruce McGaw, regionally renowned painter of the San Francisco Bay Area Figurative movement and avid student of art history and poetry, cites significant texts and relationships with colleagues amongst the most influential elements of his art. Through his reading and study he has developed a repertoire of thoughts and ideas that he consistently, and with great purpose, applies to his paintings. Monographs on Henri Matisse and Paulo Ucello, a book by Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, Robert Motherwell: The Dadaist Painters and Poets and volumes of poetry are just a few components of his impressive collection of publications on subjects ranging from Giotto, to philosophy, to political and social concerns. This eclectic array of interests imbues McGaw’s paintings and philosophy with refreshing vantage points and characters. His commitment to all aspects of the artistic profession, from studying and teaching to painting in a variety of styles and perspectives, is a testament to his impressive art.
The young artist came to Oakland’s California College of Arts and Crafts in 1955, and was in the institution’s first class taught by Richard Diebenkorn after the artist’s return from the East. McGaw’s paintings of the mid-1950s reflect his interest in later Abstract Expressionist styles, in their lush colors and loose, spirited forms. By 1957, the artist was moving more deeply into representational work, and into a handling of the figure that seems to draw from more general sources among Bay Area figurative artists.
Today, Bruce McGaw is widely acknowledged for his role in the Bay Area Figurative movement. He was among the first artists who emerged to take up the cause in the late ’50s. McGaw’s influence has also been felt through an active exhibiting career and through his long association with the San Francisco Art Institute where he continues to act as an instructor.