Speculative Terrain-Recent Views of the Southern California Landscape from San Diego to Santa Barbara features works of art representing the historical contrast of the southern California landscape from the early 20th century to today.

The exhibit opened Sunday, September 12th and will run until Sunday, November 14th at Loyola Marymount University’s Laband Art Gallery, 1 LMU Drive, Westchester.

Gordon Fuglie, director of the Laband Art Gallery, organized the exhibit and said it focuses on “the new landscape kind of paintings.”

The art works of the early 20th century depicted scenes like “fields of golden poppy”, he said, and today the landscapes of open land are compromised by development.

“It was very idealized with all the open space that existed, and now it doesn’t,” he said. “Today artists paint the contrast of the conditions.”

Speculative Terrain focuses on many different kinds of landscapes in the region with comprehensive viewpoints, he said. The exhibit features views from the Cuyamaca Mountains (east of San Diego), the Salton Sea and high deserts, the urban, suburban and wetland areas of Orange and Los Angeles Counties, and north into the Santa Barbara foothills.

Early 20th century works of art portrayed the natural beauty of the region, and in the 1940s the works depicted urban and industrial subjects in the region. By the mid-century, works that significantly portrayed the region became less frequent, he said.

The Southern California region again became an area of focus for many artists in the early 1990s when they returned to making representational art, he said. Artists wanted to paint the region and photograph its scenery because of its amazing contrasts and extremes, he said.

Fuglie came up with the idea to create Speculative Terrain in early 2002, and he spent about two years selecting more than forty works to display by thirty artists.

The exhibit gives special attention to the late Los Angeles painter James Doolin, who died in 2002, and Fuglie credits the artist as the inspiration for Speculative Terrain.

Doolin began painting the region in 1969, when only photographers were depicting the landscape, he said. The artist chose to paint in the style of representation instead of abstraction, and in 1972 he created his first landscape work of downtown Santa Monica, Shopping Mall.

Doolin was an “illusionist” because he wanted to create illusions through his paintings, he said. He was a pioneer in the resurgence of representational art in the region during the 1990s, he said.

“He was very encouraging of younger painters and broke ground for the representational paintings of Southern California,” he said. “When you think of images that epitomize the California landscape, he comes to mind.”

Among the other artists represented in the exhibit are Phoebe Brunner, Rebecca Morales, John Humble, John Divola and Lauren Richardson. Photographer Soo Kim and painter Marina Moevs, both from LMU’s Department of Art and Art History, are also represented.

Works by eight photographers, including Tom Paiva’s “LAX Gateway,” are also featured in the exhibition. The photographers portray similar responses to the painters on the landscape, but visitors to the exhibit will appreciate their contrast as well, he said.

“I hope that the works in this exhibition will be contemplated for their content and beauty, and will encourage deeper reflection about how we currently make use of our land, and how we plan for our future on it,” he said.

Speculative Terrain completes its tour at the Laband Art Gallery. It opened at the Carnegie Art Museum, Oxnard, in December 2003 and appeared at the Riverside Art Museum last Spring.

Public admission to the gallery is free.

Information, (310) 338-2880.