As a filmmaking student at the San Francisco Art Institute in 1972, John Eden took a job as an on-campus janitor to make ends meet. A conference room he was tasked to clean contained Jay De Feo’s monumental painting “The Rose,” her most famous work, which is now on permanent display at the Whitney Museum of American Art.
Weighing nearly a ton, the multilayered painting would flake off daily, leaving Eden with the task of sweeping up the bits of heavy oil. But seeing the work on a daily basis changed his life, sparking an interest in abstraction and painting, a medium that he has continued to explore throughout his career as an artist, which spans more than three decades.
Considered Eden’s most complete series to date, the “Roundels” will open at the College of the Canyons Art Gallery on Tuesday, Oct. 25.
The series is made up of 54 wall relief paintings — automotive metal flake paint on fiberglass discs — that are military aircraft insignias from the 20th and 21st century. Of the series, 26 discs will be on display at the Art Gallery.
“Eden’s childhood experiences and later military service have been formative influences for his work,” said COC Art Gallery Director Larry Hurst. “The ‘Roundels’ resonates with these influences as well as the historic use of strong graphic symbols in warfare. These images are imbued with great craftsmanship, color and beauty and at the same time the symbolic attachment to war and destruction is chilling.”
Eden enlisted in the Air Force immediately after high school and was assigned the lonely duty of guarding B-52 bombers loaded with nuclear missiles. This experience left a life-long imprint that is reflected in the “Roundels.”
“As I ‘walked the line’ around those planes, I was struck by the dichotomy of their stealthy beauty,” said Eden. “How they could be seen as instruments of great good and have the potential of great evil at the same time."
Curving and floating off the wall, these circular discs are also an outgrowth of his upbringing in Southern California’s car and surf cultures of the late 1950s and early 1960s.
The exhibition will run through Thursday, Dec. 8. An artist’s reception is scheduled from 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 22, and a special conversation with the artist is scheduled 2 to 3 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 10.
The College of the Canyons Art Gallery is open 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday. Those unable to visit the gallery during normal hours are welcome to contact the gallery to schedule a viewing appointment. All gallery exhibitions and related events are free and open to the public.
About the Artist
John Eden is an accomplished artist that has exhibited extensively in California, New York and Europe. Eden moved to the Santa Clarity Valley with his family in 1953 and attended Newhall Elementary School and Placerita Jr. High, where he met his wife, Jeanne McCallum-Eden. The two continue to have ties to the Santa Clarita Valley.
After graduating high school, Eden joined the Air Force during the Vietnam War and served first as an air policeman and then as a still photographer. He later attended the San Francisco Art Institute where he studied filmmaking, and in 1972 made a short 16mm film about acrobatic flying in a glider.
In 1978, Eden received a California State Academic Fellowship (a full two-year scholarship to attend any California university) and began studies at the University of Southern California as a painter, where he received a MFA degree in 1981. Eden currently lives and works in Culver City.