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September 30, 2020

Robert Bechtle is Dead

I never met Robert Bechtle. I admired his work in museums and at the San Francisco airport where I saw his painting, "Frisco Nova." He was a local guy, born in San Francisco three years after my father. Through his work with hyper-realism, he taught me a valuable lesson about seeing. Seeing what we always see but never see. In photo-like paintings of ordinary places and people and things, Bechtle, a quiet man, yelled: LOOK AT THIS. There's nothing better than this! Look harder! What do you see?

I say to you: Look up. Bechtle's triptych, "Sunset Intersection," is the image and title for this blog. Not to mention the title of my latest novel. I think that's the street I grew up on in the Parkside/Sunset district. Anyway, it's a fascinating work because it seems like the ultimate representation of reality, a painting that takes weeks of hard labor to look like a photo. But it is also mere lines and shades and colors. Turn one of the three upside down to check. It is ultimately abstract art trying to tell you something. Do you get it? Everything we see every second is lines, shades, colors. It is all two dimensional until we touch it. Until we make the first move. So what is real? What's out there, what's in here?

Robert Bechtle died this week at 88. We lost an artist, we lost a teacher. His work, his vision, his wisdom remains. And his "Alameda Gran Torino" over my desk.