Pasadena's Old Town artist Don Sorenson's artist career reads like a Hollywood success story.

In 1973 Sorenson, armed with determination, color slides of his paintings and a brand new Master of Arts degree from Cal State, Northridge, began the usual siege of big-name galleries. From some he got the usual "Don't bother me, peddler" response, but the assistant at Nicholas Wilder Gallery in Los Angeles offered and encouraging "maybe."

About one year and 52 phone calls later, Sorenson personally returned to the gallery. He was told Wilder was out and not expected back for a couple of hours. Sorenson loaded his small slide viewer, got into his car and waited.

Two hours later he saw Wilder and artist Bruce Nauman emerging from another car. As they stepped into the gallery, engrossed in conversation, Sorenson thrust the viewer in front of Wilder's face and nervously shouted, "Look at this, please." Wilder advised the young artist to calm down and wait in his private office.

More maybes and three more months went by, followed by a studio visit from Wilder himself. After thoughtfully perusing each painting he said to Sorenson, "Call me when you do some more work."

Another year passed, and within it a new series of 10 paintings. A second visit from Wilder, who was considering recommending Sorenson to a fellow gallery owner. After viewing the modernist painter's newest works Wilder said, "One of my artists has just canceled. You can show tomorrow."

After an unforgettable but sleepless night Sorenson was ready to take part in the group exhibit. His reviews were good. He even sold. He was signed on as one of Wilder's "stable" of regulars.

"Most aspiring artists think that when this happens you're made," Sorenson said, "but it just isn't so. I had to fight as hard to stay with Wilder as I did to get there."

The mid '70s will be remembered by the art world as the time the bottom fell out of the market. The so-called "young artists" (those not yet at Mt. Everest) in a dealer's stable were being let go in droves because they were too expensive to keep. Sorenson is currently the only one left in the Wilder stable. But clearly he'll make it.

His art is structured, sophisticated and contained continuation of Jackson Pollack's. Working on huge canvasses, he first paints his ground and overlays it with elongated, spear-shaped, zig-zagged masking tape cutouts. He then overpaints several times in taped groupings. When the final tape is removed the finished work reveals intensely complex, brilliantly colored intertwined diagonals— sometimes curvilinear— that arouse the viewer's emotions and intellect simultaneously.

Loretta Keller
Pasadena Star-News
August 17, 1979




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