Lee R. Chesney Jr. 1920 - 2016

JUNE16lee2Painter, printmaker and educator Lee R. Chesney Jr., 95, whose longtime art studio is in Mid City, passed away on January 21, in Yucaipa, California from cancer. Family members have scheduled a public memorial retrospective exhibit of his work on Sunday, July 17, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. at his studio, 5726 West Washington Blvd. Fairfax/Washington

Lee Chesney was a passionate artist whose work is held in numerous museum collections, and a dedicated teacher who always challenged his students to clarify their thinking and artistic expression. 

Born in Washington D.C. in 1920, he studied art at the University of Colorado with James Boyle, receiving his B.F.A in 1946. Chesney continued his studies at the University of Iowa where he worked with Mauricio Lasansky and James Lechay, earning his M.F.A. Further studies took him to Universidad de Michoacan in Mexico where he studied with Alfredo Zalce, and to the renowned experimental printmaking workshop Atelier 17 in New York, under the supervision of founder Stanley William Hayter.

June16Lee3A 1956 Fulbright-Hays Fellowship research award allowed Chesney to visit Japan, where he studied Japanese printmaking. He exhibited regularly with the Japan Print Association and also served on the advisory board of the Los Angeles Printmaking Society. Chesney received numerous awards, including a grant from the Ford Foundation.

Chesney’s early work was abstract, using geometric shapes and organic/diaphanous spaces to evoke feelings and relationships within the viewer. A reawakened interest in historical subject matter then guided his experimentations into investigating landscape forms and the viscosity color process. He was admired for his work as an intaglio printmaker.

After teaching for nearly two decades at the University of Illinois-Urbana, Chesney June16Lee4 3made his way to Los Angeles in 1967. Chesney’s career as an art educator included teaching at the University of Southern California, where he was associate dean of fine arts from 1967 to 1972; the Otis Art Institute, the University of Iowa and the University of Hawaii at Manoa, where at the time of his death, he was Professor Emeritus. He was a member of the College Art Association of American and the Society of American Graphic Artists, and his work is represented by the Tobey C. Moss Gallery.

He is represented in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo; National Gallery of Art, Stockholm; Tate Gallery; Bibliothèque nationale de June16lee6France; Victoria and Albert Museum; Smithsonian Art Museum, National Gallery of Art; Library of Congress; Museum of Modern Art; Brooklyn Museum; Philadelphia Museum; Honolulu Academy of Arts; Oakland Museum; Seattle Museum of Art; Otis Art Institute of Los Angeles County; Portland Art Museum; Art Institute of Chicago; the Butler Institute of American Art and numerous university collections. Chesney’s works have been shown in over one hundred national and international exhibitions, including 25 solo exhibitions in New York, Tokyo, Paris, London, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Detroit, Seattle, and Honolulu. 

Several decades ago – long before the neighborhood became a hotbed of galleries and artist spaces – Chesney joined with five other artists to purchase a building at Washington and Fairfax, where each had a 2,000-sq.-ft. studio. Lee routinely went to the studio every afternoon to paint.

He is survived by his wife of 73 years Betty Jo, son Lee III, daughter Terril, sister Rena, three grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
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Established in August of 2008 by writerartist Dianne V. Lawrence, The Neighborhood News covers the events, people, history, politics and historic architecture of communities throughout the Mid-City and West Adams area in Los Angeles Council District 10.

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