John Wehrle specializes in public art, and his thought-provoking work is a familiar sight in the San Francisco Bay area, especially the East Bay.
But 47 years ago, when he was a just-commissioned lieutenant in the Army signal corps, his subject matter was altogether different – soldiers at war.
Wehrle was a combat artist in Vietnam, the leader of the first group of Army artists sent to create a visual record of that war. His paintings and drawings are part of the Army’s permanent collection and were featured in the 2010 exhibition Art of the American Solider at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia.
After his Army service and graduate school at the Pratt Institute in New York, he found his way to San Francisco and has lived and worked in California ever since.
The community is invited to attend a free presentation by Wehrle as the visiting artist series continues at California State University, Monterey Bay, at 6 p.m., Nov. 8, in the University Center. The University Center is located on Sixth Avenue at B Street.
Wehrle has been creating really big art since 1975. He specializes in site-specific public artworks; his projects include mural-size paintings for interior and exterior walls as well as elaborate architectural installations that combine text, painting, ceramic tile and relief sculpture.
“I always liked painting and being outdoors and somehow managed to combine the two into a viable career,” he told the DeYoung Museum. “Working in the studio can be a neurotic activity. When you are painting in public, it’s more of a performance, albeit a slow one.”
Wehrle’s presentation is the final event in this semester’s visiting artist series. It opened in September with a presentation by installation artist Julio Cesar Morales and continues with a talk by Bay Area artist Mildred Howard on Oct. 25.
Driving directions and a campus map are available here.
Learn about CSUMB's Visual and Public Art Department here.
Top image: Landing Zone by John Wehrle, 1966, Vietnam Combat Artists Program