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Arnold Schifrin; Painter, Advocate for L.A. Artists

March 17, 1994|MYRNA OLIVER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Arnold Schifrin, a flamboyant expressionist artist who chronicled Topanga Canyon, Mexico and California beaches and championed the status of Los Angeles artists, has died. He was 67.

Schifrin died Sunday at Sherman Oaks Hospital after a heart attack, said his longtime friend, Keith Kirts.

The colorful artist with a gray Toulouse-Lautrec-style beard was described by a Times art reviewer last year during an Oxnard exhibition as "the funky chronicler of everyday life, with his tentacles in Beat Generation consciousness."

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., Schifrin studied at the Black Mountain Fine Arts School in Colorado Springs, Colo. He worked in many media, creating drawings, etchings, watercolors and oil paintings, and for 33 years he taught painting at UCLA Extension.

Schifrin arrived in Los Angeles in the 1940s and rarely left except for stays in Mexico. There, reminiscent of the Spanish painter Goya, he painted black-clad worshipers in religious ceremonies in such works as "People and a God" and "Fiesta de San Antonio."

In 1954, Schifrin won a $2,800 Western division Tupperware art fund scholarship for his painting "Fiesta," which he presented to Los Angeles County.

"If a man can paint, he can paint anywhere, but there was a rumor around in past years that a man could paint only in New York," Schifrin said in 1965, in one of his characteristic pleas for recognition of Los Angeles artists. "The real question is whether the community can feed the artist. It has fed me very well. And fed others, too."

Schifrin, who was appointed by Gov. Edmund G. (Jerry) Brown Jr. as California's first "maestro of painting," also fought for annual shows to display local artists' works, to be staged at prominent venues such as the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

"We artists tend not to be vocal, thinking that our paintings will speak and best represent our true thoughts," he said, arguing for presentation at the new county museum in 1965. "But if these works are not exhibited, we are not heard."

Schifrin was co-founder of the California Federation of the Arts and Artists for Economic Action.

Over the years, he mounted one-man shows at the Felix Landau Gallery, the Fleisher-Anhalt Gallery, the Sam Francis Gallery and the Oxnard Fine Arts Museum.

Schifrin, who was married to Ann Ellen Adams, is survived by five children, Eve, Benjamin, Sara, Peter and Franceska, and a brother, Leslie.

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