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Minimalist Artist, Medical Executive Remembered by Santa Monica Council

 
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By Jorge Casuso

July 31, 2017 -- Albert Contreras achieved a following as a minimalist painter before he began driving garbage trucks for the City of Santa Monica in 1972.

After retiring two decades later, he would resume where he had left off -- painting Xs every day in his Santa Monica studio.

On Tuesday, the City Council adjourned its meeting in memory of Contreras, who died last month, and of health care executive Royce Diener, a Santa Monica resident and member of numerous boards, who died in May.

Picture of minimalist painter Alberrt Contreras
Albert Contreras (Images courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

After achieving success in Europe as a minimal artist in the 1960s, Contreras reemerged in 2000 with his first exhibit in 31 years in a tiny gallery at USC.

The show was a hit, leading to gallery representation and a solo exhibit, and Contreras, who had suffered from depression after his retirement, threw himself back into his art with the gusto of his youth.

While he had first achieved success focusing on circles that became smaller and smaller until he said the canvas became “blank,” his passion now was painting Xs.

“I have reached my final ideas, so I want to do 1,000, I want to do a million Xs!" he told USC News in a 2011 interview. "I want to do what men have been doing, and women probably, since early cave paintings -- hatch marks.

“With the X paintings, I feel this from my heart of hearts, I have reached my holy grail,” Contreras said. “I feel that I have reached the end of the line."

Albert Contreras Xs  

Contreras died June 17. He was found in his recliner in his studio apartment, opera playing loudly on his stereo, his Los Angeles art dealer told the LA Times. He was 84.

Also remembered by the council was Diener, who died peacefully on May 23, at the age of 99, in his Santa Monica home.

Diener began his career as a commercial lending officer and investment banker and became president and CEO of the Beverly Hills- based American Medical International, Inc.

He also served on numerous boards of directors, including those of the California Economic Development Corporation; Acuson, Inc.; Advanced Technology Venture Funds; American Health Properties; International Medical Association Health Services; the Los Angeles chapter of American Red Cross and the Heritage Square Museum in Santa Monica.

An Air Force captain during World War II, Diener was the author of the 1966 book "Financing a Growing Business," which saw its 4th edition printed in 1995.

 


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