Posts Tagged ‘Craig Kauffman artwork’
I’m often asked by visitors for recommendations to local gallery and museum shows. Although it hasn’t opened yet, I’m betting that the upcoming Norton Simon Museum exhibition, Beyond Brancusi: The Space of Sculpture, is going to be one to remember. Opening April 26th, the show will investigate how Constantin Brancusi influenced some of the great sculptors of the twentieth century through his innovative use of space and material.
I’ve always felt that the Norton Simon is a great local museum with an outstanding permanent collection, which they are drawing on exclusively for this show. Excitingly, they will be including two important works by gallery artists that were not previously on view at the museum. Larry Bell and Craig Kauffman will both have major pieces on display in the show, which will also include artists such as Henry Moore, Donald Judd, and Robert Irwin, among many other artists of note.
The Larry Bell artwork that is featured in Beyond Brancusi is a 40 x 40 x 40 inch Untitled cube from 1969. As one of the largest cubes ever fabricated by the artist, this work is certainly deserving of more attention and I look forward to seeing how it will be installed. Craig Kauffman will be represented in the exhibition by an Untitled Loop, also from 1969. Constructed of a draped sheet of acrylic plastic and spray painted in contrasting blue and red, the work will cast reflections of colored light on its surrounding walls.
I’m really looking forward to the opening of this show, which was organized by Norton Simon Associate Curator Leah Lehmbeck. It’s going to be a great opportunity to see works that are rarely on view, from the permanent collection of one of my favorite museums.
In light of the upcoming Getty-sponsored series, Pacific Standard Time Presents: Modern Architecture in L.A., I thought it would be a good time to talk about some of the ways art and architecture intersect. It’s not uncommon for artists to have interest in architecture and design, and our gallery artists are no exception. For example, Craig Kauffman had deep roots in architecture, maintaining a lifelong interest in the field. Coming of age in post-war Southern California, Kauffman had some early exposure to the kind of modern architecture that would go on to characterize the region. His first significant personal contact came in 1949, while he was still in high school. Anna Victoria Dahlstrom, a friend of his sister Wilhelmina, lived in a newly designed house by John Lautner in Pasadena. The Dahlstrom residence featured curving walls, exposed beams and an extensive use of glass, all of which made a great impression on the young Kauffman.
Enrolling in the USC School of Architecture in the fall of 1950, Craig Kauffman even wrote a paper on the architecture of Lautner, with whom he felt an affinity. Although he left USC after his first year to study art at UCLA, Kauffman carried his architectural interests with him throughout the rest of his career.
In the early 1970s, Kauffman made the significant decision to leave the medium of painting on plastic, for which he was well-known, and begin a new body of work. The constructed paintings of 1973 – 1976, currently on display at the gallery, illustrate this new direction and have an undeniably architectural presence. Framed out in jelutong wood, Kauffman has made the physical supports the subject of these paintings. In an interview in 1977 with Michael Auping, referring to these works, Kauffman stated that “the structure is the image, the beginnings of the image.”
Kauffman’s decision to reveal the internal architecture of a painting, and focus on it, is akin to an architect’s use of exposed beams in a residence. Rather than conceal the means by which these works were constructed, Kauffman highlighted their physical structures. He also allowed for some neutral areas between the strips of jelutong, which function as windows through the works to the wall where they are hung. Many of the forms he used in this series are drawn from his architectural vocabulary, and some explicitly relate to his earlier architectural studies, like this Concert Hall Workshop from 1954 (seen above). They also refer to the type of vernacular architecture that attracted Kauffman, including the shacks on the beach he saw during his visits to Baja.
It’s always so interesting to me the way art historical threads can weave together, revealing a complex network of connections between artists, curators, dealers, and patrons. Following these threads can take you deep into the history of an artist and his work, and show you details you might have overlooked. For example, I’ve recently been looking into the time Craig Kauffman spent in Paris in the 1970s, and have discovered some interesting things. Kauffman exhibited new work at the Galerie Darthea Speyer in 1973 and 1976 in a space in Saint-Germain-des-Prés designed by Darthea Speyer’s brother, A. James Speyer.
An architect who studied under Mies van der Rohe in the 1930s, A. James Speyer became the Curator of Twentieth Century Paintings and Sculpture at the Art Institute of Chicago in 1961, and remained there until his death in 1986. It was under his tenure as senior curator that the Art Institute of Chicago acquired their two outstanding works by Craig Kauffman. The first work, a 1969 Loop titled Le Mur s’en Va I, was bought outright in 1970 through the Twentieth-Century Purchase Fund. The second piece, an Untitled bubble from 1968 was donated to the museum in 1979 by Baxter Travenol Laboratories.
The title of the Art Institute of Chicago’s Loop is important, because Le Mur s’en va (The Wall Goes Away) refers to Craig Kauffman’s original name for the Loop series. These works, suspended several inches in front of the wall, create an unusual visual ambiguity. The fields of luminous color compete with their own shadows, tinted images of the works cast in reverse on the walls. The works, and the walls, seem to dematerialize in the face of this optical uncertainty.
Kauffman made a compelling statement about his works’ relationship with the wall for his 1970 survey show at the Pasadena Art Museum. He’s referring specifically to works that cast colored reflections, but I think it reveals something fundamental about his beliefs about painting, and even hints at the direction he eventually moved in during the 1970s. I’ve published this before, but feel it’s worth repeating:
“what is a wall? it is always something for bumping one’s head against. the real wall, of whatever material, be it brick, studs sixteen inches on center, cement, adobe, flat or curved, is something to reckoned with. it is also an idea which separates us from each other. walls divide worlds. whether of bamboo or iron, walls are our creations. even the invisible walls that surround each of us denote our space, our identity. “c’est une chose mystérieuse la mur.” thing of mind or reality? crazy jane said, “what a terrible thing for a young girl to be a wall.” it is terrible to be any inanimate object but to become a wall is perhaps the worst. to walk into a wall and never come out is very possible. it is as if the wall calls to us to come in and stay in its cold interior. destroy the wall with color à la léger? cover the wall with paintings? make protrusions from it, poke holes in it? perhaps we should play with walls, with illusions, shadows, in order to render them passable to our substance. to walk through a wall is not just for houdini. perhaps we can all enter and come out safely.”
Publications are an important part of what we do at the gallery – they provide us with another way to educate the public about the arts. I’ve written a lot about Sensual Mechanical: The Art of Craig Kauffman, our recent monograph on the life and work of Craig Kauffman, but that’s far from the only book we have available to visitors. In addition to books and catalogs produced by the gallery, we also offer selected museum publications. I try to make a point of displaying a variety of books that relate to our current exhibition or connect with what’s going on with the artists that we represent.
From the beginning (our first gallery publication was a 1999 catalogue for Roseline Delise), my intent was to use the talent and resources at hand. The late Joe Molloy, a superb graphic designer and legendary typographer, designed most of our publications. His eye for composition, alignment, and legibility was always present, as the catalogues were designed to extend our graphic identity as well as present the artworks. I’ve also employed recognized authors to write the essays, including Kristine McKenna and Hunter Drohojowska-Philp. Another feature of the gallery publications has been the excellent photography of Anthony Cuñha and Alan Shaffer.
Right now, we have a selection of books related to the Getty’s Pacific Standard Time initiative, with exhibition catalogs including Clay’s Tectonic Shift at Scripps College, Phenomenal at the Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego, and our own Peter Voulkos in L.A.: Time Capsule. Other publications feature the work of artists we currently have on display at the gallery, such as Richard Shaw and Peter Shire. To see a more complete list of the books we offer, including our online publications, follow this link to the publications page of the Frank Lloyd Gallery website:
I’ve written about the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego’s exhibition Phenomenal: California Light, Space, Surface before, but I recently stumbled upon a couple of videos that reminded me of the beauty of the show. MCASD has produced five beautifully shot and insightfully narrated videos that document some of the challenges and successes of their 2012 exhibition. Robert Irwin, Larry Bell, Craig Kauffman and De Wain Valentine are all highlighted in these videos, which give viewers a chance to relive Phenomenal.
Curator Robin Clark and research assistant Christie Mitchell provide illuminating commentary, on the works as well as the kinds of practical decisions that needed to be made. The discussion of natural versus artificial lighting is particularly interesting, as many of the artworks are inherently light-responsive.
I especially like the video that pairs Robert Irwin with Craig Kauffman, as the artists were friends and colleagues who enjoyed an exchange of ideas. The Larry Bell video explains the delicate process of setting up his five-paneled installation from 1970. It’s great to hear Larry talk about the experience of installing an older work, and to see the pleasure he still takes in the piece.
If you haven’t seen all of the videos produced by the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego for Phenomenal, I encourage you to take a look at the following link: http://www.mcasd.org/exhibitions/phenomenal-california-light-space-surface-0. Just click “Media” to find the available videos.
A big part of putting together Sensual Mechanical: The Art of Craig Kauffman involved tracking down and identifying a huge number of images. Craig’s art was of course our first priority, but we also wanted to include exhibition announcements, catalogues, installation views, and archival photographs in the book.
These types of objects and images represent an important part of Craig’s story, and the story of the Southern California art scene he participated in. The photographs in particular illustrate the cultural history of the period, and work to contextualize Craig and his art for the reader. It wasn’t always easy to get these photos though, and I am particularly grateful to Craig Krull and his staff for all of their help. Craig Krull Gallery possesses a wonderful archive of photographs, and their expertise meant we were often able to identify images that we had very little information about.
This turned out to be a real life-saver for us, because we wanted to provide proper credit to the photographers who took the pictures we’re using whenever possible. Craig Krull and Kelly Prather helped us distinguish between the works of numerous photographers, and the gallery also graciously granted us the right to reproduce several images.
The photographs we’ve gathered for our upcoming monograph on Craig Kauffman add a lot of character to the book, and I’m so happy we were able to include them. I really can’t thank enough everyone who helped in this endeavor by contributing, identifying or discovering the images that make it so special. Again, many thanks go to Craig Krull and his team for their efforts on our behalf, we really appreciate all of their help.
I’m ready to report that the gallery, in partnership with the Estate of Craig Kauffman, is in the midst of publishing a monograph on Craig’s life and work. With a 25,000 word essay by Hunter Drohojowska-Philp and more than 150 full-color reproductions, Sensual Mechanical: The Art of Craig Kauffman will be a truly remarkable book. For me, it represents an important opportunity to set the record straight about Craig, and draw the attention of a wider audience to his innovative and exciting work.
This monograph has been a labor of love from the beginning, and is a tribute to Craig. Now, having worked with a team of experts for nearly two years, I am happy to announce that the work is almost completed. Sensual Mechanical: The Art of Craig Kauffman is on track to be published in September of this year, just a few short months away.
It’s my hope that this book will encourage historians, critics, and art enthusiasts to take a closer look at Craig’s prodigious body of work, created over his long and fruitful career. Keep your eyes peeled for more information about Sensual Mechanical: The Art of Craig Kauffman, as it is coming soon!
A rhythmic, wandering line has been present in Craig Kauffman’s paintings since the 1950s. Based in his experiments with skipping, dotted lines made with ink on paper, the line in those paintings displayed a loose, calligraphic hand that seems to define form, yet also describe a suspended space. In the Numbers paintings from 1989, Kauffman employed that line again to make numerals, boldly drawn in paint and hovering over a colored ground of imagery.
In the third exhibition to be drawn from the Estate of Craig Kauffman (1932-2010), the Frank Lloyd Gallery presents a series of paintings by Kauffman made in 1989. Kauffman’s interest in unorthodox application of paint and his love of the physicality of painting are accompanied by a brilliant color sense. Kauffman considered these works, which became known as the Numbers, to be a continuation of his use of calligraphic line, and an integration of sensuous color with architectural form. The paintings demonstrate a masterful range of painting’s language: dark versus light, the organic and architectural, and luminosity with density.
The large-scale paintings—some as tall as ten feet—were made following Kauffman’s first move to the Philippines. A rich landscape and powerful native forms from his new-found home are interwoven with the layers of numbers. Images of volcanos, ethnic figurative sculpture (Santos) and architecture (Four Kubos) are included in the backgrounds of the works. With these allusions to elements from his new environment, as well as his use of the bifurcated canvas, Kauffman again made use of his broken, skipping line. As biographer Hunter Drohojowska-Philp has written, “Most are divided vertically, like Asian scrolls, and painted in two contrasting colors such as white and red. The outlines of orchids, volcanos or houses with pitched roofs are repeated like a fabric pattern while the thin, curling numbers are overlaid. The iconography is drawn from his exposure to Philippine culture.”
Kauffman retained the unusual line from his early drawings. In an essay for Craig Kauffman drawing retrospective in 2008, curator Jay Belloli wrote:
In these linear works on paper, Kauffman began an approach to drawing that he has employed more and more frequently over the years. At the time, the top of a bottle of Pelikan ink had a rubber squeeze attachment similar to an eye dropper, so an artist could draw up small quantities of ink and put them in a bowl or shallow tray for easier use. Kauffman used the squeeze attachment directly as a drawing tool. The line that resulted was uneven, sometimes broken, and it revealed the direct and somewhat uncontrolled way in which it was made. This approach to ink drawing was like a Western means of creating some of the spontaneity associated with Asian calligraphy. 
The vertical composition of the Numbers paintings can also be strongly associated with Asian calligraphy. This clear structure of marking from top to bottom, and the reference to the format of a scroll, belies the artist’s life-long fascination with the arts of Japan, China and Southeast Asia. Indeed, his move to the Philippines provided him with easy access to Taiwan and Hong Kong, and his viewing of landscape paintings made with ink was made possible. “Japanese calligraphy is organized in columns and rows,” Belloli wrote, “and Japanese painting as one or several simple recognizable elements.” The format of the Numbers paintings not only recalls the influence of Asian painting, but also provides an expansive view of pictorial space, which Kauffman skillfully divides into a space for a specific purpose: a combination of linear and architectural form.
Architecture was one of the artist’s passions since his teenage years. Kauffman was highly influenced by reading Kindergarten Chats, by Louis Sullivan and A New Vision, from Material to Architecture, by Laszlo Moholy-Nagy. These books lay out the foundations of modern art. Intended to inform readers about the elements of Bauhaus design, the text by Moholy-Nagy merges theory, art and design. The influence on Kauffman, and on his desire to create a new way of seeing the world through art, was profound.
Kauffman’s architectural elements in the Numbers paintings also reflect his own practical experience of building. In the later decades of his life, Kauffman designed several homes, including four in the Philippines and one in the Central California town of Arroyo Grande. His eye and hand were naturally drawn to architecture, a profession he considered when he first entered college at the University of Southern California. The Numbers paintings contain some of the simple architecture of the Philippines, known as Kubo bamboo houses.
The paintings present a merging of all of these elements: architecture, calligraphy, and painting. They are held together by the network of lines, executed in an architect’s italic block numbers. But the unity is also achieved by Kauffman’s extraordinary ability with brilliant color combinations—from the rich reddish column on the left to the subtle whites and greys on the right, or the overlays of red and green.
These eight paintings were not shown in Los Angeles, although some were included in the large survey of Los Angeles painting, Abstraction, mounted by the Nagoya City Art Museum in 1990. That Nagoya exhibit included the work of Kauffman, Sam Francis, John Altoon, John McLaughlin and Ed Moses. The eight major paintings in the current show are accompanied by five works on paper.
 Hunter Drohojowska-Philp, Craig Kauffman: Sensual Mechanical, Frank Lloyd Gallery and the Estate of Craig Kauffman, 2012, p. 73.
 Jay Belloli, Craig Kauffman: A Retrospective of Drawings, Armory Center for the Arts, 2008, p. 14
 Noriko Fujinami, Abstraction: John Altoon, Sam Francis, Craig Kauffman, John McLaughlin, Ed Moses, Nagoya City Art Museum, 1990.
A lot of work goes into the preparation of an exhibit, as I noted in a post just a month ago. For the gallery staff and myself, it’s a long process that includes researching the artist, selecting the work, assembling the preliminary checklist, writing the essay, planning the layout of the show, and dozens of other tasks. I wrote about the resources of the gallery, including the wondrous photographer Anthony Cunha, as well as our superb graphic designer Joe Molloy. It’s a group effort, and the team that we assembled over the last 16 years works almost seamlessly.
The rewards of the process are numerous. Certainly, the enterprise of a commercial gallery is dependent on patrons and collectors.
And, of course we love to get all the reviews, articles and viewers that we can possibly attract. But we’re really looking to set the record straight, and to present and document an exhibit for a future generation—for the new kids on the block who may not have any idea who Craig Kauffman is! Or, for pretty much anyone who was not around in the period of 1958 to 1964, when the works in Sensual/Mechanical were first made and shown. That means just about 95% of the audience. Few living people got to see these old Kauffmans the first time around.
Like any exhibit, another big reward is the reaction of kids. Any kids—from Craig’s oldest daughter (shown above with her friend) to little children in the arms of their parents. Young kids and young artists love this work—it’s fresh, colorful and pretty damn straightforward. The playful parts of Kauffman’s work have a simple, easy to understand graphic and comical take on…well, the playful parts of the body. My favorite comment from a kid was this week, who thought the work “looked like behinds.” That is so true. Perfect comment, and unadulterated!
Boundless blue sky and poetic prose from the critics are arriving daily. Peter Frank has glowing words about Sensual/Mechanical, our current show of early work by Craig Kauffman. Today’s Huffington Post includes Peter Frank’s haiku review (well, it’s a bit longer than traditional haiku consisting of 17 on, but that’s what they call it on Huffpo). Hunter Drohojowska-Philp covers a number of the Pacific Standard Time shows in her Artnet post, singling out the excellent installation of Kauffman’s 1969 Loop in the main show, Crosscurrents, at the Getty Museum. For sheer visual delight, it’s fun to take a look at the slide show on the MCASD’ website of Phenomenal: California Light, Space, Surface.
But for the most extensive review of that great San Diego exhibition, don’t miss Christopher Knight’s excellent and praising prose in the Los Angeles Times. Curator Robin Clark has totally earned everyone’s respect for the show that she organized with Hugh Davies. It’s a show for everyone, from kids who will delight in the James Turrell installations, to adults who will discover the Bruce Nauman corridor. When you go, be sure to shimmy through the skinny green Nauman and emerge into the open light-filled Irwin room. It’s an amazing combination, and…well, it’s phenomenal.