Posts Tagged ‘John Mason’
I know I’ve posted artists’ portraits before, but I can’t resist sharing these great photos of the artists in Los Gigantes: Larry Bell, Craig Kauffman, John Mason, Ed Moses, and Peter Voulkos. These giants of the West Coast art scene were all photographed by Jim McHugh, who was kind enough to send us these images. McHugh is a noted chronicler of contemporary West Coast artists and has published several books including California Painters: New Work, 1989 and The Art of Light and Space, 1993. More recently, his work was exhibited by Timothy Yarger Fine Art, and was included in the Getty Museum’s Pacific Standard Time initiative. For over thirty years, McHugh has created compelling portraits of artists, capturing their individuality and offering unique views into their world. His respect and enthusiasm for his subjects and their work comes through in every image.
We had our opening reception for Los Gigantes at the gallery last Saturday, January 18th, and it was a great time. As you might expect, a show featuring the work of Larry Bell, Craig Kauffman, John Mason, Ed Moses and Peter Voulkos draws a big crowd. These artists are giants within the history of West Coast art, and their work attracts writers, other artists, museum and gallery professionals, and lots of fans!
We were lucky enough to have Larry Bell, John Mason, and Ed Moses in attendance. In the week leading up to the reception, we fielded phone calls from excited visitors who wanted to know if they would have the chance to meet the artists, and I’m glad we didn’t disappoint them. The reception had the feel of a reunion, as Bell, Mason and Moses have known each other for many years, and they have a large circle of mutual friends. It was great to see so many members of the Los Angeles art world turn out to support these artists, who each have such strong histories in the city.
With a group like this, it was no surprise that visitors wanted to linger, spending time with both the artworks and the artists. It was a great opportunity to hear from the artists directly, in a relaxed atmosphere. In the end, we knew it was time to head home after a long night when Pinky, Larry Bell’s dog and constant companion, curled up and took a nap in the gallery.
It’s always gratifying to learn that an artist is receiving deserved recognition. Especially when the work has been a key part of the history of American ceramic sculpture. This year, John Mason will be appearing in the Whitney Biennial, curated by Stuart Comer, Anthony Elms, and Michelle Grabner, on view March 7 – May 25, 2014. Of course, this isn’t Mason’s first time at the Whitney Museum of American Art, where Mason has a fifty year record of shows. His work has been included in exhibitions such as Fifty California Artists, 1962; the 1964 Annual Exhibition: Contemporary American Sculpture; the 1973 Biennial Exhibition: Contemporary American Art; 200 Years of American Sculpture, 1976; and Ceramic Sculpture, Six Artists, 1981.
The Frank Lloyd Gallery has a long history with Mason – we had the honor of representing him for sixteen years, and exhibited his work in nine solo shows. Mason was a key part of the gallery’s primary mission to re-contextualize the achievements of the major figures of West Coast Art. In addition to that recorded history, we also worked to place Mason’s work in major museum collections and private art foundations. Looking back, we facilitated the placement of fifteen artworks in seven institutions, including the Maxine and Stuart Frankel Foundation for Art, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Kaneko Foundation, the Anderson Collection, the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, the Buck Collection, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Some of these works, such as the Untitled Wall Relief, 1960, donated by W.D. Fletcher to LACMA in 2007, are on display now!
Taking a look around at Los Gigantes today got me thinking about the artists and their histories with the gallery. Larry Bell, Craig Kauffman, John Mason, Ed Moses, and Peter Voulkos have all exhibited here numerous times and most of them even have a gallery publication to their name! I’m always happy to produce catalogues for artists, and to support their work with scholarship that provides important context for visitors.
Right now, we have four gallery-produced publications available, as well as one collaborative effort. These include exhibition catalogues for John Mason from 2000, Craig Kauffman from 2008, and Peter Voulkos from 2012. Of course, we also have Sensual Mechanical: The Art of Craig Kauffman, the definitive monograph on Kauffman’s life and work. To round things out, I also contributed an essay to the catalogue for the Ruth Chandler Williamson Gallery’s 2012 exhibition Clay’s Tectonic Shift, which I co-curated with Mary MacNaughton and Kirk Delman.
Over the years, my gallery has taken on all sorts of guises, from exhibition space to lecture hall. But perhaps its most elegant makeover is when it becomes a private dining room. We’ve put together the menu, gone over the guest lists, and had the catering company plan the meal for dinners from 20 to 100 people. It’s a great way to get friends of the artists and the gallery’s supporters to gather in the space with the art.
The largest of these dinners was held in 2000, on the occasion of the Peter Voulkos show of bronzes, a massive and monumental group of work. I took the suggestion of my neighbor, Patricia Faure, and set the dinner up in her space—just to the east of the gallery. We had 100 guests—far more than originally planned, but a truly significant group of people who had known Peter during the previous five decades. As usual, the late Henry Hopkins (who had known Voulkos since the 1950s in Los Angeles as well as the 70s and 80s in San Francisco) served as the toastmaster. Guests ranging from Frank and Berta Gehry to Sid Felsen and Joni Weyl gathered to honor the legendary Voulkos.
Another dinner was just under 50 people, honoring artist Larry Bell in February, 2008. Larry was kind enough to talk about his show of new works on paper, and our guests were treated to a fabulous sit-down dinner. We had the honor of hosting the Director of MOCA, Jeremy Strick and his wife, as well as many of Larry’s oldest friends, including Stanley and Elyse Grinstein and John Mason. Among the others were collectors and curators, all seated in a refined and elegant setting amidst the luminous new collages.
More recently, we co-hosted a dinner honoring Ed Moses, during his 2010 exhibition. Ed invited some of his long-time friends, and we invited some of his long-term supporters. This time, the connections made at the dinner resulted in the placement of a Moses painting at a museum! For this event we moved the feast next door, but still the style remained—a kind of transformation of the gallery space into a small and intimate private restaurant. It’s that kind of personal experience, and sense of community, that makes the art world rewarding.
If you’ve been following this blog, you know that arts education is central to the mission of the gallery. In the past, we’ve hosted artist talks and interviews, exhibition walk-throughs, and even a class on collecting. Last Saturday, the gallery hosted one of our most popular events yet – a conversation between ceramic artists Adrian Saxe and Richard Shaw.
Visitors packed into the gallery on the morning of the 9th, happy to get a chance to hear from these two master ceramists and professors of art. I knew this event was going to be big – we received around 50 RSVPs – but I had no idea that nearly 70 people would ultimately arrive. Curators, collectors, and artists including John Mason and Henry Takemoto were all in attendance.
With some of their recent works arranged on plinths around them, Saxe and Shaw spoke to the audience about their methods and influences. Although their work is quite different in style and content, the two artists share a sense of humor and an interest in contemporary culture, which comes through in their art. Richard Shaw’s trompe l’oeil still lifes in porcelain whimsically combine everyday objects, appropriating mass culture as well as drawing on personal experiences and memories. Adrian Saxe works primarily in the vessel tradition, where he sees an opportunity to deal with challenging and complex social and cultural content in a format that is appealing and accessible.
As their conversation wound down, the artists graciously fielded questions from the audience. If you weren’t able to make it out to Santa Monica to hear from them in person, don’t worry! We filmed the event and will soon make a video available online. I’ll be posting it here when it’s ready, so stay tuned.
About a year ago, I was asked to moderate a panel discussion about the change in status of contemporary ceramics. The position and ranking of ceramics in the world of contemporary art has been shifting for over 60 years. Great artists have made the biggest difference in overcoming prejudices, and have been quite blunt about their assessment of how the art world perceives their work. Ken Price, for instance, succinctly noted that in the middle 1950s, the material hierarchy was established, saying that, “In those days, clay as an art medium was dead and buried.”[i]
The first task for the panel, I thought, would be to enumerate the ways that such a lowly ranking was overcome. In the current environment, a viewer can see contemporary ceramics in major museums and hundreds of galleries. How and why has this happened, and what were the forces for this change? I believe there are some clear reasons:
First, the lack of material hierarchy in the work of young artists made it clear that a new attitude about media exists (this is especially evident in curated exhibitions such as the award-winning show at the Hammer titled “Thing”, or the traveling show from the Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia titled “Dirt on Delight”). This seems to be coming from two sources: university and art school-trained artists who are the product of interdisciplinary programs; and the popular culture at large. Younger artists have adopted the contemporary music world’s sampling techniques—piecing together disparate parts and re-mixing them. Old school ideas of purity and media specificity just don’t apply anymore.
Second, critical acceptance has accelerated profoundly. These days, art journals and newspapers have major critics such as Roberta Smith, Christopher Knight, Dave Hickey, Christopher Miles, Leah Ollman and Peter Schjeldahl championing both ceramics shows and individual ceramic artists. Dozens more reviews are being published in mainstream art journals, rather than being segregated into craft-specific publications.
A third reason for the new standing of ceramics in the public’s eye is a burgeoning maturity of curatorial vision and the building of significant collections (both regional and in major encyclopedic museums). This also involves recognition of the rich traditions of other countries. The organization of group exhibitions and acquisitions by major museums including the Met and LACMA are also indications of ceramic art’s rising status.
Fourth, of course, is the fact that the use of ceramic materials continues to grow. Major artists since Picasso have worked seriously in clay, but now it’s nearly ubiquitous, as artists from contemporary art—even Jeff Koons and Ai Wei-Wei—use the medium.
Finally, there has been shift in the historical and curatorial perception of some major artists and their respected position in the overall canon. Just consider the Betty Woodman retrospective at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and the recent LACMA retrospective of the late Ken Price, which travels nationally to the Nasher and then the Metropolitan, with each venue designed by the great architect Frank Gehry.
We are now in an era when a major critic (Roberta Smith) in the New York Times writes about a show at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia in these terms:
“The show’s determination to integrate ceramics into the art mainstream is nothing new. But its refusal to do so simply by slipping some universally agreed-upon ceramic exceptions into a show of painting, sculpture and so forth is close to groundbreaking. “Dirt on Delight” argues for ceramics as a more than worthy subject. It reminds us that the art form incorporates quite a bit of painting and sculpture, thank you, and has one of the richest histories of any medium on the planet. Ceramics also plays well with all kinds of artistic ideas and needs no propping up by supposedly serious fine art or, incidentally, by much in the way of explanatory labels.” [ii]
[i] Hunter Drohojowska-Philp, A Life in Clay (interview with Ken Price), Artnet online magazine, http://www.artnet.com/magazineus/features/drohojowska-philp/drohojowska-philp10-22-08.asp
[ii] Roberta Smith, Dirt on Delight, New York Times, May 19, 2009, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/20/arts/design/20dirt.html/