Posts Tagged ‘Museums’
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.
When artists get together, they often talk about their peers. Ken Price was someone that other artists talked about. His influence was profound. His work was in artist’s collections. Every artist I know spoke with respect for his inventive, colorful, humorous, and brilliant work.
That respect was evident at the lender’s luncheon two weeks ago at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, where Ken Price was honored with a retrospective exhibition and a touching memorial later that day. There was an opportunity for a photo, and it’s an amazing record of the esteem that other artists had for Ken Price.
Shown in the photo are (back row, left to right): Tony Berlant, Doug Wheeler, Larry Bell, Ron Cooper, Ed Moses, Vija Celmins, (front row, left to right): Frank Gehry, Billy Al Bengston, David Hockney, and Allen Jones.
Photo courtesy Suzanne Ponder, Bel Air Camera
Something that might not be evident about any art exhibit is just how many people are involved. Every exhibition and publication requires the talents of a diverse group of people, who write, edit, design, curate, install, photograph, coordinate….I could go on and on!
Recently, I had the opportunity for a major collaboration with my good friends and colleagues, Mary MacNaughton and Kirk Delman. As you may remember, Scripps College hosted Clay’s Tectonic Shift: John Mason, Ken Price, and Peter Voulkos, 1956–1968 this past spring, and I was happy to have worked with Mary and Kirk over the course of many months to help make the exhibition possible. Scripps, in association with the Getty, was therefore able to make its own unique contribution to Pacific Standard Time: Art in L.A. 1945-1980.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with Mary, she is the Director of the Ruth Chandler Williamson Gallery, as well as an associate professor of art history at Scripps. Kirk is the Registrar and Collections Manager of the Scripps College art collections, and works closely with Mary to design and coordinate their installations. The two of them are true professionals, and their expertise and enthusiasm made working together on this project a real pleasure.
I am always happy when the work that I do brings me in contact with such great people, who share with me their creativity, knowledge, and passion for art. It’s part of why I got into this business in the first place – there’s nothing better than being a part of a supportive arts community.
Yesterday, a pair of writers from back East asked for recommendations on Pacific Standard Time shows. I urged them to take the trip to San Diego (and La Jolla) for Phenomenal: California Light, Space, Surface at MCASD. Robin Clark’s show simply should not be missed. I singled out the shows that I’ve seen at LACMA: first, Five Card Stud, Ed Kienholz’s stunning and unforgettable installation about race and violence in America. Also (for entirely different reasons) Asco, the well-documented look at the Latino collective performance group, and California Design: Living in a Modern Way, LACMA’s delightful and rich presentation of design.
However, I forgot to send these visitors to a show that is a sleeper hit or hidden gem: Artistic Evolution: Southern California Artists at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, 1945—1963. Perfectly chosen and presented by Charlotte Eyerman, this exhibit is the most faithful to the stated purpose of the Getty’s project: original scholarly research leading to an exhibition about Los Angeles art from the period of 1945 to 1980. Ms. Eyerman deserves a huge round of applause for a tightly curated and thoroughly researched show, presented in the rotunda of the Natural History Museum—quite similar in location to the old LA County Museum’s annual exhibits.
I was reminded of Eyerman’s contribution to the PST cause today. I read a review by Christopher Knight, and he has superb way of looking at the Artistic Evolution show. After reading Knight’s review, scroll down and read his post about Larry Bell, Frank Gehry and architecture. It’s a brilliant linking of those three elements, and Knight rightfully cites the long-term friendship of Bell and Gehry, who have often worked together on projects.
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.
Another myth about Los Angeles is that there’s nothing but sunshine. Today we had a good stong rainstorm, followed by some great cloud formations. It’s days like this that make me want to stay home and read a book…or two. There are so many books being published about the Pacific Standard Time exhibitions—I’m told that there are over 20 highly researched publications coming out. I’ve been lucky enough to read MCASD’s ”Phenomenal” book, and I highly recommend it. This book gives more information about Light and Space than any previous publication. I’m also well into the 4th chapter of the Getty Research Institute’s history, and it, too, is a must read.
Another way to catch up on the publications—for free!—is to take the tram to the Getty’s reading room, conveniently located next to the gorgeous installation of DeWain Valentine’s “Grey Wall”, a project of the friendly Getty Conservation Institute’s Tom Learner, Emma Richardson, Rachel Rivenc—and the whole team. The Grey Wall, too, has a wonderful book. Here’s a little picture of the welcoming reading room, with the growing library of recent publications.
Ridiculous repeated stereotypes can lead to embedded mythology. Someone recently remarked that Craig Kauffman’s work, like many L.A. artists’, “was never accepted in New York.” My response was something like, “Are you kidding me?” Here’s a short list of the Gotham tastemakers who acquired Kauffman’s work, from just 1965 to 1969: Philip Johnson (a 1965 red and green painting on formed plastic), Frank Stella (a small 1964 formed acrylic painting), Kynaston McShine (legendary curator acquired 2 works for the collection of MoMA, 1965 and 1969), Donald Judd (owned a transparent orange formed plastic wall relief), and Jean and Howard Lipman (a 1967 acquisition for the Whitney Museum, when Lipman was on the Board of Trustees, and Jean was the editor of Art in America). Now, seriously, that would be an impressive group, even for a major New York painter! (Image at left is Philip Johnson, by photographer Arnold Newman, for Look magazine, 1967)
Still not convinced? Then, how about the exhibitions at Pace Gallery–-5 at Pace, a group show in 1965, then four solo shows for Kauffman in 1967, 1969, 1970, and 1972? Maybe Craig’s fame would be more obvious when viewing the cover of Art in America, from 1966. At any rate, recognition is now returning in the form of articles and market prices, which are rising rapidly. That’s one of the subjects of a recent article in Art and Auction, by Eric Bryant. He includes a bit of commentary from another writer: “This myth has developed that it was all about car finishes and surfing,” says Hunter Drohojowska-Philp, an art critic and the author of the recent book Rebels in Paradise: The Los Angeles Art Scene and the 1960s. “But East Coast artists like Donald Judd and Robert Morris were making visits to see the latest work, and the artists really were engaged with the theoretical framework of Minimalism.”
It’s also a part of the history of the Whitney Museum of American Art, that in 1987 Richard Armstrong (now Director of the Guggenheim) curated a survey of Kauffman’s work, titled Wall Reliefs from the Late 1960s. In the catalogue essay, Armstrong noted that by the late 1960s Kauffman’s work “had reached an apogee of severe but allusive abstraction.”
Last weekend, the best thing I read was Peter Plagens’ response to the use of his book Sunshine Muse. Plagens wrote the first edition way back in 1974, and added a preface for the 1999 second edition, when he refused to revise what he called a “period piece”. In Sunday’s “Perspective” piece for the Los Angeles Times, Plagens offers the fascinating story of his deal with editors from Praeger, as well as a substantial bit of self-criticism: ”Sunshine Muse has major flaws. I was a critic, not an art historian, writing art history, so the book has too much criticism in it and not enough history, particularly concerning Latino, African Amercian and “Women’s Movement” (as it was called back then) artists.”
I’ve used his book for quotes in essays, referenced it several times in press releases, and even posted a choice quote on the wall for our current show—concerning the work in Craig Kauffman’s 1958 show of abstract paintings. So I read Plagens’ response to the authors of the Getty’s Pacific Standard Time volume with great interest, and I highly recommend reading both. I am hoping there are many more exchanges, viewpoints and publications that address the history and the influences of West Coast art. Bring ‘em on!
There have been some truly pivotal moments in L.A. art history. Some of the groundbreaking achievements were in ceramics, it’s often noted. The biggest move, to my mind, was when John Mason and Peter Voulkos rented a studio on the corner of Glendale Blvd. and Baxter Street in 1957. The first things they made were large-scale sculpture. They adapted industrial technology, and had a huge kiln built that could match their ambitions: “I could stand upright in [the kiln] and a number of friends could stand upright in it also,” Mason has recalled.
Mason’s first sculptures, made in that Glendale Blvd. studio, were vertical, closed forms, with a shape that resembled a spear. Then, over the next few years, he made several huge steps forward, moving into uncharted territory with the medium of fired clay. Mason began to make massive rough-hewn walls; he soon broke into a kind of totemic verticality. Eventually, he built huge cross forms and solid, mysterious geometric shapes.
He did this by developing innovative ways of working, including pushing clay onto a huge easel to make wall reliefs, and compacting the material around a wooden armature to make the vertical sculptures. By 1959 he would use just the weight, gravity and plasticity of the raw clay to build a major work, which will be shown in the main exhibit at the Getty, “Crosscurrents”: the Blue Wall.
“It wasn’t until I started to work on the floor that I began to just cut and slam clay down on the floor and then take pieces or parts of slabs and add them to make a more linear organic form. One of the first was the Blue Wall, which was over twenty feet long and eight or nine feet across,” Mason has recalled.