This week, the Frank Lloyd Gallery announced the closing of the public exhibition program at Bergamot Station. As of February 14, the gallery will close its doors, and move to a private space in Pasadena. The current show, of Peter Voulkos and Craig Kauffman, will be the last. After a long and successful program of over 190 exhibitions, the founder and director, Frank Lloyd, sat down to talk with Kelly Boyd and answer a few questions:
Q.: Why would you want to leave the gallery business?
A.: Well, after nineteen years of exhibitions, publications, and sales, I am finally moving on. I consider it more of a transition. I have to leave behind this accomplishment, and forge ahead with another job, as the full-time representative of an artist’s estate. I also have very personal reasons for the move, since I need to be close to my 91-year-old mother.
Q.: But what about your artists? What will happen to them?
A.: When I started the gallery, I had a specific mission of presenting ceramic artwork in a fine art context. The gallery functioned on three levels: as a commercial venue for individual artists, as an educational resource for the community of Southern California. I wanted to preserve a legacy of ceramics in Los Angeles. Finally, the gallery served as a forum for dialogue among artists, collectors and critics. I think it succeeded on all those goals.
Later, as the gallery expanded, I showed artists from other countries, including England, Mexico, France, Holland and especially Japan. Then, I further expanded the program to include contemporary painters and sculptors, because I thought they all came out of the same time period in L.A., the innovative post-war period. In many ways, ceramics, along with assemblage, led the way back then. Voulkos, Mason and Price were examples of fearless leadership and grew out of a common bond.
Q.: But the artists, what will happen to them? You didn’t answer my question.
A.: Oh, you’re right! I’m pleased to say that, for several reasons, ceramics has regained its rightful spot in the mainstream. Just today I had the pleasure of reading a review in the Boston Globe about an exhibition of 200 years of American ceramics at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Featured were Cheryl Ann Thomas and Adrian Saxe. Also, an artist that I represented for 16 years, John Mason, has now regained his position in the art world, with shows like the Getty’s Pacific Standard Time, the recent Whitney Biennial, and his representation by David Kordansky.
I’m proud of showing Larry Bell since 2006, and now he’s with an international powerhouse gallery, White Cube. Even a less well-known ceramic artist from Japan, Satoru Hoshino, is having a show with Dominique Levy. Others that I’ve shown, like Betty Woodman and Ken Price, both had retrospective exhibits at the Metropolitan. Back in 2003, Dave Hickey for Artforum named Ron Nagle’s show at my gallery one of the top shows in the world. Now, he’s been in the Venice Bienniale and had a survey at the San Diego Museum of Contemporary Art. Adrian Saxe continues to win awards and recognition from critics and organizations.
Q.: Is that because of what you did? Do you take credit for that?
A.: No, I think the artists should get all the credit, I’ve always thought that. But the art world is increasingly aware of these artists, now, and there is a feeling of some vindication. I get some satisfaction out of seeing these artists, who I showed and believed in, get the change in visibility. I think it’s due to several factors, actually. I just felt it was going to happen, twenty years ago when I started the gallery. The exhibition program was all about the place of these artists and that history.
Q.: What exactly are the factors you’re referring to?
A.: First is the obvious trend: Young artists have been using the ceramic medium, and they have no real material hierarchy. That’s a major factor. Younger artists will use anything; they are, quite fortunately, not bound to the old prejudices against clay. Critics have been champions of this use by young artists as well as the use by recognized artists. And curators have recognized the value of the work—look at the tremendous reception for the retrospective of Ken Price, for instance. The curators at major museums are making a big difference in the public’s perception.
Q.: What other examples?
A.: Well, the gallery showed the ceramic work of a major woman sculptor, Lynda Benglis. We had two quite visible and successful shows of Betty Woodman’s work, well in advance of the retrospective at the Met. We’ve shown a significant number of women, including the early group like Vivika Heino, Laura Andreson and Beatrice Wood, then more contemporary artists like Cindy Kolodziejski, Jennifer Lee, Marilyn Levine, Betty Woodman, and Elizabeth Fritsch, as well as sculptors like Lynda. Cheryl Ann Thomas is another example. We didn’t just show the men!
Q.: What part of the gallery are you most proud of?
A.: Oh, that’s easy: the publications. I’ve taken that job seriously, working with writers and a legendary graphic designer. In many ways, I was lucky to work with a superb graphic designer, the late Joe Molloy, and he mentored me through the process of publishing. I still have a huge stash of our publications, in which we published the writing of Kristine McKenna, Hunter Drohojowska-Philp, and the art historian Francis Colpitt.
I’d also have to say that every day in my gallery was enhanced by the architecture, designed by Fred Fisher. It’s a sad thing to leave this space, so perfectly designed.
Q.: So, that’s a regret. What was your biggest disappointment?
A.: Lack of attendance. We work our butts off, and then the attendance is poor.
A.: Yes, and it’s a great memory. The big crowd pleasers were clearly deserving: Adrian Saxe’s shows—any of them! And then, we had people return again with their family, just to see the stunning and heartfelt works of French sculptor Georges Jeanclos. The first show of Peter Voulkos in 1999, that had people lined up just to get in. All were extremely gratifying to present. But lately, the attention has shifted and we are working on other projects.
Q.: Will you be busy? Is there enough work in your new job to keep you busy? Or are you retiring?
A.: This is a common question. The truth is, with an artist of this significance, Craig Kauffman, there is more than enough research, conservation, and publication to keep a full staff busy for a decade. The representatives of artist’s estates, and many foundations, are dedicated to the job of preserving and protecting the legacy and work of an artist. We’ll have plenty to do.
Q.: Won’t you miss the gallery business?
A.: I’ll miss the people. I have a number of passionate colleagues. That’s something I learned: many art dealers are passionate and committed individuals. We are fortunate to have them. I must say that there should be more recognition for the patrons and the dealers. I started by coming from the artists’ side—and now I’ve learned more about the collectors and the dealers. Art world news is often about hot young artists, the big money that is spent, and the connections to celebrity, all of it coming in a steady stream on new portal sites, traditional news media, and social media. But the thing that sustains it all is the hard work and passion of the artists, dealers, and patrons. I’d hate to see an art world without art galleries.
Q.: How would you sum up the last 19 years?
A.: In five words or less? A lot of hard work. But seriously, when I started, I wanted to make a statement: a gallery with a sense of history, that presents itself as a strong and relevant component of the contemporary art world. Although it was originally media-specific and became known as a specialty gallery, everything we exhibited had a relationship to painting and sculpture. We presented ceramics as a vital part of the regional and national scene and we also proposed links between historical precedents and contemporary ceramics. That was the reason for the expanded program, and it succeeded in many ways. I think the last show is a good way to finish the statement, and I’ll continue to try to set the record straight.
Last week I received some gratifying news in the form of a very positive review of the Museum of Fine Art, Boston’s current exhibition, Nature, Sculpture, Abstraction, and Clay: One Hundred Years of American Ceramics. Sebastian Smee, writing for the Boston Globe, reviewed the show, which presents gifts from the Daphne Farago Collection and the Philip Aarons and Shelley Fox Aarons Collection, in addition to other new acquisitions.
In a show of more than 70 pieces, several artists represented by the Frank Lloyd Gallery were singled out for praise. For example, while describing Adrian Saxe’s 1989 work Float/Aloft, Smee writes that, “Purely formal and aesthetic concerns were overtaken by a new sense of self-aware play, extending into the realms of language, pop culture, and politics.” Ken Price and Ralph Bacerra are also identified as artists of particular stature, represented by works engaged in creative dialogue with the historical pieces on display.
The review closes with the MFA Boston’s newly acquired work by Cheryl Ann Thomas, December. Calling it “A highlight — and a great note to end on,” Smee goes on to say that the piece “is truly something to behold.”
My inbox is filled with year-end lists and 2014 top ten rankings and rants. Should I add to that clutter? In a year that was filled with accomplishments for the artists and the gallery, it’s at least time to take a moment and make note of some things. I was reminded of the winter ritual by my friend Jennifer Lee’s photo.
Starting with the gallery’s blog, it’s amazing to see just how far-reaching the digital world has taken us. As I wrote in a previous blog post, I wonder: How does mobile computing affect the way that the public interacts with museum shows? How does the rise of corporate-owned art news aggregators affect the perception of art and the way that people see exhibitions? When people “share” art on social media, is that an effective way to communicate? Which media translate the best in the new digital age?
This blog was viewed in 102 different countries in just the past year. Most of our visitors were from the U.S., but the U.K. and France were not far behind. But, what did the viewers comment on the most? A post titled “The Two Californias”, in which I talked about the oft-cited but misunderstood division between the northern and southern regions of the state. The post was popular, for a while. But, an older post, about the mid-century architecture of the Pasadena area and Richard Neutra, continues to draw an on-line audience.
All told, over 16,000 people viewed the blog! Among the things they read about: Cheryl Ann Thomas and her exhibits and museum acquisitions, the incredibly intricate and highly humorous work of Adrian Saxe, and the continued efforts of the gallery on behalf of the Estate of Craig Kauffman. We’ve had a full year and are ready to turn the page. Please keep following us!
As I mentioned in my last post, the artist Cheryl Ann Thomas will be opening a solo exhibition at Danese Corey Gallery in New York on Friday, November 21st, 2014. The exhibition, titled Hap, will present Cheryl’s hand-coiled and pinched porcelain sculptures. After building tall, vertical cylinders of clay, Cheryl allows her pieces to collapse unpredictably in the kiln, creating works of haunting, graceful delicacy.
It has been a pleasure collaborating with Danese Corey Gallery on this show. As the opening day draws near, their staff produced an exhibition catalogue, which can be viewed online or purchased as a traditional publication. The catalogue includes beautiful color images of Cheryl’s work and a studio portrait by Donna Granata.
Hap will be on view at the Danese Corey Gallery November 21, 2014 – December 20, 2014. If you will be in New York, I encourage you to take advantage of the opportunity to see these works in person.
One of the most rewarding aspects of working with artists over time is the opportunity to witness the development of their work, and help them to grow professionally and creatively. Cheryl Ann Thomas joined the gallery in 2006, and I’ve enjoyed watching the evolution of her work since then.
This fall is shaping up to be a busy season for Cheryl, with lots of exciting news. I’m happy to announce that the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, has recently acquired a work of hers titled December, 2009-2013. Museum placements are an important part of the work we do here at the gallery, and Cheryl’s work is now represented at 13 major institutions in the United States and Canada.
Cheryl will also be presenting work in her first solo exhibition in New York at the Danese Corey Gallery. The show, titled Hap, will be on view from November 21 – December 20, 2014. In her artist’s statement, Cheryl writes “Change comes slowly. The forms were singular for six years before I began grouping them. I worked only in black, white and gray for ten years. The new interest in subtle color represents a relaxation of the adherence to pure process and a move toward the intuitive.”
This week, I’m packing my bags to fly out to Marfa, Texas where Larry Bell will present a site responsive exhibition titled 6 x 6 an improvisation for the Chinati Foundation’s upcoming “Chinati Weekend.” A large-scale glass installation, the environmental work will absorb, transmit, and reflect light, calling into question the nature of physical and visual space. A program of special events will take place alongside the presentation of this work on October 11th and 12th, including a talk by curator Robin Clark, and a discussion between the artist and Chinati Foundation director Marianne Stockebrand. I’m looking forward to seeing Larry there! Here’s a great portrait of him, shot by Anthony Friedkin at the opening reception of the 2006 exhibition Cubes.
The elegant, restrained vessels of Richard DeVore have frequently been compared to human forms. It is easy to see why – their warm, matte surfaces evoke human skin; clefts, dimples, slits, and bulges in the works reference anatomical forms; and the suggestion of bilateral symmetry recalls the basic human figure. Even his commitment to a few selected vessel shapes, and a restricted color palette, recalls the diversity of life, bound as it is to certain limitations. Janet Koplos equated his body of work to a crowd of people, who are “recognizable as a species but infinite in their variety.”
Like people, DeVore’s works have rich interior lives, not immediately visible to the casual viewer. In many of his pots, the artist constructed a series of false bottoms that can only be discovered by peering over their rims. This requires the viewer to get close to and spend time with each piece in order to properly assess them. Invisible from the exterior, the pots have hidden layers that radically change the perception of each piece. A tall vessel, with steeply sloping walls is revealed to have a shallow interior, composed of a series of these false bottoms, accented with evocative cut-outs that lead to increasingly obscure levels. The works are mysterious, and do not easily give themselves away. Instead, as Koplos notes, “they stand, they feel, they keep secrets.”
-By Kelly E. Boyd