How to Present Art, Part 2: Asher Faure Gallery
I’ve given a little bit of background on Betty Asher in my last post, regarding the sophisticated sensibilities of certain Californians—a group that definitely included Ken Price and Betty Asher. I’ve also posted previously an amazing group photo from a field trip to Las Vegas with Marcel Duchamp. In the Archives of American Art interview with Betty by Thomas Garver, she describes the evening:
“At dinner we went to the Stardust and they have the follies or something, a girlie theater, and I was sitting next to Marcel at the table and the picture is a result of one of those girls in short skirts coming around with a big camera to take pictures. And just as she was about to click, I put my arm around Marcel, my fingertips very gingerly touched his shoulder because I didn’t want him to know that I was doing this, so I have this nice picture of Marcel with my arm around him.”
Asher’s collection of early Pop paintings, important works by sculptors such as Larry Bell, and ceramics (teapots, cups—famously—and figurative sculpture) was housed until the end of her life in an open and spacious condominium in Beverly Hills. I visited there during the early 1990s, and saw the variety of work—from a Jasper Johns Flag to a Philip Guston painting, from a Larry Bell to an Ed Ruscha. Betty continued collecting Ken Price’s work. Her legendary collection of cups, many of which are now in the LACMA permanent collection, was prominently displayed. In an archive, I have found this photo of her living room.
In the late 1970s, along with business partner Patricia Faure, Betty Asher opened a gallery at 8221 Santa Monica Boulevard. Their idea was “to have not only our own small group of young artists, or artists we represented who wouldn’t necessarily have to be young. In addition to that we wanted to work with New York dealers in a way that hadn’t been done before. We wanted to bring work that we liked and that hadn’t been seen for a long time, or ever, in the Los Angeles area, to our gallery…” Asher recalled in the AAA interview.
Later, the gallery moved to Almont in West Hollywood. A new voluminous space was constructed behind a small bungalow, and Betty and Patricia Faure continued their exhibition program. Remarkably, they exhibited many ceramic artists, including Viola Frey, Marilyn Levine, and others–in addition to sculpture by Joel Shapiro and Michael McMillen, and paintings by Joe Goode, Margaret Nielsen, and dozens of others. I’ve been able to research these shows, and scan some of the images from the Asher Faure archives. The image shown here is the installation of monumental figurative work by Viola Frey, which Asher championed during the 1980s, and also collected herself.
What’s fascinating is to compare that same room—the aforementioned gallery space behind the West Hollywood bungalow—when it has an installation of paintings by Craig Kauffman. In the next image, we can see a series of paintings by Craig Kaffman playfully known as the “cage paintings”—a loose, open architecture of painted lines that resemble the framing of a structure. Kauffman, an artist who exhibited many times at Asher Faure, has often used the skipping, playful line in his work. It’s great for me to remember this exhibit, and the integration of ceramics and painting at the Asher Faure Gallery.