Frank Lloyd’s blog

Art, architecture and the people that I know.

1969

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Last winter an exhibit at MoMA’s PS1 in Long Island City caught my attention. The show focused on a single year, 1969.  There were amazingly diverse works, ranging from early videos by Bruce Nauman to the minimalist sculpture of Sol LeWitt and Carl Andre. The political upheaval of the late sixties was almost palpable in the show; there were many ways that the curators made it felt. Here’s a segment of the MoMA curatorial statement:

“Central to the exhibition is the re-staging of MoMA’s 1969 exhibition, Five Recent Acquisitions, organized by noted MoMA curator Kynaston McShine, highlighting then-recently acquired works by Larry Bell, Ron Davis, Robert Irwin, Craig Kauffman, and John McCracken. This exhibition within an exhibition is further contextualized by photographs by Gary Winogrand and Lee Friedlander, among others, in addition to exhibition catalogs, books, and archival documents which depict the events, excitement, and anxieties of the period. By juxtaposing the meditative space of the white cube gallery of the transplanted MoMA exhibition with the tumult of the outside world, 1969 reflects the expansive concerns held by artists of the time.”

Our current exhibit of Loops by Craig Kauffman has reminded me about the year 1969, since that’s when the Loops were made. I was also reminded of the curators and collectors from New York City that recognized Kauffman’s work. It was not just Kynaston McShine from MoMA that understood Kauffman’s importance. The work was acquired by the Whitney Museum in 1967, and Kauffman was included in Barbara Rose’s A New Aesthetic at the Washington Gallery of Modern Art in 1967. It’s a part of history that Kauffman participated in shows such as A Plastic Presence in 1969 and Using Walls in 1970, both shows at the Jewish Museum in New York. He was included in the Whitney Sculpture Annual in 1969, and the Albright Knox acquired a piece in that same year. The architect Philip Johnson had long before included Kauffman in his collection, housed in his compound in Connecticut. (That’s Johnson shown in the center below, with a Kauffman painting on the right.)

Craig Kauffman should not be simply categorized as a Los Angeles artist. His work captured a kind of light, a sensibility and a use of materials that were central to the time period.  And he should not be simply categorized as a West Coast artist whose concerns were the finish of an object, or the effects of light.  One of his best friends at that time was the sculptor Robert Morris. Kauffman and Morris had collaborated on a project, as Kauffman recalled in an interview with Michael Auping (for the Oral History Project at UCLA, 1984):

“Bob and I did do a piece in common. We did a piece at the Jewish Museum, a wall piece.  In 1970, about the time of the Cambodian [invasion], because as soon as it went up, the next day [May 14, 1970], we closed it. We kind of voted, all the artists. It was called “Working with Walls” [Using Walls].  It was a combination of his very didactic theory about three strips and how [they] should be poured; and there were these rounded plastic pieces that were on the wall. And then we sprayed red, yellow and blue, and we poured red yellow and blue. So, it was sort of a process, plastic, transparent thing. So, it was a combination of both of our ideas.”

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Written by Frank Lloyd

October 16, 2010 at 8:40 pm

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