Archive for November 2010
Larry Bell will soon have a large survey exhibition in Nimes, France. Since it opens February 25, 2011, Larry has been busy with preparations for quite a while. The curator, Marie de Brugerolle, has been assembling the exhibition for two years. A significant amount of the material will come from European collections. The location, Carre d’Art—Nimes Museum of Contemporary Art, is one of the largest museums in southern France. Larry’s show will also have a catalogue, with text in French and English. I recently caught up with Larry, and he had these comments about his upcoming survey show:
Frank Lloyd: Is everything from your studio packed and ready to go?
Larry Bell: The works for France are all packed with the exception of an untitled oil painting from 1959.
Q. How many works will be in the show?
A. The show will have close to 350 works in it and it is not a retrospective. The curator wanted a rather romantic view of my activities. It’s a ‘Survey’, so I am curious how this turns out. The big number is mostly due to the Fraction environment that will have 280 pieces hung in a cipher in one long line in a huge room. A bunch of photos. I can’t believe she wanted to use these but I went along with it.
A. I am doing the third installation of the “Leaning Room” [a work that was first done at the Venice studio and then at MOCA] and it will be a huge leaning room. A few cubes from collections in Europe, an environment made out of a large glass piece and large cube, both were borrowed from museums in Lyon and Amsterdam. I will mix these two pieces into a new environment.
Q. All of this means you will be doing an enormous amount of installation work?
A. I guess that is why I am sitting on my ass watching old movies. There is an enormous amount of improvisation coming with this show and there is nothing I like more. It’s sometimes easier to be improvisational when you’re exhausted.
Q. Don’t you get tired when you travel back and forth from your Venice studio to Taos?
A. The physical changes from Venice to Taos are starting to wear on me, I get more tired with each trip. On the other hand, it’s probably age. Working on the Nimes show reminds me of how much work I have already done.
With wit, charm and style, Wayne entered our lives and gave us laughter and art. We will always remember him for his great eye for art, his tenacity and strength in fighting a cruel disease, and for his wicked sense of humor. I’d like to tell you a few short stories about him.
When I moved the gallery to this space, I overheard Wayne talking to my mother at the opening. She told him how much she admired our ability to work together, and how interesting it was to observe the way our roles had changed. Once I had worked for Wayne, but now he was working for me. With a quick laugh, Wayne replied:
“I always wanted to be a back-up singer.”
But Wayne was really the star. One day, a married couple came into the gallery. We both talked to them and toured the current show. Then I went back to the office, while Wayne showed them pieces in another room. After a while, the husband came to my desk and asked, “Frank, can I open a branch of my business here in your gallery?” “Well, I guess so,” I said. “But why would you want to do that?” The answer: “Because you have the greatest salesman in the world. We’re buying three pieces.” Wayne really was the best. He had an uncanny sense of what people liked. He could even sell something out of the trunk of his car, on the street, in front of another gallery.
He also had an eye for talent, and when he found an artist he liked, he helped them establish their career. He did that with Akio Takamori, and I know that he willed himself to stay alive to see Akio’s show once more. He did that with Gronk, who he had known since high school in East L.A. And he did that with Darren Waterston, who had come to work for Wayne when he was still a student at Otis. He bought their work, he even fed them, and he introduced them to collectors and dealers. He would say: “I want to be their mother.”
We all know that Wayne loved to shop. He liked to try on clothes, and he loved to try new “looks”. But my favorite was when he dressed in the manner of an artist’s work. For instance, Wayne dressed like a Roseline Delisle sculpture—for every day of her show. On the last day, he said: “It’s a great show, but all good things must come to an end. Besides, I don’t have any more black-and-white striped outfits.”
He loved fashion as much as he loved food… and he loved fashionable food even more. So it was especially sad that during his last year, Wayne could not eat. Still, he maintained an interest in recipe books, and would often watch cooking shows. A couple of months before his death, I went over to his house. He could not eat at that time, but he was watching some strange television cooking competition. I asked, “What’s this program?” He looked at me with shock, “Are you kidding? You’ve never seen the Iron Chef?”
Television was Wayne’s true love. He watched much more than the average person. When I told Wayne that I wanted to learn more about architecture, and was going to read some books at home, he replied, “Why? You can learn about everything from television!”
I often attend gallery openings, museum shows and other art world events. When Wayne did not go with me, or he was busy due to television programming, I would describe the events to him. If I got too far into the description of the art on the walls, he would stop me.
“I’m only interested in three things,” he would say. “What did you have to eat? Who was there? And what were they wearing?”
His legendary sarcastic comments were strangely endearing.
Years ago, when I first met Wayne, he was involved in the organization of a group exhibition. At a committee meeting, the issue of the title of the show was being discussed. Many suggestions were made, and when another title was advanced, there was an objection. “I don’t like that one,” said one of the artists. “It won’t look good on my resume.” To which Wayne quickly replied, “Why don’t we just call it the what-looks-good-on-my-resume-show?”
When he knew he was going to die, he called his friends to the hospital room for a final cocktail party. About eight of us were there, but the two with the drinks had not arrived. Wayne turned to me, on is deathbed, and said, “Where are they? I knew we should have had this catered!”
Wayne was a great list maker. He would often come into the gallery, sit down at his desk, and make a list of people to call, then letters to write. But he also made lists for himself. Last year he told me: “Ten years ago, after I got sick, I made a list. I wanted a duplex in Silverlake, a white Chevy Blazer, a trip to Paris, and I wanted Beatrice to live to 105. It all came true.”
There will never be another Wayne. He was all of those things: generous and social, witty and charming, stylish yet brave. But the best thing he did was to bring us together. He is the connection between us, and because of that, his spirit will never die.
O.K., I know this: my little blog is not even remotely close to the Huffington Post. HuffPo is well known as the most popular news site in the Blogosphere. But site statistics are somewhat addictive for bloggers. There’s a temptation (at least for me) to check and see if anyone’s reading your posts. Those stats reveal a lot about the readers, too. I’m amazed to find out that there are some clear favorites from the past couple of years since this tiny blog started in November, 2008. There’s also a clear winner in these statistics: more people want to read about Peter Voulkos than any other subject—by far.
For those who want to review the Top Ten Posts of my past two years, here are the links:
Sometimes I wish for the moon and the stars: I wish for the rapt attention of a new audience for contemporary art. Like the saying goes, be careful what you wish for—it might come true. On Monday morning I met a group of journalists at the gallery, and for pretty much the whole day, I had the pleasure of their company. All seven arts journalists were awarded fellowships for the ninth USC Annenberg/Getty Arts Journalism Program. They showed up in a small white bus, guided by Sasha Anawalt, Director of the program, and Jeff Weinstein, Deputy Director.
The program for the day started with their visit to the gallery and a look at our Craig Kauffman show. I gave our guests a bit of background on Craig, and author Hunter Drohojowska-Philp filled in the history of the 1960s in the L. A. art scene. She’s got all kinds of anecdotes on the tip of her tongue these days, as her soon-to-be-published book is nearing completion. The group seemed to be delighted to see the Kauffman show, and one, Alissa Walker, has already posted her impressions on her blog and flickr.
I haven’t had such an attentive group come to the gallery—ever! There’s nothing like a group of journalists taking notes, snapping pictures—and really listening. We moved on to the studios of Larry Bell and Ed Moses. The writers were treated to some extraordinary moments. I swear that the Larry Bell visit was a classic: an explanation of his intentions, a denial of his intelligence, his pointed and clear overview of methods and technology, and his sound-enhanced and humorous anecdotes (my favorite was the story about Marcel Duchamp knocking at his studio door in 1963).
Ed Moses was unusually touching and subdued–yet showed them work that is vibrant and alive with color. It’s just so powerful to see someone at 84 years old, and having gone through a life-threatening period in the hospital, making inventive new work. The group gathered and then grew silent when he talked.
So I got what I have been wishing for: a day that makes my occupation worthwhile—meaningful work and an audience that wants to understand it.
Today as I drove to work, I was in a David Letterman frame of mind, I guess. I started to think of our current show, and just listing, Letterman-style, the reasons to come and see it. Sure, every art dealer wants you to come see their show—and buy something. But this is a truly unprecedented exhibit: none of the Loops are for sale. We just want people to see them. So here’s my list of the top ten reasons to see the Loops, done in true Letterman fashion, reverse order:
10. They are 41 years old.
8. See them and watch them change with the light during the day.
7. See a museum quality show that anticipates next year’s Pacific Standard Time initiative.
6. Marvel at an exhibition that a Getty Conservation Institute researcher called “a real pleasure…magnificent”.
5. See works by an artist that Ed Moses calls “a genius”.
4. Understand why yesterday’s Getty Research Institute Senior Associate called the show “historic”.
3. Marvel at the sequencing of the pieces within the gallery space.
2. See the phenomenal reflections of atmospheric color on the wall.
1. Experience a visual feast of pure sensual color.
Craig Kauffman remained a painter throughout his career, over 50 years. Still, Craig experimented with various painting media, as well as doing some installations. In 1971, for instance, Kauffman was included in a significant exhibit at the UCLA Art Galleries, titled Transparency, Reflection, Light and Space. His conceptual drawing in the catalogue shows the installation piece: a mirrored trough of water, activated by fans, and illuminated by overhead lights. The result? It was the “moving reflection on wall of circulating water.”
This 1971 reflection piece for the show at UCLA followed Kauffman’s involvement with colored reflections on the wall—the Loops—and his work during the 1970 show at the Jewish Museum, Using Walls. In an interview during 1971 with Frederick S. Wight for the UCLA catalog, the artist speculated about his work at that time, saying “…now I’m thinking of doing things on a wall that run from corner to corner which really make the whole wall the piece…the emphasis isn’t on a unified form where it is more spread out if you want to call it that. The piece is less important than what it is doing to the wall.”
Kauffman had also written a statement, printed in the Pasadena Art Museum’s catalog for his 1970 survey exhibit. It’s a much stronger, poetic and political stance. Here it is, complete with the original omission of capitalization:
what is a wall? it is always something for bumping one’s head against. the real wall, of whatever material, be it brick, studs sixteen inches on center, cement, adobe, flat or curved, is something to reckoned with. it is also an idea which separates us from each other. walls divide worlds. whether of bamboo or iron, walls are our creations. even the invisible walls that surround each of us denote our space, our identity. “c’est une chose mystérieuse la mur.” thing of mind or reality? crazy jane said, “what a terrible thing for a young girl to be a wall.” it is terrible to be any inanimate object but to become a wall is perhaps the worst. to walk into a wall and never come out is very possible. it is as if the wall calls to us to come in and stay in its cold interior. destroy the wall with color a la leger? cover the wall with paintings? make protrusions from it, poke holes in it? perhaps we should play with walls, with illusions, shadows, in order to render them passable to our substance. to walk through a wall is not just for houdini. perhaps we can all enter and come out safely.