Archive for October 2011
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.
A lot of work goes into the preparation of an exhibit, as I noted in a post just a month ago. For the gallery staff and myself, it’s a long process that includes researching the artist, selecting the work, assembling the preliminary checklist, writing the essay, planning the layout of the show, and dozens of other tasks. I wrote about the resources of the gallery, including the wondrous photographer Anthony Cunha, as well as our superb graphic designer Joe Molloy. It’s a group effort, and the team that we assembled over the last 16 years works almost seamlessly.
The rewards of the process are numerous. Certainly, the enterprise of a commercial gallery is dependent on patrons and collectors.
And, of course we love to get all the reviews, articles and viewers that we can possibly attract. But we’re really looking to set the record straight, and to present and document an exhibit for a future generation—for the new kids on the block who may not have any idea who Craig Kauffman is! Or, for pretty much anyone who was not around in the period of 1958 to 1964, when the works in Sensual/Mechanical were first made and shown. That means just about 95% of the audience. Few living people got to see these old Kauffmans the first time around.
Like any exhibit, another big reward is the reaction of kids. Any kids—from Craig’s oldest daughter (shown above with her friend) to little children in the arms of their parents. Young kids and young artists love this work—it’s fresh, colorful and pretty damn straightforward. The playful parts of Kauffman’s work have a simple, easy to understand graphic and comical take on…well, the playful parts of the body. My favorite comment from a kid was this week, who thought the work “looked like behinds.” That is so true. Perfect comment, and unadulterated!
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.”