Archive for May 2014
In early 2000, the Getty presented an exhibition of commissioned works by Los Angeles-area artists called Departures: 11 Artists at the Getty. Organized by guest curator Lisa Lyons, the show invited artists to create works in response to the Getty’s collections. Adrian Saxe was one of the participating artists, with his wildly popular contribution, 1-900-ZEITGEIST.
Using an eighteenth century French table from the museum’s decorative arts collection as a base, Saxe produced an outrageously ornate set of vessels, riffing on the idea of a classic garniture set. Produced in bright colors with exaggerated decorative techniques, the porcelain objects synthesize a number of historical and contemporary references. With forms suggestive of Chinese scholar’s rocks, handles based on French Rococo designs, and finials made of plastic action figures, the work represents a collision between high art and popular culture. Saxe’s decision to use a treasured object from the Getty’s collection as the support for his own work contributes to the genre-defying nature of the piece.
Departures: 11 Artists at the Getty was a considerable success for the museum, as it explored the surprising ways in which contemporary art is informed by art history. It was a critical success as well, with a favorable review by David Pagel for the Los Angeles Times, praising the efforts of the museum and the individual artists.
Sometimes I look for unifying themes within the gallery’s exhibition program. It’s obvious that we specialize in contemporary ceramics, and we clearly favor a sense of place—the West Coast of the U.S. But what’s fascinating to me is that several of the gallery’s artists have a connection to France, and to French culture.
How? Let me explain.
Adrian Saxe was influenced, even early in his career, by Sèvres porcelain. He saw examples at the Huntington, when he was in his early twenties. Saxe was attracted to the soft-paste porcelain characteristic of the factory,as well as the inventive forms, delicate painting, and skillful gilding. Then, in 1983, Saxe was selected by Georges Jeanclos to be the first resident at the Atelier Experimental de Recherche et de Création de la Manufacture National de Sèvres. Saxe returned to Sèvres in 1987 for a second residency, where he continued his explorations of the factory’s traditional techniques and materials.
Craig Kauffman made many trips to Paris. His first was right after his graduation from UCLA’s master’s program in 1956. During his six month stay, Kauffman took classes at the Alliance Française and visited museums and galleries. He returned to Paris in 1959 to 1961, while also traveling to other cities including Copenhagen and Ibiza. During this more extended visit, Kauffman met Darthea Speyer, who would later become his Paris dealer. Kauffman went back to Paris in 1973 for a solo show at Galerie Darthea Speyer, and lived in a studio in the Cité Internationale des Arts through the fall of 1975. After spending the spring of 1976 in California, he returned to France, to work in his studio and exhibit new works at Galerie Darthea Speyer.
Three years ago, Larry Bell was honored by the Carré d’Art de Nîmes with a very significant survey exhibition. Yet this is not the first time Bell’s work was shown, or collected, by the French. History shows that Larry Bell exhibited in France many times, including at the Galerie Ileana Sonnabend in 1967 and 1974, the Palais du Luxembourg in 1993, the Centre Pompidou in 2006, and the Galerie Daniel Templon in 2010. It’s interesting to note that Larry’s brother, a famed economist, maintains a residence in Paris.
The gallery has also shown a major French artist: Georges Jeanclos. It was an honor to exhibit the work of such a renowned international artist on two occasions. His emotional work profoundly affected visitors, as the artist’s deft handling of his terra cotta materials evoked a powerful sense of the tragedy of human experience.
Visitors to Adrian Saxe’s 2011 show GRIN – Genetic Robotic Information Nano (Technologies) were delighted by the artist’s use of digital technology. He created marvelous imagery linked by QR codes placed on his ceramics. Now his fans (and anyone with an internet connection) can take a look at his entire career. The gallery has launched a new website: www.adriansaxe.com. Here, visitors will be able to access images of artworks, selected exhibitions, archival publications, and a biographical chronology.This website will serve as a resource for students, curators, and critics, as it brings together an unprecedented amount of information about the artist.
Using the platform of the decorative arts and the history of ceramics, Saxe has formed a complex body of work that draws on an incredibly diverse set of influences. Pulling from baroque decorative traditions, contemporary popular culture, historical modes of presentation, and futuristic technologies, Saxe’s oeuvre is as conceptually challenging as is it visually appealing. His unmatched technical skill facilitates the creation of fantastically ornate vessels that seduce the viewer while at the same time offering sharp commentary on a number of themes.
Saxe will deliver a lecture at the Minneapolis Institute of the Arts on June 21st. Named a 2014 Regis Master by the Northern Clay Center, Saxe will contribute to their ongoing oral history project, which seeks to document artists that have had a major impact on the development of 20th and 21st century ceramics. His exhibition at the Northern Clay Center will run from May 9 – June 29, 2014.
The gallery’s next exhibition will present works by Beatrice Wood (1893-1998) alongside those of Gustavo Pérez and Cheryl Ann Thomas. Opening on May 24th, this show will be the fourth time I have shown Wood’s ceramics.
This selection of work will feature vessels as vibrant as Wood’s famous life and personality. With ties to the Dada movement in New York, the theosophy community outside Los Angeles, and the West Coast Crafts revival, Wood developed a personal vision of art that drew on myriad influences. The pieces on display artfully contrast simple forms with richly complex surface treatments. With her signature in-glaze luster technique, Wood created artworks that shimmer with vivid color, reflecting the changing light.
Although I have not had Wood’s work on view for several years, her work was recently the subject of a Pacific Standard Time show at the Santa Monica Museum of Art. Called Beatrice Wood: Career Woman – Drawings, Paintings, Vessels, and Objects, the exhibition offered a survey of Wood’s long career, from her earlier Dada inspired drawings and paintings through her more well-known ceramic works.