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A Minimal Future at MoCA, 2004

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Craig Kauffman was included in several exhibits with seminal Minimalist sculptors, during the 1960s and more recently.  In 2004, The Museum of Contemporary Art Los Angeles presented “A Minimal Future? Art as Object 1958–1968,” including the work of forty American artists in an historical and scholarly examination of Minimal art, organized Curator Ann Goldstein. The catalogue essay (by Susan L. Jenkins) states “Like Judd’s “specific objects,” Kauffman’s vacuum formed plastic works exist in a space between painting and sculpture, although Kauffman has always considered himself a painter. The three-dimensionality of the earlier illusionistic paintings was now thoroughly replaced by the literal presence and three-dimensionality of works that increasingly projected from the surface of the wall.” These photos of the MOCA installation show Kauffman’s work in the company of his colleague John McCracken’s sculpture.

Installation view of “A Minimal Future? Art as Object 1958–1968” exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles in 2004. Courtesy the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. Photography by Brian Forrest.

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Written by Frank Lloyd

September 21, 2018 at 6:12 pm

Using Walls (Indoors), and Transparency, Reflection, Light and Space

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P.1970.2_HR - InstallCraig Kauffman remained a painter throughout his career. Still, Kauffman experimented with various painting media, as well as doing two very significant  installations–one in New York and one in Los Angeles. In 1970, following  Kauffman’s involvement with colored reflections on the wall—the “Loops”—he worked in collaboration with Robert Morris during the Spring 1970 show at the Jewish Museum, “Using Walls (Indoors).” The Curator Susan Tumarkin Goodwin stated, “For many artists, working directly on the wall seems to be a natural extension of  their previous use of canvas.” This process-oriented piece marks the beginning of a brief period when the artist conceived of, and produced, work  related to installations or environments.Kauffman_1970_UCLABy 1971, Kauffman was included in an exhibit at the UCLA Art Galleries, titled “Transparency, Reflection, Light and Space.” In an interview 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.” Henry J. Seldis of the L. A. Times described an “…exhilarating set of sensate experiences…” on the walls of the gallery space.
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MoMA Installation

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W1siZiIsIjIyNTkyNyJdLFsicCIsImNvbnZlcnQiLCItcmVzaXplIDIwMDB4MjAwMFx1MDAzZSJdXQIn 2011, the New York Times published a Roberta Smith piece on the Museum of Modern Art’s re-installation of its permanent galleries.  Ms. Smith wrote, “Over the past few months changes of this kind have been unfolding in some of the most hallowed and closely watched galleries in the world: those that the Museum of Modern Art devotes to its unparalleled collection of painting and sculpture.” The lengthy review notes the changing curatorial vision, and the fourth floor was singled out: “An especially bold-looking gallery juxtaposes the Minimalist efforts of the New Yorkers Donald Judd, Dan Flavin and Jo Baer and the Angelenos Craig Kauffman, John McCracken and DeWain Valentine…” Kauffman’s Untitled work, which was given an entire wall by the curators, was acquired in 1969 by legendary MOMA curator Kynaston McShine.

Untitled, 1968, acrylic lacquer on vacuum formed plastic, collection of the Museum of Modern Art.

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Image courtesy The Museum of Modern Art, © 2018 Estate of Craig Kauffman/Artist’s Rights Society (ARS) New York

Written by Frank Lloyd

August 31, 2018 at 11:06 pm

Kauffman at MoMA

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603.1965Craig Kauffman has a long history with The MoMA. Kauffman’s work was first acquired by The Museum of Modern Art in 1965, through the Larry Aldrich Foundation Fund. This large-scale vacuum formed plastic work was shown at the MoMA in 1966 in “Recent Acquisitions: Painting and Sculpture,” as Red-Blue, and again in 1967 during a show titled, ” The 1960’s: Painting & Sculpture from the Museum Collection.”

Kauffman’s second major work in the MoMA collection was acquired in 1969, when legendary curator Kynaston McShine organized the show “Five Recent Acquisitions,” which included works by Larry Bell, Ron Davis, Robert Irwin, Craig Kauffman, and John McCracken. This 1968 wall relief painting has been exhibited at the MoMA six times, and loaned to important surveys from the collection such as “American Art since 1945: A Loan Exhibition from The Museum of Modern Art,” a 1972 exhibition at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Red-Blue, 1964, Synthetic polymer on vacuum formed plastic, 89 5/8 x 45 1/2 x 5 inches, Museum of Modern Art, New York. Courtesy Museum of Modern Art, New York.

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Installation view of American Art since 1945: A Loan Exhibition from The Museum of Modern Art, September 15–October 22, 1972 at the Philadelphia Museum of Modern Art. Courtesy Philadelphia Museum of Modern Art.

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Installation view of The 1960’s: Painting & Sculpture from the Museum Collection, June 28–September 24, 1967 at the Museum of Modern Art, New York. Courtesy Museum of Modern Art, New York.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Craig Kauffman in San Francisco

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dilexi_kauffman_rocklin_1960One of the most interesting things I’ve learned from my research is the number of times Craig Kauffman showed in San Francisco. In the first decade of his career, from 1951 to 1961, he participated in a dozen shows in S.F., far more than in Los Angeles. For a painter so closely identified by critics with L.A., that’s very surprising.

Three of these were early group shows, in a regional annual exhibit: The Annual Watercolor Exhibition of the San Francisco Art Association, held at the San Francisco Museum of Art. Many artists participated in such annuals in the early 1950s, because there were few places to exhibit, and the shows offered jurors, awards, and visibility. Kauffman also showed in the 1961 version of the watercolor show at the San Francisco Museum of Art.

Important partnerships formed during the 1950s, notably through Syndell Studios and the collaborative organization of Action I, also known as the “Merry Go Round Show,” on the Santa Monica pier. Two of Kauffman’s good friends, James Newman and Walter Hopps, went on to establish galleries. Hopps, of course, partnered with Ed Kienholz to found the legendary Ferus gallery in 1957. Less noted but equally important in this period for Kauffman was Dilexi gallery, which was founded by James Newman.

It was there in San Francisco at Dilexi that Kauffman had eight early exhibitions, both group and solo. Interesting documentation from this time exists in the Archives of American Art, as well as in reviews published in the San Francisco Chronicle, Art News, and Art International. James Newman later donated a Kauffman painting, collected from Dilexi, to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

I’ve written before about the ways that Northern and Southern California are often compared and contrasted: divisions, disagreements, climates, and permeable lines.  But here’s another example of an artist who traveled back and forth, living in both cities, and exhibiting in related galleries.

Peter Voulkos: On Improvisation

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When Peter Voulkos began to exhibit his large-scale works in the mid-1950s, he had already been recognized as a leading potter in the U.S.  Voulkos won prizes at the National Ceramic Exhibition, as well as a Gold Medal at the International Exposition of Ceramics in Cannes, France.  Yet, during this time he also absorbed many influences, from Flamenco to Jazz, and from Picasso to Abstract Expressionism.

An early article in Craft Horizons, published in October 1956, has many quotes from Peter. This is the period of time when Voulkos was breaking away from craft traditions, so he had a lot to say about his working method. One quote that has stayed with me is this:

“The minute you begin to understand what you’re doing it loses that searching quality. You have to forget about the little technical problems that don’t matter—you’ve overcome them long ago anyway. You finally reach a point where you’re no longer concerned with keeping this blob of clay centered on the wheel and up in the air. Your emotions take over and what happens just happens. Usually you don’t know it’s happened until after it’s done.”

Voulkos kept to this way of working throughout his life, freely improvising like a musician.  His straightforward, powerful and direct way of working was later characterized by Ken Price as “direct frontal onslaught”.  I recently found this 1984 photo, from Peter’s show at the Faith and Charity in Hope Gallery—a gallery owned and operated by Edward Kienholz and his wife Nancy. Kienholz not only admired Voulkos’ work, he owned a work from 1958.

Written by Frank Lloyd

October 17, 2016 at 5:31 pm

What is a wall?

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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 kauffman-loops-installation_2conceptual 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-loops-installation_1Kauffman 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 kauffman_pasadena-art-museumgirl 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.

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Written by Frank Lloyd

October 14, 2016 at 9:00 pm