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Closing a gallery

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CVS059_A copyThis week, the Frank Lloyd Gallery announced the closing of the public exhibition program at Bergamot Station. As of February 14, the gallery will close its doors, and move to a private space in Pasadena. The current show, of Peter Voulkos and Craig Kauffman, will be the last. After a long and successful program of over 190 exhibitions, the founder and director, Frank Lloyd, sat down to talk with Kelly Boyd and answer a few questions:

Q.: Why would you want to leave the gallery business?

A.: Well, after nineteen years of exhibitions, publications, and sales, I am finally moving on. I consider it more of a transition. I have to leave behind this accomplishment, and forge ahead with another job, as the full-time representative of an artist’s estate. I also have very personal reasons for the move, since I need to be close to my 91-year-old mother.

Q.: But what about your artists? What will happen to them?

A.: When I started the gallery, I had a specific mission of presenting ceramic artwork in a fine art context. The gallery functioned on three levels: as a commercial venue for individual artists, as an educational resource for the community of Southern California. I wanted to preserve a legacy of ceramics in Los Angeles. Finally, the gallery served as a forum for dialogue among artists, collectors and critics. I think it succeeded on all those goals.

Later, as the gallery expanded, I showed artists from other countries, FJL053_C copyincluding England, Mexico, France, Holland and especially Japan. Then, I further expanded the program to include contemporary painters and sculptors, because I thought they all came out of the same time period in L.A., the innovative post-war period. In many ways, ceramics, along with assemblage, led the way back then. Voulkos, Mason and Price were examples of fearless leadership and grew out of a common bond.

Q.: But the artists, what will happen to them? You didn’t answer my question.

A.: Oh, you’re right! I’m pleased to say that, for several reasons, ceramics has regained its rightful spot in the mainstream. Just today I had the pleasure of reading a review in the Boston Globe about an exhibition of 200 years of American ceramics at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Featured were Cheryl Ann Thomas and Adrian Saxe. Also, an artist that I represented for 16 years, John Mason, has now regained his position in the art world, with shows like the Getty’s Pacific Standard Time, the recent Whitney Biennial, and his representation by David Kordansky.

Bell_Installation_2006 copyI’m proud of showing Larry Bell since 2006, and now he’s with an international powerhouse gallery, White Cube. Even a less well-known ceramic artist from Japan, Satoru Hoshino, is having a show with Dominique Levy. Others that I’ve shown, like Betty Woodman and Ken Price, both had retrospective exhibits at the Metropolitan. Back in 2003, Dave Hickey for Artforum named Ron Nagle’s show at my gallery one of the top shows in the world. Now, he’s been in the Venice Bienniale and had a survey at the San Diego Museum of Contemporary Art. Adrian Saxe continues to win awards and recognition from critics and organizations.

Q.: Is that because of what you did? Do you take credit for that?

A.: No, I think the artists should get all the credit, I’ve always thought that. But the art world is increasingly aware of these artists, now, and there is a feeling of some vindication. I get some satisfaction out of seeing these artists, who I showed and believed in, get the change in visibility. I think it’s due to several factors, actually. I just felt it was going to happen, twenty years ago when I started the gallery. The exhibition program was all about the place of these artists and that history.

Q.: What exactly are the factors you’re referring to?

A.: First is the obvious trend: Young artists have been using the ceramic medium, and they have no real material hierarchy. That’s a major factor. Younger artists will use anything; they are, quite fortunately, not bound to the old prejudices against clay. Critics have been champions of this use by young artists as well as the use by recognized artists. And curators have recognized the value of the work—look at the tremendous reception for the retrospective of Ken Price, for instance. The curators at major museums are making a big difference in the public’s perception.

Q.: What other examples?

A.: Well, the gallery showed the ceramic work of a major woman FLB008 copysculptor, Lynda Benglis. We had two quite visible and successful shows of Betty Woodman’s work, well in advance of the retrospective at the Met. We’ve shown a significant number of women, including the early group like Vivika Heino, Laura Andreson and Beatrice Wood, then more contemporary artists like Cindy Kolodziejski, Jennifer Lee, Marilyn Levine, Betty Woodman, and Elizabeth Fritsch, as well as sculptors like Lynda. Cheryl Ann Thomas is another example. We didn’t just show the men!

Q.: What part of the gallery are you most proud of?

Sensual_Mechanical_cover copy4A.: Oh, that’s easy: the publications. I’ve taken that job seriously, working with writers and a legendary graphic designer. In many ways, I was lucky to work with a superb graphic designer, the late Joe Molloy, and he mentored me through the process of publishing. I still have a huge stash of our publications, in which we published the writing of Kristine McKenna, Hunter Drohojowska-Philp, and the art historian Francis Colpitt.

I’d also have to say that every day in my gallery was enhanced by the architecture, designed by Fred Fisher. It’s a sad thing to leave this space, so perfectly designed.

Q.: So, that’s a regret. What was your biggest disappointment?

A.: Lack of attendance. We work our butts off, and then the attendance is poor.

Q.: Were there shows that drew in the audience?FJS028 copy

A.: Yes, and it’s a great memory. The big crowd pleasers were clearly deserving: Adrian Saxe’s shows—any of them! And then, we had people return again with their family, just to see the stunning and heartfelt works of French sculptor Georges Jeanclos. The first show of Peter Voulkos in 1999, that had people lined up just to get in. All were extremely gratifying to present. But lately, the attention has shifted and we are working on other projects.

Q.: Will you be busy? Is there enough work in your new job to keep you busy? Or are you retiring?

A.: This is a common question. The truth is, with an artist of this significance, Craig Kauffman, there is more than enough research, conservation, and publication to keep a full staff busy for a decade. The representatives of artist’s estates, and many foundations, are dedicated to the job of preserving and protecting the legacy and work of an artist. We’ll have plenty to do.

Q.: Won’t you miss the gallery business?

DSC_0646 copyA.: I’ll miss the people. I have a number of passionate colleagues. That’s something I learned: many art dealers are passionate and committed individuals. We are fortunate to have them. I must say that there should be more recognition for the patrons and the dealers. I started by coming from the artists’ side—and now I’ve learned more about the collectors and the dealers. Art world news is often about hot young artists, the big money that is spent, and the connections to celebrity, all of it coming in a steady stream on new portal sites, traditional news media, and social media. But the thing that sustains it all is the hard work and passion of the artists, dealers, and patrons. I’d hate to see an art world without art galleries.

Q.: How would you sum up the last 19 years?

A.: In five words or less? A lot of hard work. But seriously, when I started, I wanted to make a statement: a gallery with a sense of history, that presents itself as a strong and relevant component of the contemporary art world.  Although it was originally media-specific and became known as a specialty gallery, everything we exhibited had a relationship to painting and sculpture.  We presented ceramics as a vital part of the regional and national scene and we also proposed links between historical precedents and contemporary ceramics. That was the reason for the expanded program, and it succeeded in many ways. I think the last show is a good way to finish the statement, and I’ll continue to try to set the record straight.

Galleries in the Global World

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I’ve just returned from London, a true crossroads of the world (to say the least) and a center for global markets of finance, commerce—and art. Like many visitors, I strolled parks and avenues, walked along the Thames, and took in several museums—from the National Gallery to the Tate Modern and the Tate Britain. Like many others involved with contemporary art, I attended Frieze and Frieze Masters. I also went to London galleries.

Collecting art, which was once the pursuit of a smaller population of people and a smaller number of museums, has become far more common. The exponential expansion of the art market, due to the broad digital distribution of images and information, as well as concentrations of wealth in emerging economies, has led to a true change in the way that people see and acquire art. Globalization of art (and all kinds of related information) has drawn many new people who may not have the same objectives as the traditional collector. The art fair is now a primary source for them.

The growth of the market is, of course, a welcome circumstance for artists, and it should be for art dealers. After all, it is the dealers who support the system more than any other group—an observation that was echoed in an interview with the organizer of the Frieze art fair, Matthew Slotover. This preeminent art fair, which began in 2003, gives global visitors the chance to see dozens of galleries under one roof (or tent, as the case may be) and the brilliant organizer sums it up by saying, “One of these reasons is that people have less time than they used to, so they’re generally people who work and travel a lot and they don’t have as much time to visit galleries as they used to, so art fairs are very convenient…”

On the other hand, however, one must recognize the value of galleries in the larger ecosystem. It’s a topic that was addressed eloquently in a recent op-ed piece written by Dorsey Waxter, president of the Art Dealers Association of America, published in the Blouin Art Info. I would suggest that anyone interested in art and art galleries read the article, and note the words of Ms. Waxter, “I have tried to imagine a world where there were no art dealers and galleries and what that would be like. Fortunately I cannot. All sectors of the art world are tied to one another, but it seems to me that galleries matter the most. Their impact on artists and their influence in the arts community is irreplaceable.”

Dinner Time

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Dinner Group copy
Over the years, my gallery has taken on all sorts of guises, from exhibition space to lecture hall. But perhaps its most elegant makeover is when it becomes a private dining room. We’ve put together the menu, gone over the guest lists, and had the catering company plan the meal for dinners from 20 to 100 people. It’s a great way to get friends of the artists and the gallery’s supporters to gather in the space with the art.
Billy Al Bengston and Peter Voulkos copy

The largest of these dinners was held in 2000, on the occasion of the Peter Voulkos show of bronzes, a massive and monumental group of work. I took the suggestion of my neighbor, Patricia Faure, and set the dinner up in her space—just to the east of the gallery. We had 100 guests—far more than originally planned, but a truly significant group of people who had known Peter during the previous five decades. As usual, the late Henry Hopkins (who had known Voulkos since the 1950s in Los Angeles as well as the 70s and 80s in San Francisco) served as the toastmaster. Guests ranging from Frank and Berta Gehry to Sid Felsen and Joni Weyl gathered to honor the legendary Voulkos.

Bell Dinner 043 copy

Another dinner was just under 50 people, honoring artist Larry Bell in February, 2008. Larry was kind enough to talk about his show of new works on paper, and our guests were treated to a fabulous sit-down dinner. We had the honor of hosting the Director of MOCA, Jeremy Strick and his wife, as well as many of Larry’s oldest friends, including Stanley and Elyse Grinstein and John Mason. Among the others were collectors and curators, all seated in a refined and elegant setting amidst the luminous new collages.

Bell Dinner 073 copy

More recently, we co-hosted a dinner honoring Ed Moses, during his 2010 exhibition. Ed invited some of his long-time friends, and we invited some of his long-term supporters. This time, the connections made at the dinner resulted in the placement of a Moses painting at a museum! For this event we moved the feast next door, but still the style remained—a kind of transformation of the gallery space into a small and intimate private restaurant. It’s that kind of personal experience, and sense of community, that makes the art world rewarding.

Moses Dinner_11 copy

Moses Dinner_09 copy

Written by Frank Lloyd

February 15, 2013 at 12:09 am

Education

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The sight of a big yellow school bus reminds me of field trips.  From elementary school forward, growing up in South Pasadena, I went to many museums and galleries. These ranged from the Southwest Museum in nearby Highland Park to the old Los Angeles County Museum of History, Science and Art.

Now I find myself on the other end of the story. Here at the gallery, we often host school groups, college students, and adult education classes. Some students are just kids, some are middle aged, and we’ve often hosted a van from a retirement home. We also provide (free of charge) lectures, artists’ talks, and exhibit walk-throughs. Many museum groups from out of town come to see our shows. We even coordinate tours for those groups.

Is this all about commerce? No, it’s a public service: free arts education.

Today we welcomed a class on “The Fine Art of Art Collecting” taught by Edward Goldman, a host of the show Art Talk, on KCRW. His dozen students got to spend quite some time looking closely at our show of new work by Jennifer Lee, while learning about her background and artistic process.

Another example of the educational nature of the gallery is the short lecture given by Robert Singer in February, at the opening reception for Sugimoto Sadamitsu’s exhibition. Mr. Singer is a well-known expert in Japanese ceramics, and his knowledge was extremely helpful in explaining the subtleties of the shigaraki and iga styles in which Sugimoto-sensei works.

Galleries provide a much-needed educational resource, and many teachers and professors use the gallery as a teaching venue. We welcome the visits from USC, UCLA, Loyola, Santa Monica City College, Crossroads, and dozens of other schools. Our artists are also on the faculties of several major universities, including UCLA and Cal Berkeley.

Here at the gallery, we really believe in the value of an education that includes the fine arts. I’m happy that, through the gallery, I’m able to make this kind of experience and knowledge accessible to the general public.

Written by Frank Lloyd

July 28, 2012 at 10:29 pm

Monte’s Gifts

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Monte’s Gifts

by Diane Factor

 

The drape, cut, feel of a fine suit

The brim, fit, weight of a perfect hat

The taste of butter, salt and milk in mashed potatoes

The chewed, moistened, odor of a good cigar

The lines, smell, leather of a classic car

The soft velvet ears, of dogs and horses

The bold, original, penetration of a jazz riff

The drip, ooze, guts of strong painting

The sweetness, balm, elegance of a poem

The subtlety, surprise, nuance, of an off color joke

The relief, breathless, joy of an unmuted laugh

The patience, feedback, leveling, of a long talk

The planted, soft, so there, of a good bye kiss

The warm, swollen grip of an old hand

The forgiving, honest, love of a father

The beautiful, proud manner of a man

The simple, peaceful way of letting go.

 

Written by Frank Lloyd

December 20, 2011 at 8:58 pm

Posted in Art, Collectors

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Monte Factor, 1917—2011

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Monte Factor, who established the longest-running business in Beverly Hills and was, with his wife Betty, a significant collector of contemporary art, has died at the age of 94.  Factor was a member of the formative group of Los Angeles business owners and art patrons that emerged in the post-WWII era in Southern California.  He died simply and peacefully at 3:30 am Monday morning at Kaiser Permanente West Los Angeles Medical Center, according to his daughter Diane.

As a young man, he left UCLA to raise money to pay for his mother’s cancer treatment, taking an entry-level job at Schwab’s in Hollywood. Factor then apprenticed himself to the clothing business, and took pride in knowing the thread count for every shirt, as well as the Italian suppliers of the wool used in every suit. Hollywood agents also had accounts with Factor, and would send aspiring young actors to the store for a wardrobe.

Monte Montefiore Factor was born in St Louis in 1917, the son of Nathan Factor, a Polish immigrant and the brother of Max Factor, the makeup entrepreneur.  The family moved to Los Angeles in the 1920s.  He served in the Navy during WWII as a lieutenant on a sub-chaser, and participated in the Normandy invasion.  Monte became a life-long pacifist after this experience.  In 1945 he married Betty Berch. Together they started a men’s clothing business in 1947, Monte Factor Ltd, which operated in Beverly Hills for over 40 years and had a clientele that included many Jewish movie stars and gangsters, including the Marx brothers and Mickey Cohen.  The store was a full-service men’s haberdashery with a barbershop and bookie upstairs.  It was one of the few stores in Beverly Hills that closed to support the Vietnam War Moratorium.

During the 1950s, Monte and his wife Betty became active in liberal politics, and it was through that association the couple became acquainted with many artists. The curator Walter Hopps introduced Monte and Betty to the LA art scene, and they were involved with the Ferus Gallery, becoming life-long friends with Walter and Ed Kienholz. Monte often traded men’s clothes for art works, developing close friendships with many of the artists.

Early patrons of the Ferus gallery, the Factors became part of the strong early support group that Walter Hopps and Henry Hopkins cultivated, along with Betty and Leonard Asher, Fred and Marcia Weisman, Gifford and Joanne Phillips, Elyse and Stanley Grinstein, Richard and Dee Sherwood and others. His family’s collection included works by Edward and Nancy Kienholz, George Herms, Robert Irwin, Larry Bell, Craig Kauffman, Peter Voulkos, Ed Moses, Lyn Foulkes, Wallace Berman, John Altoon, Richard Jackson, Ed Bereal, Emerson Woelffer, Hassel Smith, Mark DiSuvero, Tony Smith, Jean Tinguely, Andy Warhol, Kenneth Price and many others.

An early purchase was a painting on paper by sculptor David Smith, and as time went on the Factors became major patrons of the work of Ed Kienholz. Back in the early 1960s, as Factor recalled, the couple scraped up a small amount of cash—as  well as some clothes and an old boat—to buy a work from the artist, who was to become a close friend of the family. Some years later they purchased the still relatively unknown artist’s piece, “The Illegal Operation”,  a powerful and important piece (later characterized by the L.A. Times as “an indictment of back-street abortion”) that was acquired by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 2008.

“This was one of the most important postwar sculptures in L.A., and it really belonged at the museum,” said Stephanie Barron, LACMA’s senior curator of modern art at the time, in an interview with Times art writer Suzanne Muchnic.

For the Factors, the piece had resonance as a work of art. “It was the most deeply affecting work of art I had ever seen,” recalled Monte Factor in the same article. “It struck very deep into me.  Ed once told me that if he ever made a piece of art, that was it. It worked as a drawing, as a sculpture, even the colors. For me it was also the extreme underside of beauty.”

The Factors were engaged in political and social projects. Together with his wife Betty, who passed away in April of 2006, Factor established a non-profit organization, the Mar Vista Family Center near the Mar Vista Gardens housing project. The center came to be seen as a national model for early childhood development. Also in 1984, he founded the End Hunger Network with Brenda Eddy and Jeff Bridges.

Monte was a walking encyclopedia of jazz music, contemporary art, and political and social ethics. He was known for his great sense of humor and loved engaging, supporting and learning from everyone he met. He leaves a large community of friends and family, including his four children, and five grandchildren.  The family requests that donations may be made to the Mar Vista Family Center, in honor of Betty and Monte Factor. Memorial plans will be private.

—-written by Frank Lloyd, Lawrence Weschler, and Diane and Tom Factor

Written by Frank Lloyd

December 8, 2011 at 1:50 am

Posted in Art, Collectors, Museums

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More about Mythology

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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.”

Written by Frank Lloyd

October 3, 2011 at 1:23 am

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