Archive for the ‘Museums’ Category
Among the advantages of our new location in Pasadena, the nearness of the Huntington Library, Gardens, and Art Collections is surely at the top of the list. Last month, I met some friends for a walk through the world-renowned Desert Garden at the Huntington, and I also attended an evening lecture on the Japanese tea ceremony.
The Huntington is a marvelous resource for visitors, of course. I’ve been going there since I was 8 years old. Now, I share a dual membership with my 91 year old mother. I’m also proud to know some of the curatorial staff. But this last week I found out that there are more intimate scholarly presentations, often by resident scholars, during lunch time.
Yesterday’s noon-time conversation was in the Munger Research Center, with journalist and well-known art critic Tyler Green. His subject was Carleton Watkins. I learned that Tyler Green has been a resident scholar at the Huntington, and is preparing a biography. Green grew up in the Bay Area, and, prior to his career as a journalist, saw a Carleton Watkins show at SFMoMA. Once he learned that the Getty’s Weston Neaf had completed a major catalogue raisonne of Watkins’ work, he set about working on the biography. His research is aided by the Huntington.
For me, it was fascinating (though yes, it’s a short conversation, exactly one hour). Original photographic materials augmented the presentation, and the conversation was fact-filled, thesis-driven and revelatory. In addition, most of the approximately 25 people in the room were either curators, researchers, or photographers, making the usual question and answer period at the end more like a seminar.
This 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, including 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.
I’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 sculptor, 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?
A.: 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.
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?
A.: 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.
Last week I received some gratifying news in the form of a very positive review of the Museum of Fine Art, Boston’s current exhibition, Nature, Sculpture, Abstraction, and Clay: One Hundred Years of American Ceramics. Sebastian Smee, writing for the Boston Globe, reviewed the show, which presents gifts from the Daphne Farago Collection and the Philip Aarons and Shelley Fox Aarons Collection, in addition to other new acquisitions.
In a show of more than 70 pieces, several artists represented by the Frank Lloyd Gallery were singled out for praise. For example, while describing Adrian Saxe’s 1989 work Float/Aloft, Smee writes that, “Purely formal and aesthetic concerns were overtaken by a new sense of self-aware play, extending into the realms of language, pop culture, and politics.” Ken Price and Ralph Bacerra are also identified as artists of particular stature, represented by works engaged in creative dialogue with the historical pieces on display.
The review closes with the MFA Boston’s newly acquired work by Cheryl Ann Thomas, December. Calling it “A highlight — and a great note to end on,” Smee goes on to say that the piece “is truly something to behold.”
One of the most rewarding aspects of working with artists over time is the opportunity to witness the development of their work, and help them to grow professionally and creatively. Cheryl Ann Thomas joined the gallery in 2006, and I’ve enjoyed watching the evolution of her work since then.
This fall is shaping up to be a busy season for Cheryl, with lots of exciting news. I’m happy to announce that the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, has recently acquired a work of hers titled December, 2009-2013. Museum placements are an important part of the work we do here at the gallery, and Cheryl’s work is now represented at 13 major institutions in the United States and Canada.
Cheryl will also be presenting work in her first solo exhibition in New York at the Danese Corey Gallery. The show, titled Hap, will be on view from November 21 – December 20, 2014. In her artist’s statement, Cheryl writes “Change comes slowly. The forms were singular for six years before I began grouping them. I worked only in black, white and gray for ten years. The new interest in subtle color represents a relaxation of the adherence to pure process and a move toward the intuitive.”
This week, I’m packing my bags to fly out to Marfa, Texas where Larry Bell will present a site responsive exhibition titled 6 x 6 an improvisation for the Chinati Foundation’s upcoming “Chinati Weekend.” A large-scale glass installation, the environmental work will absorb, transmit, and reflect light, calling into question the nature of physical and visual space. A program of special events will take place alongside the presentation of this work on October 11th and 12th, including a talk by curator Robin Clark, and a discussion between the artist and Chinati Foundation director Marianne Stockebrand. I’m looking forward to seeing Larry there! Here’s a great portrait of him, shot by Anthony Friedkin at the opening reception of the 2006 exhibition Cubes.
For the past 35 years, I’ve been going to all kinds of art world events. That means a pretty wide range—everything from really raunchy performance art at the old downtown LAICA to scholarly lectures at the Harold Williams Auditorium at the Getty.
I’ve heard dozens of talks from the podium, endless (and often quite boring) panel discussions, and series after series of conversations, and I’ve seen hundreds of power-point presentations. You might ask, which ones were best? Clearly, the winners in the category of enlightenment were: Kirk Varnedoe (his final tour included a talk at LACMA); Paola Antonelli (recently at the Brown Auditorium at LACMA); and Adam Gopnik (Winter Scenes, at the Getty on February 23, 2012). All spoke without any notes. I loved those talks, and they reminded me of the stimulating power of the interconnected intellect, which I first witnessed in college: genius, in simple terms.
I’m a big fan of every instance of what I like to call a generous intellect—someone who can present fascinating ideas and connections in a conversational manner. But, lately, I’ve been bothered by something that troubles me from time to time, something I still struggle with in myself, and that I can be deeply offended by in others: for lack of a better word, let’s call it prejudice.
Here are three examples:
I once attended a panel discussion, moderated by Paul Karlstrom, about the paintings of Roger Kuntz. Like many such panels, the event was in conjunction with an exhibit of Kuntz’s work at the Laguna Art Museum. Of the four speakers, I knew three quite well—two of them for 40 years, and one for 30 years. At the end of the panel, I wandered up to say hello—a common courtesy. Before I got to my old friends, though, the museum’s Director came up and greeted me. Then he asked, “But what are you doing here?”, to which I replied, “Two of the panelists were my teachers, one is a friend, and Paul is both a friend and a colleague.” But what I meant to say was, “Isn’t this an educational event for the public to learn about art?”
Around the same time, I attended a talk at the Getty Research Institute, given by Lawrence Weschler (an elaboration on themes first developed in his 2007 book of convergences, Everything that Rises). Weschler is an author, and was in those days the Director of the New York Institute for the Humanities at NYU. At that time, though, he was on leave from NYU, serving simultaneously as scholar-in-residence at Occidental College and a visiting scholar at the GRI. I’ve often been in the audience for Ren’s talks, going all the way back to our time together in the early seventies as undergraduates at Cowell College of UCSC, when for example he gave a series of talks on his grandfather, the Weimar émigré composer Ernst Toch. For this one, held in the Getty’s smaller auditorium beneath the museum, I arrived early to find a seat. And, as I wandered down the aisle, a Senior Researcher from the GRI said hello, shook my hand and said, “But what are you doing here?” I replied, simply, “I’ve known Ren since college.” But what I meant to say was, “Isn’t this an educational event for the public to learn about art?”
Probably the most disturbing instance was a few years back, at the Broad Stage in Santa Monica. In conjunction with Otis College of Art and Design, the City of Santa Monica and the Broad presented a lecture by the annual Otis artist-in-residence. I arrived early, my usual strategy, to get a seat in a packed auditorium. As I walked down the left-hand aisle, I saw the speaker, whose work in art criticism we all know quite well, and who has been a frequent visitor to my own gallery. He said, “What are you doing here?” That time I didn’t even respond at all.
What are these people saying? Are they saying that, since I am identified as an art dealer, I shouldn’t have an interest in scholarship? Since I am identified as a specialist in ceramics, that I can’t possibly have an interest in other forms of literature, history or art? Are art dealers necessarily limited, in their minds, to just being shopkeepers? Why can’t art dealers also be thought of as people who are passionate about art?
If there is one thing I’ve made perfectly clear at my gallery, our educational mission is about communication between the artist and the public, our exhibition program presents the legacy of artists in the history of West Coast art, and as part of that mission and legacy, our scholarly publications have employed several significant writers. Someday, I hope that such heterodoxy and such commitment is more widely recognized, is in fact taken for granted—especially by those who should know better.
(Special thanks to Lawrence Weschler for his clarifications about his work.–F.L.)
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.