Frank Lloyd’s blog

Art, architecture and the people that I know.

Posts Tagged ‘Adrian Saxe artwork

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 Frances 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.

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Nature, Sculpture, Abstraction, and Clay

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Aloft_float copyLast 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.”

Richard Shaw’s Online Videos

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On July 12th, the gallery will open a new exhibition of works by Ralph Bacerra, Richard DeVore, and Richard Shaw. In anticipation of this, it feels like a good time to repost Richard Shaw’s online videos. Last February, Shaw participated in an artists’ conversation with Adrian Saxe. One of our most popular events, the two artists spoke at length about their respective practices, including their shared interest in juxtaposition and references to contemporary culture. I’m glad that we filmed their talk, and I’ve included the edited video below:

In 2005, Shaw was filmed in his studio by KQED for the arts education program Spark. This video really demonstrates the complexity of his artwork, revealing the enormous library of molds, glazes, decals, and transfers that he uses to achieve a stunning level of realism. The profile also captures Shaw in his element as Professor of Art at the University of California, Berkeley, where he taught until his retirement in 2012.

 

 

Klein Bottles by Adrian Saxe

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FSE057 copyThe question of functionality is one that is raised frequently for artists who work with ceramic materials. The long tradition of vessel-making often leaves viewers with the expectation that ceramic objects will fulfill their implied purpose. The production of ceramic artworks that cannot be used, or can only be used with great risk, even when they meet the formal requirements of functional objects, is one strategy used by artists to examine the legacy of vessels in the field of ceramics.

Adrian Saxe has spent his career FSE056 copyexploring the history of ceramic traditions and techniques. His fantastically ornate, often vessel-oriented works push viewers to imagine them in use. With impractical handles, delicate spouts, and decorative lids, many of his works maintain the vocabulary of functional objects but cannot be safely used.

Saxe’s series of Klein Bottles, mounted on raku bases, push the question of the ostensibly functional vessel even further. As a volumetric manifestation of the Mobius strip, the Klein bottle has only one surface. The exterior and interior of these forms are one and the same, as they turn in on themselves. Although a Klein bottle cannot truly exist in three dimensions, these works demonstrate the mathematical concept, while at the same time confounding viewers’ expectations about the purpose of a container.

Written by Frank Lloyd

June 3, 2014 at 11:05 pm

Adrian Saxe at the Getty

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1-900-Zeitgeist, view b copyIn 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.

 

A French Connection

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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 firstFKN275 copy 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.

Bell Retro Nimes-64 copyThree 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: FJS035_A copyGeorges 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.

 

Adrian Saxe website

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FSE075 copyVisitors 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.