Posts Tagged ‘Architecture’
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 conceptual 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 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 girl 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.
I was very pleased to learn recently that the American Institute of Architects, Los Angeles has honored Frederick Fisher with its 2013 Presidential Gold Medal. In selecting this year’s honorees, the Board chose to recognize individuals who take on leadership roles in advancing the practice of architecture in Los Angeles.
This honor is well deserved by Fred and his partners David Ross and Joe Coriaty. Frederick Fisher and Partners designed my gallery at Bergamot Station, back in 1996. Fred’s great to work with, as he and his firm really know about art spaces. He was immediately sensitive to my needs as a gallery owner, going so far as to include small drawings of Adrian Saxe and Roseline Delisle artworks in his preliminary drawings. He accepted the challenge of intimate viewing spaces within a large volume of space. I’ve witnessed the level of attention to detail that Fred extends to all his clients, so it’s not a surprise to see him recognized like this.
Fred’s other art spaces included the P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center, the Broad Art Foundation, The Erburu Gallery at the Huntington, the Oceanside Museum, and L.A. Louver Gallery. Congratulations to Frederick Fisher and Partners on the award and the recognition from his peers!
Yesterday, a journalist asked me “What is California Design?” My response was to send her the first chapter of Wendy Kaplan’s excellent essay in the LACMA publication, “Living in a Modern Way: California Design 1930-1965.” Kaplan’s book (now in its fourth printing!) accompanies the touring exhibition which debuted at LACMA last year, and is set to open in Tokyo in March.
But as I thought about the question of definition, I realized that California Design has some strong antecedents and a marvelous mix of influences. In fact, Kaplan said it best herself when she wrote that, when speaking about California Design, scholars are “referring not to a single aesthetic but to a loose, albeit clearly recognizable, group of ideas.” It’s a movement that was fed by European émigrés, including architects Schindler and Neutra, as well as Marguerite Wildenhain and the Natzlers in ceramics. Another component was the modern craft movement, which emphasizes the connection to the hand and the recognition of the beauty of every-day objects, when imbued with a refined aesthetic. Being on the edge of the Pacific Rim, California also absorbed the aesthetic and philosophy of Asian culture in the post-WWII environment. And certainly, most accounts include the open and unbounded atmosphere for expression on the West Coast, not to mention the inviting climate.
European immigration to California came in two primary waves, the first beginning in the late teens and 1920s and the second consisting of war-time refugees, fleeing the Nazis. R.M. Schindler and Richard Neutra were both early émigrés, who found in California an accommodating climate and a clientele interested in their theories of indoor/outdoor living and the use of modern materials such as steel and glass. The conditions of California were particularly amenable to the casual outdoor living promoted by these transplanted Modernists, who worked to tailor their visions to the desires of Californians.
These modern homes needed to be filled with the furniture and objects of everyday life, and the modern craft movements had a marked influence in this regard. Designers and artists strove to make their work accessible to the middle class, giving rise to the designer-craftsman. In her volume, Kaplan writes that “The concept of the designer-craftsman, though not unique to California, was most successfully realized there, particularly in ceramics.” Ceramists such as Harrison McIntosh embodied the idea that everyday items can be imbued with elegance and dignity, and that using these well-designed objects adds enjoyment to one’s daily life. Influenced by the Bauhaus-educated Marguerite Wildenhain, who fled the Nazis in 1940, McIntosh focused on simple and graceful silhouettes for practical usage.
Openness to new ideas is no doubt one of most important factors in the development of the style that came to be known as California Modern Design. A willingness to try new things led to an exciting synthesis of influences. California’s proximity to Asia led to heightened interest in the aesthetic and philosophy of Asian culture after the Second World War. Furniture and the decorative arts in particular were influenced by Pan-Asian motifs.
Thus, the question “What is California Design?” is not one that can be answered simply. California Design, like California itself, reflects the complex set of factors that shaped a region during the middle of the 20th century.
My gallery is well known for specializing in contemporary ceramics. That’s been beneficial in gaining attention from other worlds, particularly the professions of design and architecture. Just recently, Don Chadwick, the designer of the world-famous Aeron chair came to see us again at the gallery. He’s interested in the use of the hand by our artists, and, in turn, I asked him to autograph my Aeron chair.
Architects also seem to be fascinated with ceramics. Could some of the interest from architects be related to the plasticity of the material? Two architects that I know have an affinity for the intimacy of small scale sculpture, and close relationships with artists. When Frederick Fisher was designing my gallery, he told me that he conceived of the large volume of space as a container of smaller sculptural forms. His knowledge of individual sculptors led him to design a series of appropriately scaled modular boxes within the larger building. This intersection of architecture and art specifically referenced ceramic sculptors’ work, as Fred included works by Adrian Saxe and Roseline Delisle in his first concept sketches.
Frank Gehry also has a long history with ceramic sculpture. From his early encounters with Glen Lukens at USC to his recent design of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s retrospective for Ken Price, Gehry has maintained an interest in the scale and tactile intimacy of forms made in clay. Gehry’s art collection includes works by Ken Price and George Ohr, and he has been friends with ceramic artists Peter Voulkos, John Mason, and Billy Al Bengston for decades. He was also the architect for the Ohr-O’Keefe Museum in Biloxi, Mississippi, a museum which holds a collection of pottery by George Ohr.
Yesterday, a pair of writers from back East asked for recommendations on Pacific Standard Time shows. I urged them to take the trip to San Diego (and La Jolla) for Phenomenal: California Light, Space, Surface at MCASD. Robin Clark’s show simply should not be missed. I singled out the shows that I’ve seen at LACMA: first, Five Card Stud, Ed Kienholz’s stunning and unforgettable installation about race and violence in America. Also (for entirely different reasons) Asco, the well-documented look at the Latino collective performance group, and California Design: Living in a Modern Way, LACMA’s delightful and rich presentation of design.
However, I forgot to send these visitors to a show that is a sleeper hit or hidden gem: Artistic Evolution: Southern California Artists at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, 1945—1963. Perfectly chosen and presented by Charlotte Eyerman, this exhibit is the most faithful to the stated purpose of the Getty’s project: original scholarly research leading to an exhibition about Los Angeles art from the period of 1945 to 1980. Ms. Eyerman deserves a huge round of applause for a tightly curated and thoroughly researched show, presented in the rotunda of the Natural History Museum—quite similar in location to the old LA County Museum’s annual exhibits.
I was reminded of Eyerman’s contribution to the PST cause today. I read a review by Christopher Knight, and he has superb way of looking at the Artistic Evolution show. After reading Knight’s review, scroll down and read his post about Larry Bell, Frank Gehry and architecture. It’s a brilliant linking of those three elements, and Knight rightfully cites the long-term friendship of Bell and Gehry, who have often worked together on projects.
For me, travel is like food. I must have it, to sustain my curiosity. Most changes in my life have come from education, travel, and art—and in the landscape of my imagination. Looking out of the window of a train from Nimes to Paris, I realized how my images of France were first taken from paintings and films. Over forty years ago, I saw the French landscape in the paintings of Courbet, Corot and Cézanne. Back then, too, I traveled through the cities and countryside in the films of Francois Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard.
As a teenager, I took Art History classes and studied French painting, from the Revolution to the early 20th century. It’s now clear to me: those classes were a formative influence on the way I see the world. Not just the way I see the movements, evolution and revolution within the history of Western painting. More than that, those afternoons of endless projected images burned the French landscape into my head.
Art History, as taught in those days, recounted a series of movements, and the work of artists within a school of painting, the dominant mode. Reactions against academies and reflections of cultural change were the chapter headings. The artists’ names and their works were material for memorization, for making sure that you could pass the test and pronounce the names correctly—from Jacques-Louis David and Eugène Delacroix to Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot.
But what I saw in the darkened classroom, in paired light-filled slides projected onto pull-down screens, was the romance of the French landscape. From pastoral precedents for Impressionism to the fracturing of the picture plane that led to Cubism, those images of paintings took my imagination for a ride. I’ve never been the same since.
I’m tired of airports. I’ve started to dread traveling just because of the airport hassle. Major airports loom as huge, impersonal places. Security measures are, at the very least, awkward and repetitive. So it was a big relief, and my return to an older and quite civilized mode of travel, when I took the TGV from Paris to Nimes last week.
It was easy. I just walked from my hotel in the Marais, found the right platform at Gare de Lyon, and stepped on to the train. A little while later, on the speeding but quiet train, someone politely asked for—and scanned—my ticket. There was no security line. There was no baggage check. Yet, I felt more comfortable than ever.
In a European station, trains arrive and depart on time. Yes, there is waiting, but it is all within view of the platform, in the light of the station, and with the diversity of humanity. Families and lovers kiss as they say goodbye, and wait expectantly to greet and kiss again on arrival. Children travel in groups. Their delight with train travel is clear. In a light-filled, vaulted train station, everyone moves freely.
I read that President Obama has proposed a high-speed rail system in the U.S. If there were a fast rail system between my home in L.A. and San Francisco, I would take it. Consider the time: from Paris to Nimes was less than three hours, and a similar distance. It would be far easier than the flight, or the long drive that I’ve made a hundred times. I’d take the fast train to Chicago in the winter, too. I never want to be stuck on an icy runway at O’Hare again. Building this kind of infrastructure seems brilliant to me.