Frank Lloyd’s blog

Art, architecture and the people that I know.

Posts Tagged ‘Beatrice Wood

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.

Beatrice Wood at the Frank Lloyd Gallery

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CWD181_A copyThe gallery’s next exhibition will present works by Beatrice Wood (1893-1998) alongside those of Gustavo Pérez and Cheryl Ann Thomas. Opening on May 24th, this show will be the fourth time I have shown Wood’s ceramics.

This selection of work will feature vessels as vibrant as Wood’s famous life and personality. With ties to the Dada movement in New York, the theosophy community outside Los Angeles, and the West Coast Crafts revival, Wood developed a personal vision of art that drew on myriad influences. The pieces on display artfully contrast simple forms with richly complex surface treatments. With her signature in-glaze luster technique, Wood created artworks that shimmer with vivid color, reflecting the changing light.

Although I have not had Wood’s work on view for several years, her work was recently the subject of a Pacific Standard Time show at the Santa Monica Museum of Art. Called Beatrice Wood: Career Woman – Drawings, Paintings, Vessels, and Objects, the exhibition offered a survey of Wood’s long career, from her earlier Dada inspired drawings and paintings through her more well-known ceramic works.

Beatrice Wood

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For those following this blog, it must be clear that one main theme has been the cultural maturity of Los Angeles.  When I take a look at my own writing, that theme seems to be consistent.  I recently came across this article (published February 4, 1983) from my days as a reporter for the Orange County Register.  It’s interesting to note that the Santa Monica Museum, our neighbor here at Bergamot Station, has recently received funding from the Getty Research Institute for a 2012 exhibition about Beatrice Wood.  The Getty announcement stated: “While Wood’s later ceramic works have been the subject of local exhibitions, the Santa Monica Museum of Art will now focus on her transition from Dadaism to Californian/Indian spiritualism and its impact on her artistic persona.”

CSF exhibits Beatrice Wood collection

Art Review:  Beatrice Wood exhibition, Main Art Gallery, Cal State Fullerton.
By Frank Lloyd

Contemporary art watchers will recognize the name of Beatrice Wood in association with the New York Dada movement. Followers of West Coast ceramics will know her as a seminal practitioner of the art of lusterware. And gallery spectators will sense in her work a woman with an intuitive use of color and form that is at once seductive and humorous, vivid and subtle.

The current exhibition of Beatrice Wood at Cal State Fullerton was organized in celebration of the artist’s 90th birthday. Throughout her long career, she has absorbed influences from diverse sources. The ideas of Marcel Duchamp, which radically challenged our perception of the art object, figured prominently in her early drawings and paintings. The teachings of theosophy, followed by many artists and writers in the early part of this century, have had a strong effect on her life. The West Coast crafts revival movement, with its recognition of carefully crafted ceramics as fine art, will be in evidence in this exhibition.

Wood began her artistic career by studying art in Paris in 1910. She was enrolled at the Academie Julien, which was, at that time, a famed liberal institution. Her interest in painting, however, soon gave way to her pursuit of an acting career. She attended the Academie Francaise, but her theatrical studies were cut short by the ravages of World War I. By 1916, she had moved to New York, where she began to build her career as an actress.

It was in New York that Wood met the two Frenchmen who were to change the course of her life: Henri-Pierre Roche and Marcel Duchamp. Wood had been visiting the French composer Edgar Varese in the hospital when she encountered them. She was immediately impressed by the intelligence and charm of Duchamp, and later became an intimate member of the Dada group. Under Duchamp’s direction, she resumed painting.

Wood’s entry to the Independent’s Exhibition of 1917 at the Grand Central Palace was received with scandalous attention. She had painted the nude torso of a young woman taking a bath. A piece of soap had been glued onto the canvas at a strategic location.

It was not until 1938 in Los Angeles that Wood became interested in ceramics. She had purchased a set of luster cups, but still needed a teapot. Since she was unable to find what she wanted, she decided to make it. She later studied with Glen Lukens at the University of Southern California. She also studied with Gertrud and Otto Natzler. She was an enthusiastic student, and had her first ceramics studio in North Hollywood.

In 1948, she moved to Ojai, where she built a studio and continued to develop her ceramics. She later moved to the Happy Valley Foundation, where she has been involved with the school of theosophy since 1946. The Foundation was established by Aldous Huxley, Krishnamurti and Annie Besant.

The development and refinement of Beatrice Wood’s mature work came in Ojai. The uncommon in-glaze luster technique is her contribution to contemporary ceramics. The rich, vivid and saturated colors are characterized by great depth and complexity. Her open and expressive handling of the medium marks her as a modern ceramist—but one that ties into an ancient tradition.

Written by Frank Lloyd

September 22, 2009 at 9:24 pm