Frank Lloyd’s blog

Art, architecture and the people that I know.

Posts Tagged ‘Bergamot Station

Two Insights from Knight

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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.

Fans of Peter Voulkos

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A recent article in L.A. Weekly caught my eye. The title “Peter Voulkos, Can I Have Your Autograph?” was provocative enough.  In the text, young painter Rebecca Morris recalled the early influence on her work, and sums it up with “His aesthetic is rough, never perfect.” I agree. But the story made me recall our opening night for a show in November of 1999, when fans of Peter Voulkos lined up and waited over 45 minutes to get his autograph. He sat at the gallery’s front desk. Peter was generous with each person, and his presence was bigger than any I have ever seen. He not only signed autographs, he made drawings for each person.

Written by Frank Lloyd

September 30, 2011 at 12:06 am

Top Ten Reasons to See Sensual/Mechanical

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Last fall, the gallery presented a show of works from the Estate of Craig Kauffman.  The same is true this year.  As our opening show for the season, we are really proud to have Sensual/Mechanical, an historic survey that traces the development of Craig Kauffman’s paintings, from 1958 to 1964. We are a participating gallery in the Pacific Standard Time series of exhibitions, an initiative of the Getty. We organized our Kauffman show to complement the efforts of the museums, and to provide a backstory, kind of like a “prequel” to the upcoming museum shows. Six of those museum shows include Kauffman’s works.  Come to see our show first! Here’s why:

  1. Come see our show because it will reveal the background for the works you will see in other Pacific Standard Time exhibits.
  2. See this show because it will help you understand the origins of the imagery and forms in Kauffman’s paintings.
  3. Our show includes some works that haven’t been seen since 1958, some paintings that haven’t been seen since 1963, and several drawings which have never been exhibited.
  4. The two 1958 paintings were included in a Ferus gallery show that marks a turning point. “The ‘clean’ Abstract Expressionist work by Craig Kauffman,” critic Peter Plagens has written, “could be the point at which Los Angeles art decided to live on its own life-terms, instead of those handed down from Paris, New York, or even San Francisco.”
  5. Come see a show that is hot, sexy and playful (maybe this should be #1?).
  6. Several art historians, curators and critics have already seen this show and given it “two thumbs up”.
  7. Learn that Kauffman was influenced by French things: Duchamp, a street in Paris named Git le Couer, and lingerie.
  8. Overcome the stereotypes and mythology about Los Angeles art, which was far more sophisticated than you may know.
  9. See how much Kauffman made use of drawing—in each phase of his work.
  10. We worked our butts off to make this show available, and it’s free!

It’s Craig Kauffman!

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Craig Kauffman is in the news again. Last Friday’s New York Times included a Roberta Smith piece on the Museum of Modern Art’s re-installation of its permanent galleries. Her lengthy review notes the changing curatorial vision, and the fourth floor is singled out: “An especially bold-looking gallery juxtaposes the Minimalist efforts of the New Yorkers Donald Judd, Dan Flavin and Jo Baer and the Angelenos Craig Kaufmann (sic), John McCracken and DeWain Valentine…”

Kauffman’s work was acquired way back in 1969 by MOMA curator Kynaston McShine, and was recently included in the 2009 exhibit at PS 1, simply titled, 1969. It’s great to know that Kauffman’s work is on view again, and in the company of his friends Judd, Flavin, McCracken and Valentine. It’s also a good opportunity for the audience to know more about Kauffman’s beginnings. On Saturday we are opening an amazing, highly researched show.

This exhibit traces the development of Craig Kauffman’s paintings from 1958 to 1964. A turning point in modern Los Angeles art, the paintings were sparse, clean, sensuous, yet intelligent. Kauffman absorbed influences from European painting as well as American abstraction. Even as a teenager, Kauffman had read Laszlo Moholy-Nagy’s book The New Vision. By 1958, he had clearly begun to work in opposition to the dominant Abstract Expressionist mode. Kauffman has stated that his lean, lyrical look was a personal reaction to the heavy and thick abstract painting of the time.

Kauffman’s 1958 solo exhibit at the Ferus Gallery included Untitled, 1958, Still Life with Electric Fan and Respirator, 1958, and Tell Tale Heart, 1958, along with ten other works. The paintings show open areas free of markings and brushwork, loose linear qualities, and the use of primary color. In a catalogue essay for the show, critic Jules Langsner wrote that Kauffman’s paintings were mature, sinuous, fresh, lyrical and “bursting with joie de vivre.” According to Kauffman, his sources included Dada, Duchamp, Mondrian, Abstract Expressionism and a “sexual biomorphic mixture with mechanical things.”
The 1958 exhibit had significance because it influenced other L.A. painters. “The ‘clean’ Abstract Expressionist work by Craig Kauffman,” critic Peter Plagens has written, “could be the point at which Los Angeles art decided to live on its own life-terms, instead of those handed down from Paris, New York, or even San Francisco.” This new sense of professionalism was echoed by fellow painter Billy Al Bengston, who later wrote, “Kauffman was the first Southern California artist to ever paint an original painting. His paintings of ’57 and ’58 proved that we had to wash our hands, throw away our dirty pants and become artists.”

In the early 1960s, after living in Europe with his wife Vivian, Kauffman returned to L.A. and began a series of work that took forms from the earlier paintings. He realized that he had to “catch up really quickly”; his painter friends had taken the next step with the clean, clear “L.A. Look.” In many drawings and small paintings on advertisements for shoes and lingerie, the artist explored sensual abstract forms and acknowledged a continued influence of Dada. His earlier biomorphic forms were developed through drawings, and then eroticized by placing them on top of advertisements for Frederick’s of Hollywood lingerie or high heel shoes.
Kauffman repeatedly used drawing as a direct source of images as well as a method of abstraction. The drawing of a female figure dressed in lingerie becomes the source for several shapes in subsequent drawings and paintings, and the long pendulant male form is developed more fully. It is interesting to note that the large painting on paper is titled Git le Couer, No. 3, a title that makes reference to a street in Paris where Kauffman and his wife Vivian lived. This large painting on paper also marks the artist’s first known use of metallic paint.

Kauffman’s work is often portrayed as being derived from the automobile culture of Southern California, or mischaracterized as being influenced by surfboard shapes and technology. However, these drawings, paintings and the artist’s statements contradict this popular misunderstanding. Instead, the evidence reveals a highly intuitive process, arriving at abstracted imagery of male and female sexual parts. The forms are ovoid, phallic, mammary and vaginal. As the art historian Barbara Rose wrote, Kauffman’s biomorphism had an “explicitly sexual character.”

Transferring these images to paintings on flat plastic in 1963, Kauffman integrated bold line and intense color with playfully suggestive forms. The final room of the exhibition includes works that were shown at Kauffman’s exhibit at Ferus Gallery, including No. 1, No. 7 and No. 8, all dated 1963. Painted on the reverse of acrylic plastic and employing flat shapes with rounded contours, the bold and animated paintings demonstrate Kauffman’s skills as a draftsman, his willingness to engage the viewer in erotic content, as well as his bold use of color. At this point, the imagery is suspended on clear flat plastic, in a similar way to Duchamp’s suspension of imagery on glass in The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even.
As stated by art historian Susan Larsen, “They had the sleek good looks of a well-made machine, animated by strong sexual overtones. As such, they are late twentieth-century counterparts to the mechanic-erotic visions of Duchamp and Picabia.” Kauffman had attended the 1963 opening of the first retrospective of the work of Marcel Duchamp, organized by his childhood friend Walter Hopps, at the Pasadena Art Museum. A signed poster from the Duchamp exhibit was kept in Kauffman’s personal collection.

The flat plastic works predict the artist’s later vacuum formed pieces, which began in 1964. Two examples of paintings on formed plastic from 1964, both Untitled, are included in this exhibit. The use of molds and the discovery of the process of vacuum forming acrylic plastic would propel Kauffman’s work for the next several years, from 1964 to 1972. These works would bring Kauffman international recognition, and are included in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, LACMA, and MOCA.

International Relations

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Today I talked by phone to a consultant.  One of the topics was the variety of exhibitions at the gallery. As I look back on the shows, I can see differences in scale and medium, as well as the more obvious variety of individual artists. But one big thing stands out: it is the international scope of the ceramics exhibitions.  Over the past 15 years, I’ve brought ceramics to Los Angeles from several countries: Georges Jeanclos from France, Jennifer Lee from England (though she is truly Scottish), Wouter Dam from Holland, Gustavo Pérez from Mexico and Goro Suzuki from Japan.

Last Friday, two of those artists—Gustavo Pérez and Goro Suzuki—met for the first time.  Just before the opening, I introduced Suzuki to Pérez, and they had a brief conversation. Gustavo Pérez was extremely pleased to meet Suzuki, an artist that he greatly admires.  I stood back and looked at the two of them, and realized how proud I was to have both of them represented at the gallery.

Someday I’ll be able to count a few accomplishments of the many years of the gallery.  I expect that international exhibits will be high on the list.  Showing and placing the work of major talents from other countries has been an education for me, and an opportunity to expand my worldview.   If there are intangible benefits from running an art gallery, this has got to be one of the best.

Written by Frank Lloyd

March 24, 2011 at 1:13 am

Top Ten Reasons to see the Loops

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Today as I drove to work, I was in a David Letterman frame of mind, I guess. I started to think of our current show, and just listing, Letterman-style, the reasons to come and see it. Sure, every art dealer wants you to come see their show—and buy something. But this is a truly unprecedented exhibit: none of the Loops are for sale.  We just want people to see them.  So here’s my list of the top ten reasons to see the Loops, done in true Letterman fashion, reverse order:

10. They are 41 years old.

9. See these now, before you see them next year at the Getty and the Museum of  Contemporary Art San Diego.

8. See them and watch them change with the light during the day.

7. See a museum quality show that anticipates next year’s Pacific Standard Time initiative.

6. Marvel at an exhibition that a Getty Conservation Institute researcher called “a real pleasure…magnificent”.

5. See works by an artist that Ed Moses calls “a genius”.

4. Understand why yesterday’s Getty Research Institute Senior Associate called the show “historic”.

3. Marvel at the sequencing of the pieces within the gallery space.

2. See the phenomenal reflections of atmospheric color on the wall.

1. Experience a visual feast of pure sensual color.

Author Kristine McKenna signs new release: The Ferus Gallery: A Place to Begin

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John Mason solo exhibition at Ferus Gallery in 1959.
Photo by Robert Bucknam

Kristine McKenna, a Los Angeles based author and curator, will sign copies of her latest book on November 21, 2009.  The book signing event will take place at the Frank Lloyd Gallery, from 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. The recently published book, The Ferus Gallery: A Place to Begin, is an illustrated oral history of the Ferus Gallery, a storied enterprise that showcased modern art during the late 1950s and 1960s. Drawing from 62 new interviews and more than 300 photographs (most previously unpublished), the book retrieves a lost chapter of twentieth-century American art.  The text is written and edited by Kristine McKenna.

Kristine McKenna is a noted author, art expert and co-editor of the critically acclaimed publication Semina Culture.  Kristine has also organized numerous exhibits about American music and art, and has written for the New York Times, Rolling Stone, the Los Angeles Times, Art in America, and many other major publications.

In 1950s California, and especially in Los Angeles, there existed few venues for contemporary art.  To a whole generation of California artists, this presented a freedom, since the absence of a context for their work meant that they could coin their own, and in uncommonly interesting ways. The careers of Ed Ruscha, Wallace Berman and Ed Kienholz all begin with this absence: Ruscha’s early and iconic Pop images combine words with images, Berman pioneered installation art with his first Ferus show, and in March 1957, Ed Kienholz, in collaboration with curator Walter Hopps, co-founded one of California’s greatest historical galleries, Ferus. Within months of opening, Ferus gallery gained notoriety when the Hollywood vice squad raided Berman’s first–and, in his lifetime, last–solo exhibition, following a complaint about “lewd material.” Shows by Kienholz and Jay DeFeo followed, but 1962 was Ferus’ annus mirabilis, with solo shows by Bruce Conner and Joseph Cornell, and solo shows of Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol (his first gallery show ever).  The following year, Ferus also hosted Ed Ruscha’s first solo exhibition.  After Kienholz and Hopps moved on to other things–Hopps went on to mount the first American Duchamp retrospective at the Pasadena Art Musuem–the reins were handed to Irving Blum, who took over and ran the gallery until its closure in 1966.

Former Ferus artists currently exhibiting at the Frank Lloyd Gallery are John Mason, Larry Bell, Ed Moses and Craig Kauffman.