Posts Tagged ‘Christopher Knight’
Some athletes are legendary because of their innate ability—just think of Ken Griffey Jr. with his gorgeous swing, and the perfection of his follow-through. Sure, lots of players have hit home runs, but that kind effortless movement was truly a thing of beauty.
According to all reports, Craig Kauffman was just as naturally gifted as a young artist. He participated in his first professional group show at age 19, in the best gallery in Los Angeles, Felix Landau. By 1953, still approaching his 21st birthday, Kauffman had his first one-man show at Landau. He also was given a praising review in the national magazine Art News by a leading critic, Jules Langsner, who wrote:
“The exhibition splits into two distinct groups: soft, serene, cerebrally-organized abstractions (like the Ode to Crafts series) and the more recent, highly charged linear evolutions on the other. Either way, Kauffman is precociously gifted.”1
Just five years later, when the seminal Ferus gallery had opened, Kauffman was included in another group exhibition, this time a painting survey of Northern and Southern California abstract artists. While noting the similarities and differences of the two camps, Langsner again singled out Kauffman for praise:
“Craig Kauffman is very much in evidence with an effervescent painting, also untitled. Here vertical rectangles of vivid reds, yellow, blues shimmer on a field of white. Full of bounce, the picture has the added interest of subtlety of line. Exhibiting infrequently, this artist has not received his due”.2
So, it’s not surprising that, after Kauffman’s passing, in another group exhibition currently on view at Samuel Freeman gallery, the Los Angeles Times Critic Christopher Knight should single out Kauffman’s work at the conclusion of his review:
“He navigates the void using a delicate, dappled line that constructs a sturdy visual architecture from the most fragile subject matter — orchids, a tropical flower with thousands of taxonomies. His still lifes catalog exotic blooms that are tall, willowy and weird. Kauffman has been called the most naturally gifted painter produced in the first generation of major postwar Los Angeles artists, and here it’s easy to see why.”3
1 Langsner, Jules. “Art News from Los Angeles.” Art News 51, no. 9 (January 1953), p. 53.
2 Langsner, Jules. “Art News from Los Angeles.” Art News 56, no. 10 (February 1958), pp. 47–50.
3 Knight, Christopher. “Uncharted seas in ‘How to Build a Foghorn’ at Samuel Freeman.” Los Angeles Times (August 9, 2016)
About a year ago, I was asked to moderate a panel discussion about the change in status of contemporary ceramics. The position and ranking of ceramics in the world of contemporary art has been shifting for over 60 years. Great artists have made the biggest difference in overcoming prejudices, and have been quite blunt about their assessment of how the art world perceives their work. Ken Price, for instance, succinctly noted that in the middle 1950s, the material hierarchy was established, saying that, “In those days, clay as an art medium was dead and buried.”[i]
The first task for the panel, I thought, would be to enumerate the ways that such a lowly ranking was overcome. In the current environment, a viewer can see contemporary ceramics in major museums and hundreds of galleries. How and why has this happened, and what were the forces for this change? I believe there are some clear reasons:
First, the lack of material hierarchy in the work of young artists made it clear that a new attitude about media exists (this is especially evident in curated exhibitions such as the award-winning show at the Hammer titled “Thing”, or the traveling show from the Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia titled “Dirt on Delight”). This seems to be coming from two sources: university and art school-trained artists who are the product of interdisciplinary programs; and the popular culture at large. Younger artists have adopted the contemporary music world’s sampling techniques—piecing together disparate parts and re-mixing them. Old school ideas of purity and media specificity just don’t apply anymore.
Second, critical acceptance has accelerated profoundly. These days, art journals and newspapers have major critics such as Roberta Smith, Christopher Knight, Dave Hickey, Christopher Miles, Leah Ollman and Peter Schjeldahl championing both ceramics shows and individual ceramic artists. Dozens more reviews are being published in mainstream art journals, rather than being segregated into craft-specific publications.
A third reason for the new standing of ceramics in the public’s eye is a burgeoning maturity of curatorial vision and the building of significant collections (both regional and in major encyclopedic museums). This also involves recognition of the rich traditions of other countries. The organization of group exhibitions and acquisitions by major museums including the Met and LACMA are also indications of ceramic art’s rising status.
Fourth, of course, is the fact that the use of ceramic materials continues to grow. Major artists since Picasso have worked seriously in clay, but now it’s nearly ubiquitous, as artists from contemporary art—even Jeff Koons and Ai Wei-Wei—use the medium.
Finally, there has been shift in the historical and curatorial perception of some major artists and their respected position in the overall canon. Just consider the Betty Woodman retrospective at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and the recent LACMA retrospective of the late Ken Price, which travels nationally to the Nasher and then the Metropolitan, with each venue designed by the great architect Frank Gehry.
We are now in an era when a major critic (Roberta Smith) in the New York Times writes about a show at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia in these terms:
“The show’s determination to integrate ceramics into the art mainstream is nothing new. But its refusal to do so simply by slipping some universally agreed-upon ceramic exceptions into a show of painting, sculpture and so forth is close to groundbreaking. “Dirt on Delight” argues for ceramics as a more than worthy subject. It reminds us that the art form incorporates quite a bit of painting and sculpture, thank you, and has one of the richest histories of any medium on the planet. Ceramics also plays well with all kinds of artistic ideas and needs no propping up by supposedly serious fine art or, incidentally, by much in the way of explanatory labels.” [ii]
[i] Hunter Drohojowska-Philp, A Life in Clay (interview with Ken Price), Artnet online magazine, http://www.artnet.com/magazineus/features/drohojowska-philp/drohojowska-philp10-22-08.asp
[ii] Roberta Smith, Dirt on Delight, New York Times, May 19, 2009, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/20/arts/design/20dirt.html/
Inspired by the Getty’s holiday card – a video narrated by James Cuno outlining the Getty’s accomplishments of 2012 – I decided to take a look at the happenings of the past year here at the gallery.
In January the gallery opened Peter Voulkos in L.A.: Time Capsule, a show that critic Peter Frank hailed as “…the kind of show Pacific Standard Time has been all too short of: an intimate look at the taste and thinking and working methods of an influential figure. Everything in the show, drawn from the artist’s daughter’s collection, was small in scale and dated from the later 1950s…” in the Huffington Post.
Also early in the year, Clay’s Tectonic Shift: John Mason, Ken Price, Peter Voulkos, 1956—1968 debuted at Scripps College. I contributed to this major Getty-sponsored exhibition by serving as co-curator and lead essayist for the show, which was singled out by Hunter Drohojowska-Philp on Artnet as “…something of a model for what PST has accomplished, putting into relief the important contributions made by California-based ceramicists during the ‘50s and ‘60s.” By year’s end, Los Angeles Times critic Christopher Knight recognized the show in his “Best of 2012” list of art museum exhibitions, writing that: “Together, ‘Common Ground: Ceramics in Southern California, 1945-1975’ … and ‘Clay’s Tectonic Shift: John Mason, Ken Price and Peter Voulkos, 1956-1968’ … made for the most thorough telling of the tale of a distinctive revolution in postwar art. One laid out the rich panoply of modern ceramic conventions, the other cheerfully smashed them.”
Drawing on Japan’s significant history with ceramics, the gallery presented Sugimoto Sadamitsu’s work in February. Sugimoto-sensei is regarded as the greatest living master of the Iga and Shigaraki styles, and his work was highlighted in a 1989 exhibition that celebrated the 400th anniversary of the death of Sen no Rikyu, the legendary early master of the Tea Ceremony. Sugimoto-sensei’s work represented Shigaraki and Iga masterpieces of the Momoyama period for use in the movie made in that year titled Rikyu, a well-received treatment of the life of this master of the Tea Ceremony. Our show was the first appearance of Sugimoto-sensei’s work in the western United States.
We also brought an unprecedented show of paintings from the late 1980s by Craig Kauffman to the L.A. audience in April. Never exhibited together in the artist’s lifetime, these paintings showed Kauffman’s interest in unorthodox application of paint and his love of the physicality of painting, accompanied by his brilliant color sense. Kauffman considered the 1989 works, which became known as the Numbers, to be a continuation of his use of calligraphic line, and an integration of sensuous color with architectural form. It was a memorable show.
This summer we mounted Jennifer Lee’s fourth solo show in Los Angeles. Jennifer Lee’s pottery is carefully colored with oxides incorporated into the stoneware body of the vessels, so that the interiors and exteriors work together. Referring to her unique pigments, Sir David Attenborough noted: “Because she does not use glaze, her subtle colours and misty shades come not from a veil draped over the pot but from within its very substance, as in the face of a cliff.” The quiet elegance of her pots never fails to make an impact on viewers. Indeed, Leah Ollman of the Los Angeles Times wrote in August that, “For all the calm they invoke, the pieces are charged with the motion of the swirls that encircle them…Their implicit movement suggests the shy whirl of demure dervishes.”
In the fall, the LACMA retrospective of the late Ken Price was a landmark exhibit for the artist. In every way, from the innovative design of the exhibition to the superb publication, the tribute to Ken Price signaled the significance of ceramic sculpture in the development of contemporary art in Los Angeles. In a related exhibit, the gallery presented a show of small works, which was described by David Pagel of the Los Angeles Times as a “dazzling solo show at Frank Lloyd Gallery.”
November brought the release of the gallery’s major monograph on Craig Kauffman, entitled Sensual Mechanical. Written by biographer Hunter Drohojowska-Philp, the publication was praised by Christopher Knight in the Los Angeles Times as “…a gorgeously illustrated and highly informative monograph published by Frank Lloyd Gallery, which represents the artist’s estate. Hunter Drohojowska-Philp’s 2011 book ‘Rebels in Paradise: The Los Angeles Art Scene and the 1960s’ sketched the city’s first flush of artistic maturity. Here she chronicles for the first time and in illuminating depth Kauffman’s life and the complete evolution of his luminous art.”
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.
Boundless blue sky and poetic prose from the critics are arriving daily. Peter Frank has glowing words about Sensual/Mechanical, our current show of early work by Craig Kauffman. Today’s Huffington Post includes Peter Frank’s haiku review (well, it’s a bit longer than traditional haiku consisting of 17 on, but that’s what they call it on Huffpo). Hunter Drohojowska-Philp covers a number of the Pacific Standard Time shows in her Artnet post, singling out the excellent installation of Kauffman’s 1969 Loop in the main show, Crosscurrents, at the Getty Museum. For sheer visual delight, it’s fun to take a look at the slide show on the MCASD’ website of Phenomenal: California Light, Space, Surface.
But for the most extensive review of that great San Diego exhibition, don’t miss Christopher Knight’s excellent and praising prose in the Los Angeles Times. Curator Robin Clark has totally earned everyone’s respect for the show that she organized with Hugh Davies. It’s a show for everyone, from kids who will delight in the James Turrell installations, to adults who will discover the Bruce Nauman corridor. When you go, be sure to shimmy through the skinny green Nauman and emerge into the open light-filled Irwin room. It’s an amazing combination, and…well, it’s phenomenal.
Since I’ve been posting about architecture this week, I thought it might be time to include a review of Peter Voulkos’ monumental works. What’s the connection? In 1999, the gallery presented a major show of sculpture by Voulkos. L.A. Times critic Christopher Knight addressed the “seemingly effortless artistic mastery” of the work. Knight also made reference to the process of building:
“Artistically, Voulkos is a builder. Whether hand-held tea bowls, plates displayed on stands made from steel rebar or monumental vessels, his sculptural objects share a visceral sense of having been constructed, torn down, rebuilt, pulled apart and put together yet again. The elemental associations of the clay medium are acknowledged and exploited, not denied, while clay’s transformative capacity under the intense heat of fire becomes a leitmotif in the building process Voulkos employs.”