Frank Lloyd’s blog

Art, architecture and the people that I know.

Posts Tagged ‘Design

A Tactile Medium

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FPZ353 copy2My 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. delisle_1999-installation_14_2Could 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.

Ohr_OKeefe_Museum5Frank 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.

A Book About Seeing

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Most people know my friend Rob Forbes as an expert in design, and as a businessman. But I’ve known him for more than 50 years, from the time we met in elementary school, so I’ve seen lots of his other talents. He’s a good athlete, a gifted writer, and—here’s the point of our current show—a man with a background in aesthetics and ceramics. As Rob said recently, the task of selecting works for our exhibit is “a great opportunity for me to connect some dots between periods of both my professional and personal life, stretching back to the 1970’s when I was a potter.” Like most potters, Rob had a great admiration for Peter Voulkos (here’s a photo of the two of them).

Rob puts his curiosity and intelligence into the job of curating the show. But he went far beyond the assignment of choosing works. Rob has written and published a booklet titled “See for Yourself”, an amazing little pamphlet. His 20 short chapters break into aesthetic concepts that are abstracted from the practice of making ceramics—Form, Utility, Repetition, Humility, Color, Pattern, and Texture. He’s included dozens of photos that illustrate his points.  I’ve never had anyone take the task of curating a show to this level, and I’m really pleased to have a book to help explain the show.

Like most ceramists we’ve represented, Forbes extolls the direct tactile qualities of the material: “Clay dries, shrinks, and cracks. Your arms get submerged in buckets of creamy glazes and slips. It’s like working in the garden or playing in the sandbox. Soft, unctuous material is converted into one of the hardest and most durable substances known to man. And the finished, fired surfaces range from coarse matte to brilliant glassy textures, many of which need to be handled to be appreciated. Both the process and product are about touch and feel.”

Written by Frank Lloyd

July 16, 2011 at 9:38 pm

Mimbres: An Artist’s View

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I get a lot of good advice from artists. We discuss the galleries, and we talk about shows at museums.  I thoroughly enjoy the exchange. Recently, artist Tony Marsh reminded me of the ways that my gallery has expanded.  He wasn’t just speaking about the mix of paintings, sculpture and ceramics.  Instead, he cited the range of ceramics shows—-from a survey of ancient Mimbres ceramic bowls to works by Lynda Benglis.  He’s right, that’s quite a spread.

Back in January of 2003, we presented a select group of classic black-on-white Mimbres bowls, painted with geometric or representational imagery.  The astonishing pottery has been a passion of artists for decades.  I am lucky to know an expert in the field.  Well known artist Tony Berlant, a student of Native American Art, organized and assembled our show.  He gave it the title “Paintings from a Distant Hand”.  Like many contemporary artists, Berlant has found this timeless work from the 10th to the 12th century to be an inspiration:

“Bowl patterns often evoke a Cubist-like handling of form. The blank white interior of the bowl provides an ambiguous, dynamic field that is sliced and warped by drawing. Geometric images seems firmly anchored to the bowl edges, while representational images walk or fly into the field like dancers on a stage.”

The subject matter of the painted bowls ranges from images of birds and animals, to far more abstract patterns, referred to as geometric. Many of these seem to be abstract pictures of clouds, lightning and rain—the lifeblood of a people who farmed the arid land of what is now southwestern New Mexico.

(Note on photo above right: According to Will Slee, the “Donut Duck” was dug from his property, and is Chaco–not Mimbres. Thanks to Captain Slee for making this contribution.)

Written by Frank Lloyd

November 27, 2009 at 10:57 pm

Available Material Part 2

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Recently, I wrote about an old idea: use the available material.  In that post, I noted that California is full of strong structures that use simple materials, and marry them to a natural setting. I also gave some examples from a fall road trip to Northern California.  Fortunately, trails and wooded areas are never too far away from me, and I often walk in the Arroyo Seco, near my home.  On the east and west banks of the Arroyo, there are homes built of rounded river rocks and long shaped beams. Some are legendary, part of the architectural setting for the Arts and Crafts movement in the early 20th century.

Batchelder House copyThe landscape of the Arroyo Seco was the setting for Ernst A. Batchelder’s house. Batchelder became, in the early part of the 20th century, a well-known designer and producer of decorative ceramic tile. On Arroyo Drive, at a curve on the eastern bank, sits his unimposing home and studio. It nestles into the shady oaks nearby.  From the street, the front elevation shows a strong-beamed, shingled house with brick and stone at the foundation. According to architectural historian David Gebhard, a kiln still stands in the backyard, where the now-coveted Batchelder architectural tiles were first produced.

On the opposite side of the same street lies La Casita del Arroyo, a low-slung structure. I wandered around this public meetinghouse recently, and took some pictures.  The hall seems to step down into the steep bank of the Arroyo, and the imposing chimney stands broad and strong. The stone construction is rough. As I learned (from David Gebhard and Robert Winter’s Los Angeles: An Architectural Guide), architect Myron Hunt “donated his services and designed this structure using boulders and sand from the Arroyo, fallen trees from higher up the canyon, and even part of the bicycle track abandoned after its use in the 1932 Olympics.”

Written by Frank Lloyd

November 24, 2009 at 8:02 pm

Gustavo Pérez and Architecture

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Lately, I’ve been thinking of buildings. I tend to see architecture in the ways that artists structure their work.  In the hands of Gustavo Pérez, a sandy colored stoneware clay body has become the basic building material, as well as the canvas for his composition.  Whether he plans to engineer a series of lines, develops a pattern of slashes, or chooses to insert other clay elements into the surface of the clay, everything is integrated through this basic medium.  Like a painter emphasizing the depth of color, Pérez will also apply glaze into the incised areas on a work, carefully and meticulously drawing our eye to the design.

Part architecture, part mathematical pattern, and part lyrical movement, Gustavo’s sleek ceramic constructions are grounded in principles that relate to the built environment as well as sculpture.  Due to their reliance on geometric form, their symmetrical characteristics, and their construction process, Pérez’s forms seem architectural. Perhaps this is not an accident, for Gustavo builds his work as if logic and technology were indispensable to art.  He does have a background in mathematics and engineering, which balances his facility with the clay.  The progressive principles of cutting into modular units, assembling another form, and integrating the design with the structure are common to architecture and to the work of Gustavo Pérez.  He is proudly aware of the built environment of his country and especially aware of contemporary Mexican architects.  That’s something that I really hear in our conversations.

When Gustavo discusses his country, he talks about “the many extraordinary contributions that this oppressed, poor, conflictive and many times neglected part of the world has made to universal culture.  And I am not only thinking about the extraordinary ancient Pre-Columbian cultural heritage but also about our century with the contributions of writers…or the architecture of Luis Barragan.”   While an architect may have other compositional elements at his disposal—such as scale, light and space—there are some similarities.  It’s clear that there are affinities in architectural form, as Ignacio Diaz Morales states: “The shape of [Barragan’s] spaces is clear and simple, composed of spontaneous, constructive geometry, an essential condition for all architectural form. Space is manipulated with great agility and always aims to express the identity of the Mexican soul, without using inappropriate exoticisms.”

Without making specific reference to Mayan culture, the works of Gustavo Pérez are in some ways evocative of that Pre-Colombian culture. Perhaps this is an elusive and poetic quality that Gustavo Pérez shares with his fellow Latin American artists, writers and architects. “The ceramic art of the Maya, the Olmec, the Zapotec as well as the Korean, the Chinese, the Islamic or the Greek is our common heritage. We all profit from knowing it and the aesthetics, the sensibility and the techniques this huge legacy transmits,” Pérez has stated.  I agree, of course, and Gustavo’s sensibility echoes the respect for history that many artists posess.  Knowing the legacy gives them a foundation to build on.

Written by Frank Lloyd

November 20, 2009 at 9:22 pm

Richard Neutra: The Perkins House

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When I was a teenage student, I took a test called the Kuder Interest Inventory.  I’m sure it was part of the counseling program for college-bound kids in South Pasadena, where I grew up.  I scored in the 98th percentile for architecture, which wasn’t a surprise—then, or now. So, what was the next step?  “Find opportunities to develop skills here and ask people what they like about their work,” the counselors told me.

I followed up right away.  Fortunately, the architectural offices of Whitney R. Smith were right next to the Junior High School. I boldly called and asked for an appointment. To his credit, Whitney Smith kindly scheduled a time for me (and two like-minded friends) to come to his design studio and office complex. We toured the drafting rooms, saw architectural models, and learned about new building materials—all from one of the most respected architects in the region.  The office still stands, a landmark of mid-century modern building design.

But an even greater opportunity awaited me.  At South Pasadena High School, I was enrolled in drawing, painting and art history classes with a mentor, Jack Dalton.  Once Mr. Dalton learned of my interest in architecture, he arranged for me to go to a small house designed for his colleague, the art historian and critic Constance Perkins.  We drove to the San Rafael Hills, and ascended mid-way up Poppy Peak Drive to the Perkins House, designed by Richard Neutra.

I had never seen such a home, and still remember climbing the stairs and entering the small but perfectly composed rooms.  Ms. Perkins explained that all of the cabinetry was built for her height and reach, and that Neutra had measured her library of books. These were new concepts for me.  For anyone wanting to learn about modern architecture, that day was inspiring—especially to look out from the living area to the San Gabriel mountains, through the famous glass corner, over the fish pond.

I still drive up Poppy Peak, and stop to admire the simplicity and perfection of a small jewel of modern residential architecture.  The impression of that day has never diminished, and I’ve toured other Neutra homes when they are open.  I often drive by the Research House in the Silverlake area, as well as the other houses on Neutra Place nearby. It’s a constant reminder of the extraordinary legacy of residential design in Los Angeles.

Written by Frank Lloyd

November 19, 2009 at 10:55 pm

Silent Aesthetic Partner

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Do you ever wonder who does the graphic design at Frank Lloyd Gallery?  The look and feel of the gallery’s publications is a key element in our presentation.  Sure, the business of art is image-driven.  But the graphic context and typography have always been a primary concern for me.  Just as with architecture, the graphic design is a silent aesthetic partner with the art.

That’s why we have, over the years, presented clear and consistent design in all of our publications. It’s the work of Joe Molloy.  First and foremost a friend of the gallery, Joe has designed nearly everything for us—our logo, website, announcements and catalogues.  At times, he’ll even design an outdoor banner or wall graphics for us.  Joe is a highly respected Los Angeles-based graphic designer, typographer, and educator.  His company has a cool name: Mondo Typo, Inc.

I like to consider myself to be Joe’s student. After all, he is a professor, and has taught at UCLA, Otis College of Art and Design, California Institute of the Arts, Southern California Institute of Architecture and Loyola Marymount University.  I’ve been present for many press checks, and observed the master in action. His classic typography is legendary.  Joe is a great collaborator, and prefers to work directly with the artists that we show—often visiting the studio to understand the work—before conceiving of the announcement.

We have some awesome company on Joe’s list of customers.  His clients include the Getty Conservation Institute and UCLA.  Joe has designed publications for McGraw-Hill, Arts & Architecture Press, Burgess Publishing, Simon and Schuster, Minneola Press, and G.P. Putnam’s Sons.  And, just for good measure, he’s a poet and architecture buff. So, whenever you are looking at our website or one of our publications, you’ll see Joe’s sensitivity.

Written by Frank Lloyd

November 13, 2009 at 1:49 am