Posts Tagged ‘Ferus Gallery’
One of the most interesting things I’ve learned from my research is the number of times Craig Kauffman showed in San Francisco. In the first decade of his career, from 1951 to 1961, he participated in a dozen shows in S.F., far more than in Los Angeles. For a painter so closely identified by critics with L.A., that’s very surprising.
Three of these were early group shows, in a regional annual exhibit: The Annual Watercolor Exhibition of the San Francisco Art Association, held at the San Francisco Museum of Art. Many artists participated in such annuals in the early 1950s, because there were few places to exhibit, and the shows offered jurors, awards, and visibility. Kauffman also showed in the 1961 version of the watercolor show at the San Francisco Museum of Art.
Important partnerships formed during the 1950s, notably through Syndell Studios and the collaborative organization of Action I, also known as the “Merry Go Round Show,” on the Santa Monica pier. Two of Kauffman’s good friends, James Newman and Walter Hopps, went on to establish galleries. Hopps, of course, partnered with Ed Kienholz to found the legendary Ferus gallery in 1957. Less noted but equally important in this period for Kauffman was Dilexi gallery, which was founded by James Newman.
It was there in San Francisco at Dilexi that Kauffman had eight early exhibitions, both group and solo. Interesting documentation from this time exists in the Archives of American Art, as well as in reviews published in the San Francisco Chronicle, Art News, and Art International. James Newman later donated a Kauffman painting, collected from Dilexi, to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.
I’ve written before about the ways that Northern and Southern California are often compared and contrasted: divisions, disagreements, climates, and permeable lines. But here’s another example of an artist who traveled back and forth, living in both cities, and exhibiting in related galleries.
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)
I’ve always been proud of the gallery’s commitment to doing our best for the artists we represent and show, whether they are painters, sculptors or ceramists. Our exhibition program primarily emphasizes major West Coast artists who have emerged since 1950, and presents ceramic sculpture in the context of the contemporary art world. In fact, 77% of our shows since 2004 have featured ceramics! Out of the eight shows we’ve held this year, six have included ceramics, for a total of 14 ceramists shown.
I’ve always felt that exhibiting ceramic artwork in the company of other mediums is one of the best ways to overcome the traditional hierarchy of materials. At the Ferus Gallery during the 1960s, ceramic artists worked and showed alongside painters and sculptors – they were friends and peers. Continuing that tradition at Frank Lloyd Gallery supports my view that we don’t need to differentiate between ceramists and other artists.
Showing ceramics to the exclusion of other materials only reinforces the conception of ceramic art as somehow “different” from other art forms. It’s my view that this obscures the ways in which ceramic art is a part of the the larger art historical conversation. Another point is that most of the so-called “clay artists” have always worked in other media. Take Ken Price, for instance. Our current show features some of his lithographs and silkscreen prints in addition to ceramic pieces, and he also produced watercolors and worked in bronze composites.
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.