Frank Lloyd’s blog

Art, architecture and the people that I know.

Posts Tagged ‘Frank Lloyd

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.

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The Two Californias

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Camp_Bluff_Lake_letter copyI don’t know how many times I’ve made the drive from L.A. to the Bay Area. The number is well over 100, and spans a time period of over 50 years. Even as a child, I was irrationally obsessed with images of San Francisco, and begged my parents to take me there. My family traveled together on the train in August of 1960. We were tourists that first time, and I recorded the vacation in a short essay for my fourth grade class, with what was my very best effort at penmanship.

I’ve just returned from a road trip; this time it was part business and part pleasure. Stops in Oakland, Fairfax and Sebastopol were for gallery duties—picking up and dropping off artworks, and viewing a painting. During the long drive, I had a chance to reflect on my multiple trips, and my relationship to the oft-cited divide between the two regions of California. The divisions of geography, climate, politics, and culture are often the subjects of debate. The controversies and arguments can grow passionate—especially the rivalry between Dodger and Giant fans.

Road_Trip_1 copyBut what I was recalling—the people I know in the world of art—was a different story. It demonstrates how very much interrelated the lives of the artists and the two regions are. Let’s take, for example, the story of our artist Richard Shaw, who was born in Hollywood and lived in Newport Beach before becoming a resident of the quintessential Northern California town of Fairfax. Or consider the history of my friend, the late Henry Hopkins, a UCLA graduate who went on to become the Curator of Exhibitions and Publications at LACMA, before his tenure as Director at SFMOMA, and then his eventual return to the Hammer. Don’t forget about Richard Diebenkorn, whose first shows were in the Bay Area, but produced perhaps his most well-known series of paintings in a studio in Ocean Park, a neighborhood in Santa Monica. Peter Selz, who had a stay in Claremont before going to MOMA as the Chief Curator of Painting, eventually wound up in Berkeley. Peter Voulkos, a Montana native who attended California College of Arts and Crafts for his master’s degree, came to L.A. during the period of 1954 to 1959, then returned to Berkeley.

This list could go on, but the thought persists: Is there really such a division between the two Californias? I think not. Yes, the politics and culture may differ overall, but the people travel freely through some sort of permeable membrane. I have lived and worked in both the North and South, and so have many of my friends. Though I must be clear about one thing: I’m still a Dodger fan.

It’s in my blood

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William E. Lloyd, Sr. at CSULA, c. 1965
William E. Lloyd, Sr. at CSULA, c. 1965

Lately I’ve been reflecting quite a bit. It’s something that’s probably due to age, but could also be related to my final review of an interview for the Archives of American Art (my interviewer was the marvelous Paul Karlstrom). One thing in that conversation really stands out: I have good reason for being passionate about arts education, verifiable research and educational publications. Those who follow this blog are well aware—maybe even weary—of those subjects.

Now, I think I’ve identified the sources: my mother and father. Back when I was growing up in South Pasadena, my father was the Publications Manager and Public Relations Director for California State University Los Angeles. It was in his office and in printing shops that I learned about editing, page layouts, typefaces and binding. He showed me how the annual college catalogue was produced, as well as how to write and distribute a press release.

My mother opened the door to another world, that of scientific research. She worked as a Research Librarian for the Stanford Research Institute, the world-class research organization (based in Menlo Park) with a branch in South Pasadena. I got to know scientists who were working on economic studies, agricultural experiments, and even (hush-hush) top-secret Defense Department-funded studies. I had special privileges, as my mother had great skills as a research librarian, but also phenomenal people skills.

My early exposure to the worlds of professional research and publication instilled high standards in me. I really believe in the importance of “setting the record straight,” because I’ve seen how easily incorrect information spreads across the internet and print media. It’s my responsibility as an arts professional to provide the public with well-researched and historically accurate materials that guide them to greater understanding of artists and their work.

What are you doing here?

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For the past 35 years, I’ve been going to all kinds of art world events. That means a pretty wide range—everything from really raunchy performance art at the old downtown LAICA to scholarly lectures at the Harold Williams Auditorium at the Getty.

I’ve heard dozens of talks from the podium, endless (and often quite boring) panel discussions, and series after series of conversations, and I’ve seen hundreds of power-point presentations. You might ask, which ones were best?  Clearly, the winners in the category of enlightenment were: Kirk Varnedoe (his final tour included a talk at LACMA); Paola Antonelli (recently at the Brown Auditorium at LACMA); and Adam Gopnik (Winter Scenes, at the Getty on February 23, 2012). All spoke without any notes. I loved those talks, and they reminded me of the stimulating power of the interconnected intellect, which I first witnessed in college: genius, in simple terms.

I’m a big fan of every instance of what I like to call a generous intellect—someone who can present fascinating ideas and connections in a conversational manner. But, lately, I’ve been bothered by something that troubles me from time to time, something I still struggle with in myself, and that I can be deeply offended by in others: for lack of a better word, let’s call it prejudice.

Here are three examples:

I once attended a panel discussion, moderated by Paul Karlstrom, about the paintings of Roger Kuntz. Like many such panels, the event was in conjunction with an exhibit of Kuntz’s work at the Laguna Art Museum. Of the four speakers, I knew three quite well—two of them for 40 years, and one for 30 years. At the end of the panel, I wandered up to say hello—a common courtesy. Before I got to my old friends, though, the museum’s Director came up and greeted me. Then he asked, “But what are you doing here?”, to which I replied, “Two of the panelists were my teachers, one is a friend, and Paul is both a friend and a colleague.” But what I meant to say was, “Isn’t this an educational event for the public to learn about art?”

Around the same time, I attended a talk at the Getty Research Institute, given by Lawrence Weschler (an elaboration on themes first developed in his 2007 book of convergences, Everything that Rises). Weschler is an author, and was in those days the Director of the New York Institute for the Humanities at NYU. At that time, though, he was on leave from NYU, serving simultaneously as scholar-in-residence at Occidental College and a visiting scholar at the GRI. I’ve often been in the audience for Ren’s talks, going all the way back to our time together in the early seventies as undergraduates at Cowell College of UCSC, when for example he gave a series of talks on his grandfather, the Weimar émigré composer Ernst Toch. For this one, held in the Getty’s smaller auditorium beneath the museum, I arrived early to find a seat. And, as I wandered down the aisle, a Senior Researcher from the GRI said hello, shook my hand and said, “But what are you doing here?” I replied, simply, “I’ve known Ren since college.” But what I meant to say was, “Isn’t this an educational event for the public to learn about art?”

Probably the most disturbing instance was a few years back, at the Broad Stage in Santa Monica. In conjunction with Otis College of Art and Design, the City of Santa Monica and the Broad presented a lecture by the annual Otis artist-in-residence. I arrived early, my usual strategy, to get a seat in a packed auditorium. As I walked down the left-hand aisle, I saw the speaker, whose work in art criticism we all know quite well, and who has been a frequent visitor to my own gallery. He said, “What are you doing here?”  That time I didn’t even respond at all.

What are these people saying?  Are they saying that, since I am identified as an art dealer, I shouldn’t have an interest in scholarship? Since I am identified as a specialist in ceramics, that I can’t possibly have an interest in other forms of literature, history or art?  Are art dealers necessarily limited, in their minds, to just being shopkeepers?  Why can’t art dealers also be thought of as people who are passionate about art?

If there is one thing I’ve made perfectly clear at my gallery, our educational mission is about communication between the artist and the public, our exhibition program presents the legacy of artists in the history of West Coast art, and as part of that mission and legacy, our scholarly publications have employed several significant writers.  Someday, I hope that such heterodoxy and such commitment is more widely recognized, is in fact taken for granted—especially by those who should know better.

(Special thanks to Lawrence Weschler for his clarifications about his work.–F.L.)

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

Kauffman: Jazz and Abstract Painting

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When referring to West Coast art, there’s been enough writing about sun, surf and cars. All those repeated stereotypes about L.A. art have so very little to do with the interests of Craig Kauffman—and the origins of his work.  Like Tyler Green wrote in a superb post last year, the main thing that painters in Los Angeles were doing was a reaction against Abstract Expressionism, especially the works that were seen in San Francisco in the late 1950s.  Bengston has stated about the Bay Area painters, “They all just kind of got stuck…in the mud.”  Kauffman really made it clear: “…I was sort of reacting against what was going on there. I had gone to the San Francisco annual that year, and I really said ‘Oh, I’m just tired of all that mud stuff.” He didn’t like the heavy, thick painting and wanted to make clean paintings with very fine black lines and just a few color areas.

Ever since his high school days with friend Walter Hopps, Kauffman had also been interested in jazz, driving up as far as the Burma Lounge in Oakland to hear live concerts. Hopps and Kauffman, along with their friend Jim Newman had organized jazz concerts professionally—those gave rise for a plan to even build a concert hall. Kauffman drew the design, which owed a lot to his knowledge of architecture.  Kauffman also designed the programs for the jazz performances. Concerts were in various locations in Los Angeles, including the Ebell Theater on Wilshire Blvd., and one in downtown. Kauffman, Hopps and Newman had gotten to know some of the jazz musicians, including Dave Brubeck and Gerry Mulligan.

Jazz was a lifelong pursuit, and Kauffman’s interest is especially shown in his early abstract paintings. Take a look at the loose, lyrical and repeated line in the drawings and paintings from 1959—it’s all about improvisation within rhythm.  And take a look at the bold use of color, soaring over that rhythm like a saxophone solo.  Pulling the primary colors across with a palette knife, Kauffman shows the touch and skill of a jazz musician. I thought about it all this morning while listening to a cut Ruby, My Dear from an album recorded in 1957 with Thelonius Monk and John Coltrane.

Written by Frank Lloyd

September 23, 2011 at 1:01 am