Frank Lloyd’s blog

Art, architecture and the people that I know.

Posts Tagged ‘Galerie Darthea Speyer

Craig Kauffman and Chicago Architects

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I’ve written before about Craig Kauffman’s early interest in architecture, including his success as a high school senior, when he won an award for his submission to a student architectural contest, juried by Richard Neutra. Craig was then admitted to the University of Southern California School of Art and Architecture at age 18, primarily on the basis of this prize. Though he stayed at the school for just one year, his essential abilities and interest in architecture remained with him for a lifetime.

Years ago, Craig gave me a well-worn copy of Chicago architect Louis H. Sullivan’s Kindergarten Chats and Other Writings, a 1947 classic Documents of Modern Art publication, edited by Robert Motherwell, and designed by Paul Rand. Craig had kept this book in his personal library since his teenage years (it is the original edition). Craig’s interest in architecture underlined his paintings throughout his life, and is especially evident in his drawings, where his spare use of line defines form and indicates scale and perspective.

Craig’s notebooks filled with drawings for his work during the period 1966–1971 are especially rich in architectural references, as well as notations for the radical forms of these works, fabricated from the industrial material of plastic. Their relationship to developments in modern architecture seems clearly related to the inventive use of industrial materials, such as steel and glass, in defining unorthodox form. It’s fascinating to know that both the Art Institute of Chicago and the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago hold major works by Kauffman, as the city’s architectural heritage dovetails with Kauffman’s interests. The two Kauffmans in AIC’s collection were acquired during the tenure of A. James Speyer, a legendary chief curator and director. The MCA Chicago collection’s three were acquired in 2013, as gift of the estate of architect Walter A. Netsch and Dawn Clark Netsch.

Chicago’s architects must have felt some kinship with the inventive forms of Kauffman’s art and his use of new materials. James Speyer of the AIC was the architect for his sister Darthea Speyer’s art gallery in the Left Bank of Paris, where Kauffman had two solo shows. And Walter Netsch was a very prominent architect based in Chicago, who was most famous for his “sleek, functional structures” such as the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. Completed in 1963, the soaring Air Force chapel captured great, and controversial, attention from critics and the public.

Walter Netsch “designed and built his famously fantastic and unusual Chicago home and filled it with unique objects and artwork,” according to one article. Photos show that Kauffman’s works were hung along with paintings by Roy Lichtenstein, Robert Indiana, Claes Oldenburg, and Kenneth Noland, as well as Larry Bell. The Netsch couple collected in depth and took pride in “living with art.” Walter Netsch passed away in 2008, and his wife Dawn Clark Netsch passed away in 2013.

What is it that attracted architects to Kauffman’s work? In addition to these Chicago professionals, Craig’s work is in the collection of famed Los Angeles architect Frank Gehry, who knew Kauffman since 1950, at the architecture school of University of Southern California. Was Kauffman’s early education so formative that he understood the modern language of architectural form? Or were his innate abilities similar to the spatial recognition that is a requirement of architectural practice? Did Kauffman speak their language?

Whatever the reason, Chicago—the city of great 20th Century architecture—is now home to five of the finest Kauffman works from the late 1960s. From his early reading of Louis Sullivan’s Kindergarten Chats and Other Writings, to his later association with James Speyer and Walter Netsch, the artist entered the permanent collections of the two largest Chicago art museums.

 

 

 

 

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Kauffman in Paris

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ckc0078I was talking to a Los Angeles dealer last week, and we recalled the European history for West Coast artists. So much has been forgotten, but the first wave of the West Coast to hit Europe was much stronger than you might imagine. It’s amazing to recall that artist Larry Bell had, very early in his career, one-man shows in London, (at the Robert Fraser Gallery in 1966); in Paris at the legendary Ileana Sonnabend (1967) and the following year (1968) Larry was included in Documenta IV at the Museum Fridericianum, Kassel.

For Craig Kauffman, a remarkable series of shows is recorded. The first time Kauffman showed in Paris was at the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, with a group that represented the United States for the Cinquième Biennale de Paris. Organized by James Demetrion (who would eventually become the Director of the Hirschhorn museum), it was a selection of just four artists: Llyn Foulkes, Craig Kauffman, John McCracken and Ed Ruscha. It’s easy to see just how prescient those choices were, as each artist had a distinctive voice then, and each has become more significant in the present. Kauffman was represented by a series of 1967 vacuum-formed acrylic wall paintings, with a rounded double-lip protrusion in the center of a transparent colored relief.

Kauffman also had one-man shows with kauffman_galerie-darthea-speyer_announcement_1973Galerie Darthea Speyer,
in 1973 and 1976. Darthea Speyer (the sister of legendary Art Institute of Chicago Director James Speyer) was an established dealer in Paris, and someone who Kauffman had met on his second trip to Paris in 1959 to 1961 (Kauffman also lived in Paris, on Rue Git le Couer, in an apartment near the famed Beat Hotel). Darthea Speyer was very supportive and responsive to Kauffman’s work, and maintained an interest throughout her career. Works were placed in Parisian collections.

In 1977, Craig also showed at Fondation Nationale des Arts Graphiques et Plastiques, for the Biennale de Paris, Une Anthologie 1957-67. We’re researching this show, and will soon be including works exhibited in 1977 in our catalogue raisonne.

The more recent exhibits for Kauffman have both been at the Centre Pompidou. First, in 2006, was Los Angeles: 1955-1985, Birth of an Art Capital. Curated by Catherine Grenier, this was a large survey of the groundbreaking developments in Los Angeles during those 30 years, and the Pompidou reported that attendance broke all previous exhibition records. Kauffman attended the opening, along with many of the L. A. artists.

This year, Kauffman’s work was included in the Pompidou’s Beat Generation exhibit. Fittingly, the curators selected a 1962 painting on paper (and mounted on board) titled Git le Couer #3, bringing Kauffman’s past history with the City of Lights to a full circle. When Craig and his second wife lived on that Parisian street, I wonder if he could have imagined that his work would hang in a Parisian museum?

A French Connection

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Sometimes I look for unifying themes within the gallery’s exhibition program. It’s obvious that we specialize in contemporary ceramics, and we clearly favor a sense of place—the West Coast of the U.S. But what’s fascinating to me is that several of the gallery’s artists have a connection to France, and to French culture.

How? Let me explain.

Adrian Saxe was influenced, even early in his career, by Sèvres porcelain. He saw examples at the Huntington, when he was in his early twenties. Saxe was attracted to the soft-paste porcelain characteristic of the factory,as well as the inventive forms, delicate painting, and skillful gilding. Then, in 1983, Saxe was selected by Georges Jeanclos to be the first resident at the Atelier Experimental de Recherche et de Création de la Manufacture National de Sèvres. Saxe returned to Sèvres in 1987 for a second residency, where he continued his explorations of the factory’s traditional techniques and materials.

Craig Kauffman made many trips to Paris. His firstFKN275 copy was right after his graduation from UCLA’s master’s program in 1956. During his six month stay, Kauffman took classes at the Alliance Française and visited museums and galleries. He returned to Paris in 1959 to 1961, while also traveling to other cities including Copenhagen and Ibiza. During this more extended visit, Kauffman met Darthea Speyer, who would later become his Paris dealer. Kauffman went back to Paris in 1973 for a solo show at Galerie Darthea Speyer, and lived in a studio in the Cité Internationale des Arts through the fall of 1975. After spending the spring of 1976 in California, he returned to France, to work in his studio and exhibit new works at Galerie Darthea Speyer.

Bell Retro Nimes-64 copyThree years ago, Larry Bell was honored by the Carré d’Art de Nîmes with a very significant survey exhibition. Yet this is not the first time Bell’s work was shown, or collected, by the French. History shows that Larry Bell exhibited in France many times, including at the Galerie Ileana Sonnabend in 1967 and 1974, the Palais du Luxembourg in 1993, the Centre Pompidou in 2006, and the Galerie Daniel Templon in 2010. It’s interesting to note that Larry’s brother, a famed economist, maintains a residence in Paris.

The gallery has also shown a major French artist: FJS035_A copyGeorges Jeanclos. It was an honor to exhibit the work of such a renowned international artist on two occasions. His emotional work profoundly affected visitors, as the artist’s deft handling of his terra cotta materials evoked a powerful sense of the tragedy of human experience.

 

Connecting Threads in Art

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Kauffman_Galerie Darthea Speyer_announcement_1976 copyIt’s always so interesting to me the way art historical threads can weave together, revealing a complex network of connections between artists, curators, dealers, and patrons. Following these threads can take you deep into the history of an artist and his work, and show you details you might have overlooked. For example, I’ve recently been looking into the time Craig Kauffman spent in Paris in the 1970s, and have discovered some interesting things. Kauffman exhibited new work at the Galerie Darthea Speyer in 1973 and 1976 in a space in Saint-Germain-des-Prés designed by Darthea Speyer’s brother, A. James Speyer.

An architect who studied under Mies van der Rohe in the 1930s, A. James Speyer became the Curator of Twentieth Century Paintings and Sculpture at the Art Institute of Chicago in 1961, and remained there until his death in 1986. It was under his tenure as senior curator that the Art Institute of Chicago acquired their two outstanding works by Craig Kauffman. The first work, a 1969 Loop titled Le Mur s’en Va I, was bought outright in 1970 through the Twentieth-Century Purchase Fund. The second piece, an Untitled bubble from 1968 was donated to the museum in 1979 by Baxter Travenol Laboratories.

The title of the Art Institute of Chicago’s Loop is Untitled Loop_Blue Green_1969 copyimportant, because Le Mur s’en va (The Wall Goes Away) refers to Craig Kauffman’s original name for the Loop series. These works, suspended several inches in front of the wall, create an unusual visual ambiguity. The fields of luminous color compete with their own shadows, tinted images of the works cast in reverse on the walls. The works, and the walls, seem to dematerialize in the face of this optical uncertainty.

Kauffman made a compelling statement about his works’ relationship with the wall for his 1970 survey show at the Pasadena Art Museum. He’s referring specifically to works that cast colored reflections, but I think it reveals something fundamental about his beliefs about painting, and even hints at the direction he eventually moved in during the 1970s. I’ve published this before, but feel it’s worth repeating:

“what is a wall? it is always something for bumping one’s head against.  the real wall, of whatever material, be it brick, studs sixteen inches on center, cement, adobe, flat or curved, is something to reckoned with.  it is also an idea which separates us from each other.  walls divide worlds.  whether of bamboo or iron, walls are our creations.  even the invisible walls that surround each of us denote our space, our identity.  “c’est une chose mystérieuse la mur.”  thing of mind or reality? crazy jane said, “what a terrible thing for a young girl to be a wall.”  it is terrible to be any inanimate object but to become a wall is perhaps the worst.  to walk into a wall and never come out is very possible.  it is as if the wall calls to us to come in and stay in its cold interior.  destroy the wall with color à la léger?  cover the wall with paintings?  make protrusions from it, poke holes in it? perhaps we should play with walls, with illusions, shadows, in order to render them passable to our substance.  to walk through a wall is not just for houdini.  perhaps we can all enter and come out safely.”

            -craig kauffman