Frank Lloyd’s blog

Art, architecture and the people that I know.

Posts Tagged ‘Hammer Museum

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.

Adrian Saxe at the Minneapolis Institute of Art

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AS_COLOR copyIf you’re near Minneapolis, I hope you’ll have the chance to attend Adrian Saxe’s upcoming lecture in the Pillsbury Auditorium at the Minneapolis Institute of Art, on Saturday, June 21 at 2:00 pm. Adrian will deliver his talk as part of his participation in the Northern Clay Center’s Regis Master Series. His complementary solo exhibition at the Northern Clay Center will remain on view through June 29.

This lecture is one of many that Adrian has been invited to give over the years, and will be a good opportunity to hear from one of the most accomplished ceramic artists in the world. Recently, Adrian participated in a 2013 panel discussion hosted by the James Renwick Alliance as a Master of Medium honoree, and in 2012, Adrian spoke about his artistic practice and career at the Hammer Museum, a lecture which can be found online. Adrian also discussed his work, 1-900-Zeitgeist, in a lecture delivered in the Harold M. Williams auditorium at the Getty Center as part of the exhibition Departures: 11 Artists at the Getty in 2000.

Curatorial Excellence

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In recent years, a tremendous interest has developed in Los Angeles artists and the growth of L.A. art institutions. The success of programs at the Hammer Museum and at LACMA are examples of that surge. While some news may have focused on the ups and downs of museum funding and staff changes, there’s one fact that that bears repeating over and over: the shows coming out of Los Angeles have been superb! Today I was reminded of how the efforts of curators at both L.A. museums and local galleries have been nationally recognized.

In 2013, the International Association of Art Critics included an impressive number of L.A. curators and organizations in their annual awards. Headquartered in New York, AICA-USA’s membership comprises over 400 critics, curators, scholars, and art historians working throughout the United States. Take a look at some of the awards given out last year: to Stephanie Barron for “Ken Price Sculpture: A Retrospective,” Los Angeles County Museum of Art; to Wendy Kaplan and Bobbye Tigerman for  “California Design, 1930–1965: “Living in a Modern Way,” also at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; and to Kellie Jones, curator of “Now Dig This! Art and Black Los Angeles 1960-1980,” which opened at the Hammer Museum and traveled to MoMA PS1, New York.

Paul Schimmel’s brilliant final show at MOCA, “Destroy the Picture: Painting the Void, 1949-1962,” was given an award as one of the two best thematic museum shows nationally, along with the Hammer’s “Now Dig This”.

This morning I went to Cherry and Martin gallery, which was honored last year for their exhibit “Photography Into Sculpture / The Evolving Photographic Object.”  Based on an exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art from 1970, organized by Peter Bunnell, the Cherry and Martin show was favored by critics as part of the Pacific Standard Time series of events.

Tomorrow I will return for another view of “Face to Face: Flanders, Florence, and Renaissance Painting,” the world-class exhibit at the Huntington. It’s the work of Catherine Hess, a scholar and curator at the Huntington, who has managed to put together one of the most perfect exhibits I’ve ever seen. It’s an art history lesson for all viewers, and the selection of examples are borrowed from the Uffizzi, the National Gallery, the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, and numerous museums in Europe and America. It’s another example of why L.A. deserves recognition: the excellence of the curators.

Vindication for PST

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JPTURRELLIn the New York Times this morning, I found some unprecedented news. The above-the-fold story by Holland Cotter, “The East Coast of California,” included his phrase “…an unheard-of convergence here of major California shows.” Below the fold, Mr. Cotter reviewed the Ken Price retrospective at the Metropolitan, while Roberta Smith addressed James Turrell at the Guggenheim, and Ken Johnson wrote about the Llyn Foulkes show at the New Museum.

Unprecedented, indeed—and also amazing that the curatorial work of LACMA’s Stephanie Barron and the Hammer’s Ali Subotnick are again recognized. Not just the artists from the West Coast, but the curatorial vision. Mr. Cotter’s leading line was, “The project [Pacific Standard Time] was a big success and continues to generate energy.”

How vindicated do the PST folks at the CPE014_CreditGetty Research Institute feel? Pretty strongly justified, if you look at Project Specialist Glenn Phillips’ Facebook post. The Yale-trained art historian noted “Many people claimed that Pacific Standard Time would never have more than local impact, particularly in relation to New York,” and goes on to cite the three exhibits of Price, Turrell, and Foulkes as well as the current “State of Mind” show at PS1, the Paul McCarthy installation at the Armory, and the upcoming full-floor installation by Robert Irwin at the Whitney. (Let’s not forget about Jay DeFeo, the San Francisco painter whose Whitney retrospective just closed earlier this month.)

I don’t want this post to seem like a laundry list, but it’s also a matter of record that “Now Dig This! Art and Black Los Angeles 1960–1980” appeared at MoMA’s PS1 last year, and that “Asco: Elite of the Obscure, a Retrospective, 1972-1987” had a run at Williams College (alma mater of many U.S. museum curators and directors). “California Design, 1930-1965: ‘Living in a Modern Way,” continues its worldwide tour, and Wendy Kaplan’s publication is now in its 4th printing. PST is having a lasting effect.

Back in October 13, 2011, the Wall Street Journal’s critic Peter Plagens (who is a former Angeleno) questioned, “isn’t PST preaching to the choir?” It’s obvious that’s just not true.

Shifting Status Quo

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CMN012_TC copyAbout 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 artistsFSE053 copy 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.

1-900-Zeitgeist, view a copyA 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 CPE052 copy 2perception 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/

Monte Factor: L.A. Collector

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Two weeks ago, I called my friend Monte Factor and invited him to go to the Hammer Museum.  Monte and his late wife Betty were early supporters of contemporary art in Los Angeles, and long ago acquired the work of Lynn Foulkes.   So I knew he would be a good museum companion for my second visit to Nine Lives in L.A. at the Hammer.

The show starts and ends with Lynn Foulkes, appropriately.  Foulkes’ space is totally unreal, a kind of compression and illusion that is found in dioramas. Constructed of such unlikely materials—from carved plywood to found objects and even common towels—the paintings and the space totally work.  The artist’s one-man band is featured on recordings near the exit for the show. One can listen on headphones. Both Monte and I were entranced by the constructions and the music.

A few days later, I helped to arrange for the Getty Research Institute to come and interview Monte at his home.  The GRI was responsive and inquisitive, ably represented by Andrew Perchuk and Rani Singh. Monte gave a guided tour of his home and collection. When he flipped a switch at the base of one Ed Keinholz assemblage, two blue lights flashed on at the top edge. Monte explained that the gun, which is pointed at the viewer, is set to go off once in the next 200 years.  “Ed wanted the message to be about risk and contingency in our everyday life. There is live ammunition in the gun. He got in a lot of trouble with the German police over this piece,” added Monte.

Later in the afternoon, there was a moment that gave me goose bumps. As Andrew Perchuck and Rani Singh came upon a photograph mounted on one wall, there was a moment of recognition of Los Angeles art history. Andrew calmly asked Monte to identify the people in the photograph, from left to right.  He repeated what had been written about the picture before:  “This photograph was taken in the showroom of the Stardust Hotel in Las Vegas in 1963. From left to right are Teeny Duchamp, Richard Hamilton, Betty Factor, Bill Copley, myself clenching a cigar, Walter Hopps, Betty Asher, and Marcel Duchamp.”

Written by Frank Lloyd

April 4, 2009 at 11:49 pm

Moonlight Drive

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Mulholland drive at night is one of L.A.’s most awesome sights. The view into the Valley is quintessentially L.A.  An expansive grid of lights on the diagonal, leading into the dark mountains, it’s best on a clear, cold night following a storm.  I love the drive, and last night I was thinking about the way it shows in the photographs of Julius Shulman, the landscapes of Peter Alexander, and in the world of film.

I drove along the curving, elevated highway last night, headed east of Laurel Canyon.  As I passed Torreyson Drive, I stopped at the Universal City lookout and turned around. There, high on the hill, I could see the supporting steel structure of Chemosphere, John Lautner’s iconic residential masterpiece.

David Gebhard and Robert Winter have a brief entry about Chemosphere in Los Angeles, An Architectural Guide: ”At first it seems to be a flying saucer, but then you see it is on a pedestal, firmly riveted to the hill.”

Written by Frank Lloyd

December 19, 2008 at 7:36 pm