Posts Tagged ‘John McCracken’
I 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 Galerie 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?
It’s easy to think that the birth of the Los Angeles art scene is just beginning to be fully appreciated. After all, the Getty-sponsored Pacific Standard Time: Art in L.A. 1945-1980 has drawn to a close, having given an enormous audience the chance to learn about the range of styles and materials during this period.
However, this view overlooks the ways in which these West Coast artists were appreciated in their own time, and the substantial recognition they gained at a much earlier date. Artists from the Los Angeles area and the West Coast were exhibited throughout the world in shows including Ten from Los Angeles at the Seattle Art Museum Pavilion, 1966, Los Angeles 6 by the Vancouver Art Gallery, 1968, and 11 Los Angeles Artists by the Arts Council of Great Britain in London, 1971.
Not only were these West Coast artists important, they were important together, and could be shown together without making distinctions between media. The image you see here is an exhibition announcement for Kompass, a 1970 show at the Kunsthalle Bern in Bern, Switzerland. The poster announces that the show consists of “American Art of the West Coast,” and lists the artists represented, including Larry Bell, Billy Al Bengston, Bruce Conner, Richard Diebenkorn, Robert Irwin, Craig Kauffman, Ed Kienholz, Frank Lobdell, John Mason, John McCracken, Bruce Nauman, Ken Price, Ed Ruscha, Hassel Smith, Clifford Still, Wayne Thiebaud, Peter Voulkos, Doug Wheeler, and William T. Wiley.
Seeing such a diverse group of names together really illustrates what was happening on the West Coast. The pluralistic approach of these exhibits reflects an understanding of the multiplicity of styles and mediums that thrived in the Los Angeles scene of that period.