Frank Lloyd’s blog

Art, architecture and the people that I know.

Posts Tagged ‘Los Angeles art

Peter Voulkos: On Improvisation

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When Peter Voulkos began to exhibit his large-scale works in the mid-1950s, he had already been recognized as a leading potter in the U.S.  Voulkos won prizes at the National Ceramic Exhibition, as well as a Gold Medal at the International Exposition of Ceramics in Cannes, France.  Yet, during this time he also absorbed many influences, from Flamenco to Jazz, and from Picasso to Abstract Expressionism.

An early article in Craft Horizons, published in October 1956, has many quotes from Peter. This is the period of time when Voulkos was breaking away from craft traditions, so he had a lot to say about his working method. One quote that has stayed with me is this:

“The minute you begin to understand what you’re doing it loses that searching quality. You have to forget about the little technical problems that don’t matter—you’ve overcome them long ago anyway. You finally reach a point where you’re no longer concerned with keeping this blob of clay centered on the wheel and up in the air. Your emotions take over and what happens just happens. Usually you don’t know it’s happened until after it’s done.”

Voulkos kept to this way of working throughout his life, freely improvising like a musician.  His straightforward, powerful and direct way of working was later characterized by Ken Price as “direct frontal onslaught”.  I recently found this 1984 photo, from Peter’s show at the Faith and Charity in Hope Gallery—a gallery owned and operated by Edward Kienholz and his wife Nancy. Kienholz not only admired Voulkos’ work, he owned a work from 1958.

Written by Frank Lloyd

October 17, 2016 at 5:31 pm

What is a wall?

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Craig Kauffman remained a painter throughout his career, over 50 years. Still, Craig experimented with various painting media, as well as doing some installations. In 1971, for instance, Kauffman was included in a significant exhibit at the UCLA Art Galleries, titled Transparency, Reflection, Light and Space. His kauffman-loops-installation_2conceptual drawing in the catalogue shows the installation piece: a mirrored trough of water, activated by fans, and illuminated by overhead lights. The result? It was the “moving reflection on wall of circulating water.”

This 1971 reflection piece for the show at UCLA followed Kauffman’s involvement with colored reflections on the wall—the Loops—and his work during the 1970 show at the Jewish Museum, Using Walls. In an interview during 1971 with Frederick S. Wight for the UCLA catalog, the artist speculated about his work at that time, saying “…now I’m thinking of doing things on a wall that run from corner to corner which really make the whole wall the piece…the emphasis isn’t on a unified form where it is more spread out if you want to call it that. The piece is less important than what it is doing to the wall.”

kauffman-loops-installation_1Kauffman had also written a statement, printed in the Pasadena Art Museum’s catalog for his 1970 survey exhibit. It’s a much stronger, poetic and political stance.  Here it is, complete with the original omission of capitalization:

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 kauffman_pasadena-art-museumgirl 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 a la leger?  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

Written by Frank Lloyd

October 14, 2016 at 9:00 pm


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FBL209I’m happy to announce the opening of Larry Bell’s second solo exhibition with White Cube Gallery, in São Paulo, Brazil. Bell first exhibited with White Cube London in the fall of 2013, with great success. Now, he’s been invited to participate in another exhibition, titled The Carnival Series, in São Paulo. On view from February 18 – March 22, 2014, this show is scheduled to coincide with the Brazilian Carnival season.

This exhibition will feature a selection of works dating from the 1980s to the present. This includes ten Mirage Works, composed of layers of found papers, films and applied acrylic paint, which play on the artist’s persistent interest in spatial ambiguity and perception. The show will also feature a recent series of colorful collages that reference the female form. Three Light Knots will round out the presentation, their graceful forms suspended from the ceiling of the exhibition space. Made of Mylar, these sculptures are multi-dimensional, kinetic works that reflect, refract, and transmit light.

It’s great to see Larry Bell continue to get such international exposure. One of the most prominent artists to have come out of the 1960s Los Angeles art scene, Bell’s work is featured in major museums collections around the world, including: the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; the Museum Ludwig, Cologne; the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; the Tate Gallery, London; and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.

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.

Robert Graham Ceramics

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Graham_PosterWe are showing a selection of small, early ceramics by Robert Graham in the group exhibition Small is Beautiful. Produced in 1975, these works were first exhibited at the legendary Nicholas Wilder Gallery that same year. Wilder occupies an important place in the art history of Los Angeles – he was the first to show Bruce Nauman and also exhibited David Hockney, Ron Davis, John McCracken and John McLaughlin.

Graham is well known for his monumental bronze sculptures and civic monuments, and these small works continue his investigation of the female form. Curator Maurice Tuchman writes evocatively about Graham’s work in the 1982 catalogue for the exhibition of the Michael and Dorothy Blankfort Collection at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art:

The fine anatomical detail FGM029makes the figures powerfully believable; yet, at the same time, the sensuous surface treatment makes them extremely satisfying as objects whether the medium is bronze, sometimes gilded or painted, or porcelain. In relief or in the round, Graham’s figures and fragments embody a quality of near-hallucinatory expectancy – a sense of emerging from mist or out of time – that gives them a beauty and significance beyond their intrinsic qualities as representation or craft.

It’s good news that the Kayne Griffin Corcoran Gallery will be opening a show of works by Robert Graham from 1969-1974 on January 14. Including figurative sculpture in wax and bronze, as well as drawings in graphite and pastel, their exhibition will focus on the period that directly precedes the ceramic works we have on display. Graham’s lifelong pursuit of the human form is elegantly reflected in these two bodies of work, with these investigations continuing for the duration of his career.

Gray Column and Column Gray

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Now that I have works on display by DeWain Valentine in our current exhibition, Translucence, I have been thinking a lot about another show of his – From Start to Finish: DeWain Valentine’s Gray Column – on display at the Getty from late 2011 through early 2012. Organized by the Getty Conservation Institute as part of the Pacific Standard Time Initiative, From Start to Finish told the story of the Gray Column’s production, original installation, and subsequent conservation.

This monumental work, cast in polyester resin, was Translucence 019 copy 3commissioned by  Baxter Travenol Laboratories as part of a two-piece installation of columns, each 12 feet high, for their Illinois headquarters. However, a change in architectural plans made it necessary for the works to be displayed horizontally, as Two Gray Walls. It wasn’t until the Getty’s 2011-2012 exhibition that the artwork was installed vertically, as Valentine had always intended.

A related work by Valentine, called Column Gray, 1972-75, is on view at the gallery now. After noting the strong relationship between Column Gray and the larger Gray Column, I did a little research into the background of the two pieces and found out that Column Gray is actually a color study for its large-scale twin. Before Valentine began work on the full-size Gray Columns, he produced a series of maquettes, in order to experiment with various levels of pigmentation and opacity. Standing at just under two feet tall, Column Gray is one of these maquettes, demonstrating a slightly darker color palette and a more opaque base.

Looking Forward to Beyond Brancusi

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Kauffman_Pace_Portrait_cropped copyI’m often asked by visitors for recommendations to local gallery and museum shows. Although it hasn’t opened yet, I’m betting that the upcoming Norton Simon Museum exhibition, Beyond Brancusi: The Space of Sculpture, is going to be one to remember. Opening April 26th, the show will investigate how Constantin Brancusi influenced some of the great sculptors of the twentieth century through his innovative use of space and material.

I’ve always felt that the Norton Simon is a great local museum with an outstanding permanent collection, which they are drawing on exclusively for this show. Excitingly, they will be including two important works by gallery artists that were not previously on view at the museum. Larry Bell and Craig Kauffman will both have major pieces on display in the show, which will also include artists such as Henry Moore, Donald Judd, and Robert Irwin, among many other artists of note.

Larry Bell at Marcel Duchamp opening_1963_by Julian Wasser copyThe Larry Bell artwork that is featured in Beyond Brancusi is a 40 x 40 x 40 inch Untitled cube from 1969. As one of the largest cubes ever fabricated by the artist, this work is certainly deserving of more attention and I look forward to seeing how it will be installed. Craig Kauffman will be represented in the exhibition by an Untitled Loop, also from 1969. Constructed of a draped sheet of acrylic plastic and spray painted in contrasting blue and red, the work will cast reflections of colored light on its surrounding walls.

I’m really looking forward to the opening of this show, which was organized by Norton Simon Associate Curator Leah Lehmbeck. It’s going to be a great opportunity to see works that are rarely on view, from the permanent collection of one of my favorite museums.