Frank Lloyd’s blog

Art, architecture and the people that I know.

Posts Tagged ‘Peter Shire


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bookcase2 copyPublications are an important part of what we do at the gallery – they provide us with another way to educate the public about the arts. I’ve written a lot about Sensual Mechanical: The Art of Craig Kauffman, our recent monograph on the life and work of Craig Kauffman, but that’s far from the only book we have available to visitors. In addition to books and catalogs produced by the gallery, we also offer selected museum publications. I try to make a point of displaying a variety of books that relate to our current exhibition or connect with what’s going on with the artists that we represent.

From the Peter Shire_Chairs Catalogue 2007beginning (our first gallery publication was a 1999 catalogue for Roseline Delise), my intent was to use the talent and resources at hand. The late Joe Molloy, a superb graphic designer and legendary typographer, designed most of our publications. His eye for composition, alignment, and legibility was always present, as the catalogues were designed to extend our graphic identity as well as present the artworks. I’ve also employed recognized authors to write the essays, including Kristine McKenna and Hunter Drohojowska-Philp. Another feature of the gallery publications has been the excellent photography of Anthony Cuñha and Alan Shaffer.

collaborations copyRight now, we have a selection of books related to the Getty’s Pacific Standard Time initiative, with exhibition catalogs including Clay’s Tectonic Shift at Scripps College, Phenomenal at the Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego, and our own Peter Voulkos in L.A.: Time Capsule. Other publications feature the work of artists we currently have on display at the gallery, such as Richard Shaw and Peter Shire. To see a more complete list of the books we offer, including our online publications, follow this link to the publications page of the Frank Lloyd Gallery website:

Peter Shire at SMC

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Santa Monica College is host to lots of art and culture.  Not just KCRW, my constant companion NPR radio station—something that I’ve mentioned before in this blog. Santa Monica College also is the home of the Broad Stage, another of the generous philanthropic gifts from Eli and Edythe Broad. In the same complex at the Broad Stage is the Pete and Susan Barrett Art Gallery. Within the last year and a half, the small college-and-community gallery has presented shows by Gwynn Murrill and Edith Baumann. Coming up soon, from November 2nd to December 4th, is a show by Peter Shire.

It’s a long distance between Echo Park and Hokkiado, but back in 1992 Peter Shire bridged that oceanic gap.  Not just by his travel, but in his sculpture. In a fantastic series of teapots, Peter melded stainless steel and ikebana, and mixed bolts with bamboo. As always, a post-modern constructivist sensibility was lightened by a sense of humor. This series of work, made in Japan in 1992, takes the familiar domestic object into the zany and bizarre world of Shire’s mechanical fantasy.

The playful seriousness and serious playfulness of Peter Shire was clearly evident. He continually re-invented the form of the teapot during the 1980s, and this series of works shows him at the height of his powers. Although it was decades ago that Peter Shire turned his attention to the form of the teapot, these constructed works show an artist’s delight in composition and construction.

Strong and stable at the base, the teapot-sculptures stand and support a variety of shapes. Next to the simple stainless steel planes are vibrant colored palette shapes and perforated swords. Who else would have thought to combine the hardness of the stainless steel with the organic and leafy bamboo? Who else would have kept his own color sense? Peter combined his own history with color and was pushed by Japanese colors—perhaps the deep color of a plum blossom or a leafy green.

Peter’s father, Hank, was also a consummate craftsman.  Shire’s attention to detail reflects that love of the finely crafted object. So that’s the mix we see in this work: a blend of something Eastern, something Western—and a mix of the nuts and bolts of construction with the lightness and air of bamboo. One can sense the delight and playful hand of the artist.

Written by Frank Lloyd

October 21, 2010 at 10:44 pm

Frank Gehry Selects

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A Group Show of Ceramics including work by John Mason, Ken Price, Peter Voulkos, Frank Gehry, Billy Al Bengston, Elsa Rady, Peter Shire, Glen Lukens, and George Ohr

When Frank Gehry took a ceramics class in college, it marked a turning point. His ceramics teacher at the University of Southern California, Glen Lukens, clearly recognized Gehry’s interest in architecture. Since Lukens was building a house designed by architect Raphael Soriano, he invited the young Gehry to visit the site one day. That’s when Gehry got excited about architecture: “I do know a lightbulb went off when I saw Soriano,” he recalled.

Since that time, Gehry has maintained his interest in ceramics, too. He made ceramic works during his student days at USC, and he has collected work by Glen Lukens, Ken Price and George Ohr. He has been friends with Peter Voulkos, John Mason, Billy Al Bengston and Elsa Rady for decades. He was the architect for the Ohr-O’Keefe Museum in Biloxi, Mississippi, as well, and that museum will hold a collection of pottery by George Ohr.

This exhibition, on view from July 24 through August 21, grew out of a conversation between Frank Lloyd and Frank Gehry. It started as a casual idea, and grew into an exhibition—works chosen by Gehry, by people that he knows and respects. It marks an opportunity to see a variety of approaches to ceramic art, in a selection by a world-class architect. The exhibit also demonstrates, once again, the integration of the ceramic arts into the larger world of Southern California art and architecture.

How to Present Art

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Sometimes the gallery seems to be an information kiosk.  Visitors ask all kinds of questions.  I’ve written about some behind-the-scenes topics on this blog in the past, including how our announcement photos are taken, and how I was introduced to ceramics.  But frequently I’ve also answered the question, “How did you become a dealer?”

I learned about the art business from lots of people, mostly dealers and artists in Los Angeles.  But, when pressed, I would have to say that the most influential was Jan Turner.  I had an entry-level job at her Janus Gallery, during the early 1980s.  I was the exhibition preparator.  It was during that time that I met Ed Moses, Peter Shire, and many other artists. It was at the Janus Gallery that I learned how to present an exhibition.

The Janus Gallery, in several locations over a fifteen-year period, exhibited paintings, sculpture, photography, and ceramics. The stylish and sophisticated Jan Turner showed paintings by Ed Moses and Carlos Armaraz, as well as the ceramic sculpture of Peter Shire, Elsa Rady, and Mineo Mizuno. This was in the context of the hippest architecture (Coy Howard designed the space), at openings that featured Hollywood’s “A” list, and to much critical acclaim. The risk taken was enormous. For one exhibit by Elsa Rady, architect Frederick Fisher designed the installation, special walls and fixtures were built, and the largest space in the gallery was dedicated to “Conjugations”—a series of works that grouped Rady’s vessels in oscillating, mutable forms.

From the beginning of the gallery, Turner promoted the work of Peter Shire. Shire’s playful architectonic works, rooted in constructivism but altered by bright color and a zany sense of humor, eventually became known internationally. His experiments with the teapot form bridged into the design world and their playful form adapted well in the postmodern world of architecture and design. So well, in fact, that they were featured in several magazines in the early 1980s, and one article caught the eye of Ettore Sottsass. Peter Shire was invited to join the Memphis Group, becoming the only American member of the European design team. Shire branched out into furniture design, worked in glass, and gained major sculptural commissions, but has since returned to ceramics on occasion.

The hallmarks of the Jan Turner years were exquisite presentation, and the paintings or sculpture were displayed in a perfect sequence, with just the right isolation. No expense was spared in lighting, pedestal design, or detail. As one might imagine, Jan presented herself with impeccable style as well—and still does. She was our guest at the opening of our Ed Moses show, with her daughter Aimee. I often think of how much I learned, over 25 years ago, from working in her gallery.

Written by Frank Lloyd

June 14, 2009 at 12:33 am

Peter Shire: On Color

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Peter Shire’s work is laced with color; bright hues and bold contrasts are essential elements in all of his sculpture. I’ve noted before that Peter’s large-scale sculptures are currently on view in West Hollywood. But they can also be seen in Elysian Park, and his work is prominent in the collection of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Today’s LACMA blog, Unframed, has a wonderful post about Shire’s work.

Jayme Odgers, a fellow artist and designer, thinks that the Shire’s experiences in Italy had a dramatic effect on the sculpture and the color. He says, “My sense is his contact with Sottsass Associati broke Peter wide open. As we know, Americans tend to have a more restrictive attitude toward artists/designers while the Europeans have an expansive viewpoint. European artists/designers are ‘allowed’ to paint, sculpt, design showrooms, furniture, fabrics, wall coverings, work in glassware, or whatever they deem necessary to fulfill their creative wishes. Once Peter got involved with Ettore Sottsass, Aldo Cibic, Marco Zanini and their peers he embraced their expansive viewpoint and enlarged his worldview exponentially to include sculpture, furniture and beyond.”

My own perception of the color includes the key that the peach is Peter’s favorite fruit. On the peach, yellow transitions to a rosy red, with the leaves as a green accent. We had a conversation about color:

Frank: Where does the color come from?

Peter: People always say, oh, you live in a Mexican neighborhood; the sort of Caribbean colors, Mexican colors, and that’s always served well for press purposes, and sounds good.

Frank: Is there another story?

Peter: My Dad was trained as an artist, and actually graduated as an illustrator. He was a natural illustrator, a natural draftsman. He graduated in 1932 from Pratt. My Dad went to art school, and he studied a thing called the Munsell color wheel, and he had all these diagrams. He was a very academic guy, a very diligent guy. And so when they painted our house, he and the architect selected the colors, and actually most of the colors, these really outré colors, came, first, there. And they built a modernist house, redwood with turquoise trim. The kitchen was grey, whitish chartreuse, salmon on the cabinets-on the lowers-a pea-green counter, Formica counter, and it sort of went off that way, with these other colors. My room was salmon, and my brother’s was a sort of Cerulean blue. And I think the redwood and the turquoise with the chartreuse thrown into the kitchen, the rest of it was wood, and the floors were asphalt and a kind of maroon.

Los Angeles Times, article, November 2007
Los Angeles Times, photo gallery, November 2007

Written by Frank Lloyd

January 28, 2009 at 11:22 pm


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Visitors to my gallery have often asked, “How did you get into ceramics?” It’s a good question, and I have a simple answer. My friend Rob Forbes turned me on to ceramics, when we were college buddies at U.C. Santa Cruz. Rob’s passion for pots was something he shared with me, as I was a painter. He gave me my first (and still the only) hands-on demonstration at a local studio. I made my only ceramic artwork, a small commemorative tile with the name of a legend in baseball, Roberto Clemente.

Today I recalled this because of the way we learn about art–it’s often a shared experience, a way of generously expanding our perceptions or investigating the world. My friendships with artists are probably the biggest reward of owning the gallery, as the artists continually point out the ways they see the world. Their natural storytelling, pointedly ironic anecdotes, and active guides to attention give meaning and relevance to our time together.

Since that early exposure from my pal Rob, I’ve had lots of help in learning about ceramics–almost all of it from Adrian Saxe, John Mason, Peter Voulkos, Peter Shire, Tony Marsh and all of the artists at my gallery. I’m about as lucky as any ceramics student could be. But, I have to give credit where credit is due (and Rob jokingly reminds me of that). Forbes continued with ceramics, earning an MFA and teaching art and design, before embarking on a successful career in the world of business. As founder of Design Within Reach, he became worldwide design maven, and now he has a new venture called Studio Forbes.

One of his many contributions to the world of design was to re-publish George Nelson‘s How to See: A Guide to Reading Our Man-Made Environment. If you can get a copy of this, it’s a book that can change your world-view. As Forbes notes in his introduction, Nelson’s “…active mind and perpetual appetite for seeing and learning kept him engaged with the world, seeing the results of modern industrial society.”

Written by Frank Lloyd

December 23, 2008 at 1:55 am

Street Life

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Richard Settle

One block of Santa Monica Boulevard in West Hollywood has a lively new median strip. Towering, colorful steel sculptures by Peter Shire are positioned amid the grass and palm trees. One can view them from a car, traveling from either direction, just a block east of Doheny. Or, you can park and walk—along a decomposed granite pathway. It’s exciting to see these crazy constructivist pieces, as they assert their presence on the busiest street in West Hollywood. What’s amazing–in addition to their colorful, playful nature—is the way that Shire’s sculptures can brightly and humorously deal with the street life. I’ve been told that the temporary exhibit will be held over for a couple of months, because the City of West Hollywood has had such a great response.

Driving in Los Angeles from district to district, I can often observe the clash and merger of cultures and colors. In the heart of the area called Echo Park, the Peter Shire studio is easy to find. Green vertical gates of welded and painted steel mark the entrance. The tall metal portals are a vibrant yellow-green, a hue somewhere between lime and chartreuse. It’s a first taste of the distinctive color palette that runs throughout Peter’s work. After driving through the brightly colored gates, I park in an asphalt lot, next to towering painted structures. The bold, graphic sculptures quickly introduce Peter’s playful sensibility. It’s a short walk to the steps. I climb to an interior courtyard, full of potted plants, angled awnings, gurgling fountains–and more sculpture. Through a huge industrial roll-up doorway, I can see Peter. He’s on the phone, and at the same time, making an espresso.

Peter looks accessible, like the sculpture and furniture he makes. He’s dressed just like his work. His bright yellow shirt hangs over baggy black and white checkered shorts. In the years that I have known Peter, I have seen a wide array of shorts and t-shirts, sweaters and mufflers, jackets and sandals. But it’s always a combination of stripes and solids, with high-keyed color next to black and white. Even the socks (sometimes intentionally mis-matched) are bright stripes.

Over three decades ago, Peter Shire turned his attention to the form of the teapot. He tinkered and played with planes of color, blocks of form, improbable angles and pieces of fruit. He made reference to a multitude of things that he loved and kept a delightful, daring sense of humor–along with an intuitive yet thoroughly informed sense of design.

For the past two years, he’s been toying with another common part of our everyday domestic life: the chair. Once again, he addresses something totally human: a chair, seated posture, and a place of rest. But Peter injects his love of motion, a sense of humor and a dose of street culture. His world is a global mixture of post-modern design and Los Angeles popular culture; he mixes and samples from Italy to Echo Park. The new chairs are a blend of architecture, color and wry, irreverent humor. Drawing also on his experiences as part of the international Memphis group during the 1980s, Shire challenges good taste and the dominance of modernism in design.

Peter Shire has been described as a Renaissance man, a potter, a storyteller, an architect, and even a toy designer. Peter has also been characterized as a quintessential Los Angeles artist, woven into the fabric of the Echo Park neighborhood where he was born in 1947 and still lives.

Written by Frank Lloyd

December 21, 2008 at 12:54 am