Hunter Drohojowska-Philp on two Pacific Standard Time exhibitions currently on view in Santa Monica:
Untitled, 1969, Craig Kauffman. Acrylic lacquer on plastic. 73 x 50 x 9 in. Courtesy the Estate of Craig Kauffman and the Frank Lloyd Gallery. © The Estate of Craig Kauffman
When the most influential of the Dadaists, Marcel Duchamp, was given his first retrospective, it was not held in New York or Paris, but in 1963 at the Pasadena Art Museum. Duchamp wound up being a big influence on any number of L.A. artists who met him at his opening party and Craig Kauffman was one of them. He was friends with Walter Hopps who organized the show and so he knew Duchamp’s paintings of mechanistic shapes on glass. You can see the results in Kauffman’s paintings on seven foot tall sheets of clear Plexiglas. Their erotic element is explicit but their jellybean color-scheme add a jolly, playful twist. Sensual/Mechanical, as the show is called, pretty well describes them. The show is a mini-survey that includes Kauffman’s earlier abstract paintings and some drawings done on the pages of a Fredericks of Hollywood catalogue. It also includes the so-called “erotic thermometers,” works that established him as an originator of L.A.’s so-called Finish Fetish aesthetic. I have written catalog essays about Kauffman for Frank Lloyd so I am pretty familiar with the work but I’ve never seen these crucial transitional pieces because they haven’t been shown since 1981. This is an example of more of L.A.’s missing history brought to light.
Beatrice Wood, Footed Bowl, 1965, ceramic, 10 1/8 x 8 7/8 x 4 inches (w/o base), Gift of the Artist to the Ala Story Collection
I walked across the parking lot of Bergamot Station to see another of Duchamp’s converts: Beatrice Wood. In fact, he changed her life from one of privileged bystander to active participant in the avant garde of Paris. He invited her to pursue her drawings in his own studio and though her drawings were always rudimentary, though very charming, she learned about being an artist. The fullest expression of her talent was in ceramics, which she studied after moving to Ojai as a follower of Krishnamurti. Dedicated to Theosophy, she wore Indian saris and made goblets and bowls of fairly rough design but gleaming with lustrous glazes of golds, silvers and pastel hues. She lived to be 105, saying it was due to her love for chocolate and young men. Often, she is thought of as an eccentric character. This exhibition, however, proves the extent of her talent and those lustrous glazed objects seem to radiate a spiritual glow.