Laguna Art Museum is a museum of American art with a focus on the art of California. Its purpose is to provide the public with exposure to art and to promote understanding of the role of art and artists in American culture through collection, conservation, exhibition, research, scholarship and education. Working within the tradition of the oldest cultural institution in Orange County, Laguna Art Museum documents regional art and places it in a national context. The Museum maintains its historic ties to the community and is responsive, accessible, and relevant to the area’s diverse population.
Created by LagunaArtMuseum on Apr 30, 2009
Last updated: 08/10/11 at 03:50 PM
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Jeremy Fish United States, born 1974 Acrylic on wood, 60 x 30 inches Museum purchase with funds from the Mark and Hilarie Moore Family Trust Everything Is Going to Be OK? by Jeremy Fish, a work that was in the artist’s 2009 Laguna Art Museum exhibition Weathering the Storm. It is one part of a five-section mural that addresses the struggles of contemporary life, especially as it pertains to the United States and its position as a world power. The work is acrylic on wood and measures 30 x 60 inches. It depicts an upside-down umbrella in which two amorphous figures are seated while tossed around by a stormy sea. The umbrella—on which a skull is depicted—is encircled by two pairs of enormous hands. Both the hands and the umbrella are key elements in other works by Fish. In some, the hands and the umbrella are protective and reassuring. In others, such as this, the umbrella is upended and tossed about, and the hands are reaching outward. Grace Kook-Anderson described the hands in Everything Is Going to Be OK? as “the hands of greed that have sunk the economy and threaten the welfare of the two figures who, in spite of the horrendous storm, sit patiently waiting it out.” Fish, who was born in Albany, New York in 1974, makes his home in the North Beach area of San Francisco. Weathering the Storm, at Laguna Art Museum, was his first museum exhibition.
Ali Smith United States, born 1976 Oil on canvas, 50 x 70 inches Museum purchase with funds from the Mark and Hilarie Moore Family Trust Born in 1976, was one of forty-five painters under age forty-five featured in the Los Angeles Times in December 2007. In a 2008 review in Artillery magazine Elizabeth Anderson-Kempe wrote that Smith’s “large-scale paintings are explosive, forcing an awareness of their materiality and of the artist’s process. Smith’s brushstrokes are big and assured and have a raw physical quality. The paint is densely layered an in some cases protrudes from the canvas as if Smith unloaded a full tube of paint and then shaped it into blobs and swirling disks.” Smith has a BS from Skidmore College and an MFA from California State University, Long Beach. She lives and works in Long Beach.
Jeff Peters United States, born 1975 Oil on canvas, 81 x 81 inches Peters is an artist from the Museum's backyard, having graduated from the Laguna College of Art and Design in 1998. He finds inspiration in nature, creating ethereal works of flowering trees, snakes, fruit, and sky. In the luminous blue painting Juniper Oil, 2008, the lacy pattern of tree limbs is infused with a blinding white light radiating from the center of the composition. The composition lacks a horizon line which lends itself to a feeling of floating in the space.
Shepard Fairey United States, born 1970 Serigraph on hand-made paper, 18 x 24 inches Gift of the artist Shepard Fairey, a contemporary artist, graphic designer, and illustrator who emerged from the skateboarding scene, was given by the artist in tribute to the Museum’s summer exhibition titled In the Land of Retinal Delights: The Juxtapoz Factor. The Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston identifies him as "today's best known and most influential street artist." Fairey, who was born in 1970, graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design. As an outspoken social critic, in the work he makes critical observations about the inherent risks of capitalism. Rather than seeing the dollar symbol as one of trust, instead it is a symbol of greed and corruption. Fairey gained national attention in 2008 for his Barack Obama campaign posters—Hope, Vote, and Change.
Andy Moses United States, 1962 Acrylic on concave canvas, 40 x 96 inches Museum purchase with funds from Murray and Ruth Gribin The undulating striations in Andy Moses’ paintings allude to multiple horizon lines. As the title signifies, Reflecting the Dawn, with its opalescent pink, pearl, and blue hues, calls out that contemplative time of day when the sun is beginning to rise. In essence, Moses' striated shapes congeal into the horizon lines, completely defeating what a normal horizon line would do, which is to separate ground from sky. The effect of earth, sea, and sky coalescing is further enhanced by his concave canvas that puts the viewer at the center of the panorama. With this series of paintings, Moses aspires to impart the same sense of moment and envelopment that you feel when watching the “Star Gate” sequence in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) (1). Kubrick created the colored lights and sense of motion in this sequence by using slit-scan photography of the moving images of paintings. The shots of various nebula-like phenomena were made from images of colored paints and chemicals in a tank of water, a device called a “cloud tank,” in a dark room (2). Moses was born in Santa Monica in 1962 and attended CalArts in the late 1970s, after which he moved to New York. He finally returned to Los Angeles in 2000. Andy grew up amongst some of Los Angeles’ most interesting artists, including his father, Ed Moses; Billy Al Bengston; Craig Kauffman; Robert Irwin; Kenny Price; and Ed Ruscha. He has a keen sense of art history and a keen sense of how his work fits in that history. 1. Andy Moses, lecture at Bonhams and Butterfields, Los Angeles, July 30, 2009. 2. Wikipedia, “2001: A Space Odyssey,” www.wikipedia.org/wiki/2001_(film). Related Links:
Chris Wilder United States, born 1957 Synthetic fur on canvas, 96 x 120 inches Gift of the Kimberly Light Collection 2010.006.011 Chris Wilder was born in Long Beach in 1957. Wilder attended both the San Francisco Art Institute (1985) and the California Institute of the Arts (1988). Like colleague Mike Kelley, Wilder was involved in the Los Angeles punk music scene in the late 1980s at the same time was making pieces like his UFO Sighting series. Wilder’s work from this series involves pairing one of the main tenets of Conceptualism, that the “idea” is more important than its physical manifestation, with the notion of UFO’s and the general lack of physical support, or evidence, supporting the idea. In newer work like White Monochrome Fur Painting, Wilder is more blatant in his reference to the pursuits of high modernism in painting. He uses glib, but surprisingly effective, common, cheap fur to make a comment on minimalist painting.
Alex Couwenberg United States, born 1967 Acrylic on canvas, 72 x 66 inches Gift of the artist Born in 1967, graduated from the Art Center School of Design in Pasadena and received an MFA from Claremont Graduate School. His mentor at Claremont was hard-edge classicist Karl Benjamin, and Couwenberg was immediately drawn to the mid century movement of nonobjective abstract painting, which Peter Frank describes as a “new generation of non-objective abstract artists,” who were inspired by artists such as Benjamin and Lorser Feitelson. At a 2007 exhibition at Dolby Chadwick Gallery in San Francisco, Echo Park was shown alongside another work, Silver Lake, which was subsequently purchased by the Crocker Art Museum.
Allison Schulnik United States, born 1978 Oil on canvas, 96 x 136 inches Museum purchase with funds from the Mark and Hilarie Moore Family Trust Allison Schulnik was born in 1978 and raised in San Diego, California. Schulnik’s father was an architect from the Bronx and her mother was a plein-air painter from British Columbia, both of whom studied at Pratt Institute in Brookyln, New York, in the late 1960s. Schulnik studied and performed many forms of dance before receiving a bachelor of fine arts degree in experimental animation in 2000 from California Institute of the Arts in Valencia, California. She studied under noted filmmaker and fellow artist Jules Engel, who founded the school’s experimental animation department in 1970. By 2000 she had created three award-winning stop-motion and claymation films that would later influence her heavily layered paintings and animated, hand-worked sculptures that are reminiscent of the clay characters in her films (1). Schulnik says, “I paint rejects, misfits and their landscapes. My fixation on these characters is not intended to exploit deficiencies, but to find valor in adversity. There is something honest and true about imperfection. Something real about the shunned outcast … someone who chooses to stay outside the realm of normal society, or is forced there against his will. (2)” The theatrical elements and movement evident in her painting can be traced to one of the artist’s major influences, the Belgian expressionist painter James Ensor; hence, the title of her painting Performance (for James Ensor) from 2006. The artist notes that this painting was inspired and influenced by The Fight (1896), one of her favorite paintings by Ensor. However, the artist also notes that the ghostly figures in Performance might also be more of a personal celebration of the characters whom she refers to as “the Visitors.” Schulnik adds, “They are seemingly alternate/bizarro world creatures existing between the animal-like and otherworldly. Presented in the midst of an extravagant and sadistic dance, almost like a choreography composed by Pina Bausch, Jan Svankmajer, and George A. Romero (if they ever would've had the chance of working together), it is unclear if the dance is a theatrical composition or a violent reality … one thing seems detectable: the rapture they feel in their performance. (3)” ~ Jacqueline Bunge, Curator of Education at Laguna Art Museum 1. Robert Enright, “Brilliant Rejects: An Interview with Allison Schulnik,” in Border Crossings, Volume 28, September 2009, p. 84-91. 2. Allison Schulnik, email message to Jacqueline Bunge, Thursday, September 17, 2009. 3. Ibid.
Kendell Carter United States, 1970 14-carat gold-plated brass and found object, 13 x 29 x 1/4 inches Museum purchase with funds from the Mark and Hilarie Moore Family Trust In Mark, Carter pulls together visual elements of street culture with the stylized nameplate necklace. Hung from the hook is a hooded sweatshirt, or “hoodie.” The nameplate necklace and hoodie can be seen as two aesthetic markers in the realm of hip-hop culture. Carter gives the nameplate a heightened level of glamour and design by enlarging and removing it from its everyday hip-hop context. Not only can Mark can be seen as a name, it also can be understood for its vernacular meaning, “making a visible trace on an object.” In slang, mark can be synonymous with sucker, and in street culture, a graffiti tag is called a “mark.” Through this work, Carter reveals similarities of street art and high design, mashing up the aesthetic, cultural, and social qualities of these seemingly different worlds. Carter often compares hip-hop culture to that of the baroque. Artists such as Thomas Hirschhorn and Kehinde Wiley also use excess in different ways to comment on greater social and political issues. Creating a dialogue between these design elements, Carter invites an open conversation on race and class. Kendell Carter was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, in 1970. He received a BFA from Atlanta College of Art in 1994 and an MFA from California State University, Long Beach in 2006. ~ Grace Kook-Anderson, Curator of Exhibitions at Laguna Art Museum
Travis Somerville United States, born 1963 Oil, oil stick, collage on blueprints, mounted on canvas, 94 x 151 inches; 106 x 163 inches framed Museum purchase with funds provided by the Contemporary Collectors Council, Jeffrey Dauber, Dan Dodt, Jess Ghannam, Becky Elkins, Nathan Larramendy Gallery, and Catharine Clark Gallery Born in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1963, Travis Somerville now lives and works in San Francisco, where he attended the San Francisco Art Institute in 1984. His large-scale oil paintings on paper mounted to canvas incorporate collage and present images of political and cultural icons associated with the history of the South, especially the legacy of the Civil War, which continues to be a leitmotif in his paintings and sculpture. He often includes images of Ku Klux Klan hoods, Confederate flags, and whiskey bottles, depicting the South with the suggestion of idiot drunkenness that quickly turns dangerous and menacing. The buildup of collaged material often incorporates items that evoke a sense of history, such as the inclusion of family photographs, accounting ledgers, and maps. This work was included in Laguna Art Museum’s 2003 exhibition Whiteness: A Wayward Construction, an exhibition that explored the identity politics of whiteness in the United States. Somerville often evokes negative representations of the American South in his works as a way to re-envision the region and its culture—a tactic explored by several artists of his generation in the 1990s, exemplified by Kara Walker’s charged use of antebellum slave imagery in which she depicts slaves and slave owners as being complicit in the creation of a narrative for a heinous time in history that has become romanticized in different ways for both sides. It is a way of taking ownership of destructive imagery and reshaping it with a contemporary viewpoint. However, Somerville’s unique position is that he is “white.” His approach to the subject would not have been possible without a vocabulary built up in previous decades from civil rights, feminism, and multiculturalism. Ultimately, whiteness in the setting of his American South is not biology, but ideology. ~ Tyler Stallings, Director of Sweeney Art Gallery at University of California, Riverside
Suzanne Williams United States, 1942 Oil on canvas, 18 x 18 inches From the Stuart and Judy Spence Collection, donated April 1999 by Judy and Stuart Spence In many ways, painter Suzanne Williams is a more idiosyncratic artist than her celebrated —and reviled—husband, Robert. Emerging from the same milieus of the Ed “Big Daddy” Roth studio and 1960s counterculture, Williams’ precise, geometric oil paintings intersect with such late-modernist movements as op art, hard-edge abstraction, and the revival in the 1970s of interest in art deco design, but belong wholly in none of these specific camps. Instead, each of the artist’s meticulously rendered visions demands to be accepted at face value, whether it summons associations with the machine-fetishizing futurists and dadaists, such as Francis Picabia; architectural draftsmanship and Bauhaus design; Hopi pottery; or psychedelic art of the 1960s. Some of the immediate associations generated by Pierced Red Square are automotive—the color scheme of candy-apple red and chrome-like variations of gray, the six-cylinder schema, and the Von Dutch style pinstripe arabesques. But Williams’ ambiguously precise compositions can operate on multiple levels simultaneously. With a slight shift of perspective, you can view Pierced Red Square as a landscape seen through curtains in front of a balcony, the series of triangular value-scale black-and-white gradations coalescing into a horizonless seascape. Then again, if you consider the title, the image reverts to a two-dimensional pattern, with the crimson and gray undergoing a figure/ground flip—the arterial hue of the violated geometric ideal and the steely metallic pointy-ness of the piercing spearhead shapes move to the foreground. Then you might notice the pinstripes are asymmetrical, with two differently oriented symmetrical pairs bracketed by wholly different linear patterns, and start seeing a resemblance to the golden record that the Voyager spacecraft carried into space—an association which isn’t as far-out as it sounds. The final impression Williams’ work leaves you with is one of a mysterious, but emphatically deliberate, encoding of information; it is a complex, indeterminate abstract image that presses into your consciousness with a weight of undeniable intelligence and craft. ~ Doug Harvey, Artist, Curator, and Writer
Russell Crotty United States, born 1956 Pencil and ink on paper From the Stuart and Judy Spence Collection, donated April 1999 by Judy and Stuart Spence Russell Crotty has been working on book drawings since about 1986 and considers these as an ongoing drawing that continues to this day. Like many of his sketchbooks, Crotty takes the title of the work from the text on the cover, and he gives these pseudo-publications, called California Homegrounds, arbitrary issue and volume numbers. The drawings inside the sketchbook are sometimes in a grid, and they often show figures drawn in simple sticklike silhouettes and energetic lines that express the waves. Crotty prefers these particular sketchbooks to be handled and weathered over time, alluding to a sense of romanticism—that of an artist and nomadic surfer capturing the seascape. In the 1990s, Crotty was painting and only working on his sketchbooks on the side, but these pencil and ink drawings on paper were receiving stronger recognition alongside the works of Mike Kelley, Raymond Pettibon, and Jim Shaw, other cartoon-based artists. Another devoted practice for Crotty is astronomy, with which he makes connections to surfing, his other passion. Both of these interests were solidified when Crotty was just thirteen, and in both these subjects, observation of the environment and the atmosphere is key to his practice. Russell Crotty was born in San Rafael, California, in 1956. He received a BFA from the San Francisco Art Institute in 1978 and an MFA from the University of California, Irvine in 1980. ~ Grace Kook-Anderson, Curator of Exhibitions at Laguna Art Museum
Ross Rudel United States, born 1960 Wood, fabric and glue, 12 x 13 x 10 inches Gift of the Richard H. Mumper Estate The craftsmanship central to the sculptural work of Ross Rudel—most conspicuously the facility and elegance of his woodcarving technique—can sometimes overshadow the other formal and conceptual subtleties at play, a fact that is not lost on the artist. His bulbous, biomorphic abstractions are rooted in minimalist geometric ideals and material specificity, but they deliberately impede their easy absorption as reductionist archetypes by making tactile and metaphorical allusions to the human body, as well as to other organic phenomena such as vegetables, clouds, sea anemones, and paranormal geological formations. Untitled #122 comes from Rudel’s most emphatic period of visceral subversion, a period during which a few works in a series would emphasize an almost lewd corporeality that skewed the reading of the less confrontational works. This particular piece is a prime example. In spite of its gourd-like outline and hues, it possesses what the artist refers to as “a wet tee-shirt quality” deriving from its distinctly orificial contours, its slick-looking surface, the explosive cascade of yellowish carpenter’s glue drizzles, and the manner of its presentation—hung just above eye level to ensure a literal “in your face” attitude. But the single most erotically insinuating formal device of #122 is Rudel’s use of tightly stretched material that covers the form to simulate skin, a common feature in his work of the early 1990s. Rudel approached this technique as an aspect of his artistic process, as a form of personal ritual. When the material was rawhide this process would sometimes take many hours of sustained physical exertion. In other instances the faux-skin possessed hermetic personal associations—as is the case for #122, which is encased in a section of discarded bed sheet. ~ Doug Harvey, Artist, Curator, and Writer
Raymond Pettibon United States, born 1938 Ink on paper, 14 x 10 inches From the Stuart and Judy Spence Collection, donated April 1999 by Judy and Stuart Spence Raymond Pettibon was born in Tucson, Arizona, in 1957 but was raised in Hermosa Beach, California. In 1977 he earned a degree in economics from the University of California, Los Angeles. After working as a high school math teacher for a short time, he decided to pursue a career as a commercial artist. Noted for his drawing techniques, Pettibon started creating artist books—black and white, Xerox-copied and stapled pamphlets. Pettibon filled these pages with drawings and text that alluded to bizarre narratives inspired by pop-culture sources such as comics, cartoons, television, and books. In the mid-1970s, his brother Greg Ginn, guitarist for the now legendary punk band Black Flag, formed the record label SST Records. Pettibon became the record label’s unofficial artist, and he illustrated the covers of records and concert posters for popular bands such as Black Flag, the Minutemen, and Sonic Youth. Since the early 1980s, Pettibon has been an influential figure not only in the art community but also the punk and counterculture art scene (1). In a 2009 interview, Pettibon comments on his use of pop-culture icons, such as surfers, baseball players, and even the cartoon character Gumby. “There’s a reason why Gumby in particular works so well for me,” he says. “It does relate to the way I make work, which has a lot to do with words and reading in particular. Gumby is a kind of metaphor for how I work. He actually goes into the book, into a biography or historical book, and interacts with real figures from the past and he becomes part of it, and I tend to do that in my work. That’s why Gumby is a particularly important figure to me. (2)” Pettibon also mentions that he uses characters, such as Gumby, to represent the artist—a substitute for his own self-portrait within his images and text. This suggests that Pettibon’s works are both a personal and revealing expression of his own life and experience. ~ Jacqueline Bunge, Curator of Education at Laguna Art Museum 1. Michael Kimmelman, “The Underbelly of an Artist,” in The New York Times, October 9, 2005. 2. PBS, “Art:21 Raymond Pettibon Biography,” PBS Documentary Films, http://www.pbs.org/art21/artists/pettibon/index.html, Accessed September 2, 2009.
Sandow Birk United States, born 1964 Oil on canvas, 37-1/2 x 63 inches From the Stuart and Judy Spence Collection, donated April 1999 by Judy and Stuart Spence Sandow Birk was born in 1962 in Detroit, Michigan, and raised in Orange County, California. In 1988, Birk received a BFA degree from Otis Art Institute of Parsons School of Design, Los Angeles, California, and he studied art in France and England in the early 1980s. Although well traveled, Birk mainly centers his artwork on California culture, having been influenced by his own California experience. Many of his early works were created with a focus on urban Los Angeles and its social and political issues, as well as inner-city violence, gangs, graffiti, surfing, and skateboarding, which make up the melting pot of different cultures that coexist in Los Angeles (1). In the painting North Swell (Washington Crossing the Delaware) from 1990, Birk references the iconic oil painting Washington Crossing the Delaware (1851) by German American artist Emanuel Leutze. The original painting depicts Washington’s crossing of the Delaware River on December 25, 1776, during the Revolutionary War. Birk comments, “The idea that I hoped to convey in this painting was that surfing as an activity was not a teenage fad or teen activity from the 1950s Gidget years, but rather that surfing is an activity that comes out of the long history of the sea—the history of fishing, exploring, whaling and sea battles. Surfers are more like mariners in that they have a strong knowledge of weather and the sea, of tides and swells, much like other mariners. (2)” By using a recognizable composition and incorporating aspects from a well-known painting, Birk hoped that the viewer would make a connection between the historical painting and the contemporary one, linking past and present, and, more importantly, make a connection between maritime history and the art of surfing (3). ~ Jacqueline Bunge, Curator of Education at Laguna Art Museum 1. Sandow Birk, The Depravities of War (Santa Ana, California: Grand Central Press, 2007), p. 90. 2. Sandow Birk, email message to Jacqueline Bunge, Thursday, September 17, 2009. 3. Tyler Stallings, “The 80s and 90s: Surfing as Metephor,” in Surf Culture: The Art History of Surfing. (Laguna Beach, California: Laguna Art Museum in association with Ginko Press, Inc., 2002), p. 185.
Craig Stecyk United States, born 1950 Clock, sheet steel, neon tubing, and oil, 36 inches diameter From the Stuart and Judy Spence Collection, donated April 1999 by Judy and Stuart Spence Northwest Passage, a piece of Craig Stecyk’s 1989 installation with the same name at Meyers/Bloom Gallery in Los Angeles, references the search for the legendary passageway between East and West that captured the imagination of western man for almost five hundred years. The title has an ironic twist, as it refers both to man’s attempts to conquer the world for his own gain and to the slow disappearance of migratory birds. Migrating birds are no longer able to find a natural route northwest to their ancestral breeding grounds because man has destroyed that passage. Ironically, in a recent Los Angeles Times article, writer Kim Murphy points out that due to global warming, the passage has become navigable: The fabled Northwest Passage, linking the Atlantic and Pacific across the top of Canada, saw periods of ice-free navigation in 2007 and 2008. Forecasts anticipate 120 or more largely ice-free transit days a year by the century’s end. And last year’s record-breaking ice melt for the first time opened both the Northwest Passage and the Northeast Passage, above Russia, for several weeks (1). Stecyk was born in Santa Monica, California, in 1950 and received his MFA from California State University, Los Angeles, in 1986. Exploring just about every media you can think of, including filmmaking, writing, graffiti, sculpture, painting, and installation, Stecyk finds inspiration in popular culture, often using or commenting on its vernacular. He has been a key influence on the burgeoning skate, surf, and car culture over the last thirty years. 1. Kim Murphy, “A New Route Beyond the Last Frontier,” Los Angeles Times, October 11, 2009
Bruce Richards United States, born 1948 Oil on canvas, 36 x 29 inches Gift of The Mark and Hilarie Moore Collection Bruce Richards’ paintings are defiantly symbolic, encoding deep charges of information in a stripped-down version of the language-entangled, imagistic surrealism of René Magritte. At the same time, Richards places unusual emphasis on the titles of his pieces, constructing them to trigger and direct the viewer’s associative response to the allegorical content of the images. The title of this painting, Paradise Lost, refers to John Milton’s epic seventeenth-century poem that details mankind’s fall from grace in the story of Adam and Eve, as well as Satan’s unsuccessful anti-hierarchical war on heaven and subsequent mission to introduce sin to Earth. The painted image, however, references a different seventeenth-century manifestation of mythological content—Charles Perrault’s definitive version of the ancient Cinderella folktale in his collection Tales and Stories of the Past with Morals: Tales of Mother Goose (1697), which first introduced the now-iconic glass slipper. Situated in an iconically centered composition, Richards’ glass slipper appears to hover high in the stratosphere, emphasizing its role as a transformational talisman—the patently impractical haute couture accessory that effects the revolutionary makeover of the disparaged proletarian servant girl into royalty. Held aloft, it seems to have the quality of a beacon, a universal ideal to which every oppressed underling should aspire—kind of like the lottery, or the American dream. Considered in the context of its title, the image takes on a more ominous import: Is the glass slipper hovering, or is this, in fact, a freeze-frame as the object of desire plummets to its predestined rendezvous with density? ~ Doug Harvey, Artist, Curator, and Writer
Chris Wilder United States, born 1957 Ultimate blue paint, serigraph, modeling paste, enamel on canvas, variable Gift of Judy and Stuart Spence, South Pasadena, California Chris Wilder was born in Long Beach, California, in 1957 and received his MFA from California Institute of the Arts in 1988. Ultimate Experience, UFO Sighting, Malibu (1989) is a complex piece by Wilder which draws from his surfing youth in Southern California and his art world training at CalArts. Recognized as one of the most progressive programs in the country, CalArts puts a heavy emphasis on conceptual art theory and practice, which Wilder deftly makes grand fun of in Ultimate Experience, UFO Sighting, Malibu. Wilder links conceptual art with UFO sightings: They both are about the idea, although often there is little physical evidence to support it—or, as the saying goes with conceptualism, it is the idea that’s important, not the object. As with UFOs, where physical evidence is incredibly important, but always questionable, the idea looms ridiculously large. Wilder takes the theme a step further by quoting a letter to the editor that Ed Ruscha wrote to Surfer magazine (1976, Vol. 17, #4, page 24) about a piece titled “The Curse of the Chumash,” which Craig Stecyk wrote under the name Carlos Izan for the magazine in 1976. The words on the canvas of Wilder’s Ultimate Experience: “The Curse of the Chumash is a conceptual masterwork. The visuals were excellent. Except … the only question is … just what relationship has Rick Griffin to Malibu? Please clarify. Perhaps a Bart Bolin painting would be more in order.” ~ E. Ruscha, Hollywood, California The quote from Ruscha’s letter comments on a painting that Surfer magazine commissioned Griffin to make for the article. Griffin was supposed to paint a panorama of Malibu Point with Chumash encampments; instead, he shockingly painted a steaming nude draped over the landscape. Griffin’s painting is seen as a metaphor for the “virginal” Chumash culture, a nuance lost on most readers. The irony is that Ruscha, whom is often referred to as a seminal pop and conceptual artist, most probably did not get Griffin’s metaphor, the idea behind the piece. For the most part, and in keeping with Wilder’s Ultimate Experience, this idea of the Chumash culture exists as a modern construct. Ultimately, Wilder’s Ultimate Experience pokes fun at, and questions, our belief systems and what they are predicated on. ~ Bolton Colburn, Director at Laguna Art Museum
Allen Ruppersberg United States, 1944 Mixed media, 25 1/2 x 23 1/4 inches From the Stuart and Judy Spence Collection, donated April 1999 by Judy and Stuart Spence Allen Ruppersberg remains perhaps the most under-recognized member of a generation of West Coast conceptual-based artists that includes John Baldessari, Bruce Nauman, and Ed Ruscha. From his early-1970s forays in hotel and café management as art—what would come to be known as “relational aesthetics”—to his recent interactive collage installation You and Me or The Art of Give and Take, Ruppersberg’s art has been steeped in all aspects of popular culture, from Hollywood ephemera to record album covers to pinup calendars to forgotten educational movies, all of which he collects with pack-rat intensity. Most notable, though, has been his engagement with books—he once transcribed the entirety of Oscar Wilde’s novel The Picture of Dorian Gray onto a series of twenty large canvases. The Sky Above, the Mud Below (Author Pennants) is from a series of collage works created by Ruppersberg for a show with the James Cocoran Gallery in 1988, using low-budget advertising vernacular—rubber stamps, the kind of eye-catching triangular flags you might see in a used car lot, and a grab bag of authors’ names spelled out with a Dymo-tape label maker—to create what he refers to as a “coming attractions” work. The title (as well as the appropriated logo) is taken from an obscure 1961 documentary about latter-day explorers venturing deep into New Guinea’s cannibal backwoods. Each of these telegraphic shout-outs can be seen as symbolic bite-sized appropriations of entire authorial personas—absorbing Balzac’s or Dostoevsky’s mana without having to do all that laborious carving. ~ Doug Harvey, Artist, Curator, and Writer
Tim Ebner United States, born 1953 Acrylic on canvas, 73 x 57 1/2 inches Gift of Dr John Menkes in memory of Joan Simon Menkes Born in Dayton, Ohio in 1953, Tim Ebner now lives and works in Los Angeles. He received his B.F.A. in 1979 and M.F.A. in 1982, both from the California Institute of the Arts. Graduating not too long after Matt Mullican, who is also represented in this book, they are both from of a generation of artists who came to fruition in the 1980s. Much of their work and those of their colleagues, such as Allan McCollum, imparted a fascination with the politics of aesthetics and how meaning is produced. Their work tended to be cool, less about personal expression, and more about exploring the role and function of art in society. Like McCollum’s Plaster Surrogates, discussed later in this volume, Ebner’s slicks, industrial looking panels, are also surrogates for embodying conflicting ideas on abstraction. In a critical manner, they take to the nth degree the commercialization of abstraction by employing industrial materials, but they also pay homage to the Finish Fetish artists, such as John McCracken’s own resin-coated “planks.” In fact, this movement from the 1960s was one of the first identified as having risen out of Southern California, due in part to the use of new resins in both the aerospace and surfboard industries. In his work from the 1980s, Ebner recognized how the idealistic work of late modernism, culminating in pure abstraction, had evolved into design concepts, to the point that such work became identified with being safe and unobtrusive. In fact, such work had shifted from the confines of the avant-garde to the building lobbies of corporations. In Ebner’s work, the pieces are carefully and laboriously executed, each monochromatic section produced through multiple layers of clear or colored resin. The results exude an air of polished mass production, which perfectly mimics the processes of commercial art while actually mocking it. Beginning in 1992, as if having arrived at his end game, Ebner changed his artistic direction, developing a more naturalistic and figurative painting style with a subject matter of animals, such as bears and tigers, in fanciful poses. ~ Tyler Stallings, Director of Sweeney Art Gallery at University of California, Riverside
Jim Isermann United States, born 1955 Enamel paint and orlon acrylic yarn on wood, 96 x 48 inches, each panel Museum purchase with funds provided by the Contemporary Collectors Council Jim Isermann was born in 1955 in Kenosha, Wisconsin. He received a BFA at the University of Wisconsin in 1977 and his MFA at California Institute of the Arts in 1980. In the 1980s, Isermann created entire environments with rooms filled with furniture and decorative objects, all handcrafted. The contrast of moving from Wisconsin to California, and the experience of the modern architecture of the suburban, southern Californian landscape, influenced the environments he created. Isermann blends work done in the traditional sphere with the Bauhaus artists, influences from op art, and artists like Frank Stella and Larry Bell. In a succinct description of Isermann’s work, writer Dave Hickey states, “He may traffic in supergraphics and hot pink motel furniture, but Jim Isermann is, first and foremost, a California artist with Bauhaus tendencies, Minimalist agendas, and formalist precedents in the Abstract Classicism of John McLaughlin and Frederick Hammersley. (1)” Untitled (Shag Painting) (1988), in the collection of the Laguna Art Museum, is the first painting in which Isermann used yarn that he hand-hooked. In this diptych, the left panel is a smooth enamel surface, with bold purple and orange swirls that encompass the entire panel. The background is divided by two colors, yellow and green. On the right panel, Isermann mirrors the form of the left with acrylic yarn, recalling the shag-carpet aesthetic that dominated domestic environments in the 1970s. Untitled (Shag Painting) creates a physical experience of movement that carries the tenuous balance of domestic and monumental scale. ~ Grace Kook-Anderson, Curator of Exhibitions at Laguna Art Museum 1. Dave Hickey, Jim Isermann: Utopia Now, ex. brochure (Los Angeles: Hammer Museum, 2002).
Erika Rothenberg United States, born 1950 Acrylic on canvas with stick-on lettering, 40 x 54 inches From the Stuart and Judy Spence Collection, donated April 1999 by Judy and Stuart Spence Erika Rothenberg was born in Manhattan, New York, in 1950. She studied art at the University of Chicago and the School of Visual Arts in New York. For seven or eight years, Rothenberg was an art director at the McCann Erickson advertising agency and her clients included Coca-Cola and the New York Times Company. With this experience, Rothenberg turned over the purpose of advertising in her work as an artist, creating social and political commentary with wit. “Erika says things that need to be said and is seldom said as clearly or strongly,” states Stuart Spence (1). Stuart and Judy Spence have collected several works by Rothenberg over the years. Art critic Christopher Knight has described her work as “user-friendly art,” considering that the placement of her work in store windows or on billboards has gained a wide and diverse audience. You Can Cure Yourself of Racism! (1987) humorously illustrates how a simple nasal spray in the comfort of one’s own home purports to fix the problem of racism. Curator Tyler Stallings points out that the work “parodies this American ‘right to consume,’ which extends not just to fast food and cars but to nations and people as well. (2)” It also comments on the compulsion to seek quick, and—like nasal spray—temporary remedies to deeper problems. ~ Grace Kook-Anderson, Curator of Exhibitions at Laguna Art Museum 1. Susan Freudenheim, “Casting a Cold Eye,” Los Angeles Times, March 25, 2005: E2. 2. Tyler Stallings, Whiteness: A Wayward Construction (Laguna Beach: Laguna Art Museum, 2003), 18.
Allan McCollum United States, born 1944 Hydrostone and enamel, 20 1/4 x 70 1/12 inches Gift of Dr. John Menkes in memory of Joan Simon Menkes Born in Los Angeles in 1944, and now living and working in New York City, Allan McCollum has focused on exploring the intersection between the public and the private, and between mass production and the handmade, in his unique blend of painting and sculpture. Although he did not receive a formal art education, he did find an education by taking jobs, such as an art handler, that put him into contact with artists and collectors. His first solo exhibition in 1971 was in La Jolla, California, at the Jack Glenn Gallery. In 1975, the same year that he moved to New York City, his work was included in the Whitney Museum of American Art’s prestigious Biennial. Since then, he has had over one hundred solo exhibitions, including several retrospectives, and his works are held in important art museum collections worldwide. The work 5 Coloured Surrogates was included in Laguna Art Museum’s 2003 exhibition, Some Fuzzy Logic: The Joan Simon Menkes Gift. In the late 1970s, his Surrogate Paintings series hit a chord, as it was a time in the art world when semiotics, or the study of signs and symbols, was having a strong influence on the new avant-garde. One important symbol that drew attention was the painting itself. For McCollum’s subsequent series, Plaster Surrogates, the parts of a painting—frame, matte, and picture—were cast out of plaster as one object and painted a single color. Since the frame and the “picture” are one and the same in all of the pieces, he brings into question traditional notions associated with art making, such as originality. McCollum questions the importance of a single author and the implications of art made in an assembly-line fashion; since the works seemingly are produced in bulk, what kind of value can be assigned to them in a fine art marketplace that primarily defines worth by uniqueness? Although the works are made in a factory-like manner, which involves repetitive labor and a studio assembly line, none of the works are actually the same. Only the process of making them is consistent. In this respect, McCollum assesses the importance placed on the handmade versus the manufactured. In addition, the works are usually hung close together, a manner that suggests the salon style common in museums and private salons prior to the twentieth century, that is, before modernism. Along with the references to a picture’s parts—frame and framed image—their hung style is a reference to how we have been trained to “know that we’re looking at art.” ~ Tyler Stallings, Director of Sweeney Art Gallery at University of California, Riverside
F. Scott Hess United States, 1955 Oil on canvas, 68 x 96 inches Gift of the Richard H. Mumper Trust Hess is a Los Angeles-based realist painter whose work explores varied themes based on popular culture. Hess also bases many of his works on autobiographical material, but, according to artist, few are as directly autobiographical as Piece of Cake (1986). Hess based the painting on the events at a party he attended in downtown Los Angeles in the mid-1980s. Late in the evening, an African American woman arrived at the party looking for a “friend,” but clearly knew no one there. Shortly after her arrival, she announced she had been raped. Some of the few remaining partygoers offered her the last of the leftovers, a piece of cake, while others interrogated her with a variety of questions. Hess recalls, “The night was a racial, sexual whirlwind, and I knew in that moment it would be a painting.” Hess went back to the apartment to capture the exact details of the kitchen and used the same party guests as models, but the artist invented the African American woman at the center of the painting from his memory of the night’s incident (1). Hess notes, “My painting style at the time was rough, and the planes consisted of very active blobs of color laid down next to others, sometimes compliments. The idea was to activate the surface, to make it writhe and seethe, as if heated from underneath. Then I'd set the viewer up in the air, in an impossible place, almost imposing vertigo. The intent was to leave the viewer in an unstable spot, suspended above this bubbling paint. I didn't want to soothe, but to disturb, with the hope of spurring the viewer to think more deeply about what they were looking at. (2)” F. Scott Hess was born in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1955. In 1977, he received his bachelor of science in art degree from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, in 1977. In 1979, Hess moved to Vienna, Austria, where he studied for five years with the Austrian painter Rudolf Hausner, who has been credited as the first psychoanalytical painter. Through his artistic teaching experience in Vienna, Hess gained greater exposure to techniques of old master style painting, which profoundly influenced his work. ~ Jacqueline Bunge, Curator of Education at Laguna Art Museum 1. F. Scott Hess, email message to Jacqueline Bunge, Thursday, September 10, 2009. 2. Ibid.
Llyn Foulkes United States, born 1934 Mixed media on board, 67 x 57 inches Gift of Ruth and Murray Gribin Llyn Foulkes was born in Yakima, Washington, in 1934. Out of high school, he enlisted in the army and worked with the medical corps in Germany. Upon discharge from the service, he moved to Los Angeles where he attended the Chouinard Art Institute in Los Angeles from 1957 to 1959. Soon after leaving Chouinard, Foulkes began showing at the Ferus Gallery, where his first one-man show was held in 1961. He began his artistic career as an assemblage artist. Although his body of work has never been attributed to any one particular art movement, he has been associated with abstract expressionist, pop art, assemblage, and collage artists of his time. In the late 1960s, Foulkes became well known for his landscape paintings, which incorporated vintage postcards and landscape photography. In the late 1970s to the mid-1980s, Foulkes began painting large-scale portraits that incorporated collage elements, as seen in the piece That Old Black Magic from 1985. The artist contrasts the subject's bloodied and bruised dark face against a stark white background, framed by a blackboard border on which the lyrics to the ballad That Old Black Magic are written in smudges, half-erased chalk marks, and illegible gestures (1). In an essay from the catalogue Llyn Foulkes: Between a Rock and a Hard Place (1995), Rosetta Brooks comments, “In many paintings Foulkes uses a mask to signify the concealing of one’s identity. It also marks the pictorial territory of the image as monstrous, representing the malevolent transformation of one’s identity. (2)” It is clear that the “mask” of identity to which Brooks refers is evident in Foulkes’ omission of the subject’s nose—a void, literally eaten away into the panel—and the concealment of the eyes by two large zeros, masking the subject’s real features. The realism and intensity of the bloodied face, however, focuses the viewer to ponder the subject’s psychological state and one’s own personal demons. ~ Jacqueline Bunge, Curator of Education at Laguna Art Museum 1. Rosetta Brooks, “That Old Black Magic,” in Llyn Foulkes: Between a Rock and a Hard Place (Los Angeles, California: Fellows of Contemporary Art in association with Laguna Art Museum, 1995), 76. 2. Ibid., 76.
Gifford Myers United States, born 1948 Ceramic, 3 x 5 x 2 1/2 inches Gift of the Richard H. Mumper Trust Gifford Myers is not one of your old-school potters. Trained initially as an architect and operating ostensibly as a ceramist since the early 1970s, his work has encompassed painting, public art, and sculptural work. He is known for his use of lead, wood, bronze, aluminum, fiberglass, industrial tiles, and found objects, in addition to his experimental engagement with clay. Stylistically, his work runs a restless gamut from finish-fetish minimalism to cartoonish funk. Villa Living at a Price You Can Afford falls more into the latter category, recalling Robert Arneson’s signal Alice House series of ceramic depictions of his tract home from the late 1960s, while also referencing David Hockney’s iconic colorist portrayals of the Los Angeles landscape—particularly its swimming pools. But Myers’ version of the Southern California good life has a sardonic political edge that would never enter Hockney’s field of vision. Part of a 1980s series of tiny, often wall-mounted ceramic houses, Myers’ Villa Living immediately wins over the viewer with its jewel-like presence, its cunning attention to detail, and its sophisticated integration of spatial illusion in the reflected landscape visible in the windows and sliding-glass patio doors of these luxury suburban homesteads. Myers leaves it to the viewer to recognize the absurdity of the exaggerated row-housing aesthetic that crams its “units” so tightly together that there is no room for privacy, even though each plot must have its own separate, color-coded swimming pool. It’s a scene that brings to mind the folk song “Little Boxes”—“There’s a green one and a pink one / And a blue one and a yellow one . . . .” The only fence in sight is visible in the reflected landscape, cutting off the “Villa” dwellers from the as-yet-undeveloped mountain landscape in the distance. ~ Doug Harvey, Artist, Curator, and Writer
George Ketterl United States, born 1942 Oil on wood, 23 1/2 x 16 1/2 inches Gift of the Richard H. Mumper Trust George Ketterl was born in 1942 in Fargo, North Dakota. He was a high school honorable mention All-American athlete in football until he had rheumatic fever that prevented him from continuing the sport. After the illness, he began his undergraduate studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara, but left halfway through the program. Ketterl then received a football scholarship at Morehead State University in Minnesota. In addition to pursuing athletics, Ketterl fell into studying art, and he finished with a triple major in art, physical education, and English. He received his BA in 1963. Ketterl returned to California in 1967 to attend Claremont Graduate School, and he received his MFA in 1970. Ketterl taught while he was in graduate school and received a Ford Foundation Fellowship in 1969. After teaching in several institutions, Ketterl finally took a position at California State Bakersfield and has now been teaching there for over 40 years. Some exceptional students of Ketterl who he fondly remembers are Greg and Jeff Colson, Carlos Strada-Vega, Manuel Ocampo, and Teo Gonzalez. Ketterl continued his athleticism through his artwork, with performances such as Seven Hours/Seven Days (1980), Newport/Husserl (c. 1980), and Mount Saint Mary’s Malevich (1982). Much of Ketterl’s work looks at the phenomenology of perception through the works of theorists like Edmund Husserl (1859–1938) and Maurice Merleau-Ponty (1908–1961). In Clint Eastwood (1984), Ketterl uses the words that Husserl himself used— horizon and phantom—to describe the field of the known. Ketterl titled the painting after a television special with Clint Eastwood and Carey Grant that aired the day after Grant had died, adding immediacy to the experience. There are three bodies, one standing and two lying down at the top and bottom of the painting. As an extension to his performative work, Ketterl reveals these bodies to perceive the central words in the painting: time, limits, and exhaustion. ~ Grace Kook-Anderson, Curator of Exhibitions at Laguna Art Museum
Michael Davis United States, born 1948 Copper stain on cement and pine, 85 1/4 x 8 1/4 x 11 1/4 inches Gift of the Richard H. Mumper Trust Michael Davis is known for his public art commissions as well as for his studio practice. His multivalent career straddles a politically informed variation of minimalism and a narrative pictorialism that is rooted in the symbolic vocabulary of the sciences, particularly astronomy—exemplified by his exceptional work on the Sunset/Vermont Station on the Los Angeles Metro Red Line. These ends of the spectrum overlap considerably, as with the science and applications of nuclear physics, or with the use of the castoffs from a politically loaded industrial process assembled into an abstract form. Water, part of a 1983 series entitled For the City of Now and Then, is Davis at his least referential, without any globes or timepieces or appropriated diagrams or overt architectural references to steer the viewer toward a specific interpretation. However, considering much of Davis’ work from the early 1980s addresses architecture, it can be safely assumed that the skyscraper-like proportions and the use of concrete and pine are intentional signals of architectonic content. The work’s piecemeal jumble of geometric solids around a winding cylindrical metal core recalls some of the more adventurous large-scale architectural visions of the 1960s, but its title, the title of the series, and the intentionally distressed and oxidized surface suggest a more mournful and enigmatic reading—it could be the decaying pilings of a collapsed funhouse pier, perhaps, or the stump of an abandoned deep-sea oil rig -- the submerged ruins of a once-dominant global empire brought down by techno-fetishism and hubris. ~ Doug Harvey, Artist, Curator, and Writer
Alexis Smith United States, born 1949 Mixed media and collage on paper, 41 x 27 inches Gift of Ruth and Murray Gribin For the series Twentieth Century, Smith collected large B-movie posters from swap meets and silkscreened the same text and image on over forty works. She took quotes directly from a movie titled Twentieth Century: “I’ve died so often / Made love so much / I’ve lost track of what’s real”; and, printed upside down, “I don’t live / I act.” On top of the text, Smith imposed an image of a “noirish” female character. Smith points out that the woman is either jumping or, if the poster is turned over, falling (1). By using advertisements and images from Hollywood, Smith humorously plays on our understanding of visual literacy. In this particular piece, she points toward the representation of female characters. Using collage and California assemblage, Smith’s work has been critically placed alongside artists such as Wallace Berman and Edward Kienholz, as well as Ed Ruscha and Vija Celmins. Smith notes the influence of Bob Irwin and Vija Celmins at University of California, Irvine, not only as professors but also as friends and mentors (2). Smith was recognized in a retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York in 1991. Additionally, she has also produced numerous large-scale public artworks. Alexis Smith was born in Los Angeles, California, in 1949. She was born Patricia Anne Smith, but changed her name when she was seventeen. Smith received her BA from the University of California, Irvine, in 1970. ~ Grace Kook-Anderson, Curator of Exhibitions at Laguna Art Museum 1. Alexis Smith, interview by Grace Kook-Anderson, September, 18 2009. 2. Richard Armstrong, Alexis Smith (New York: Rizoli International Publications, 1991), 10.
Jeff Colson United States, born 1957 Mixed Media on board, 14 x 28 inches Gift of Ruth and Murray Gribin Jeff Colson was born in Santa Ana, California, in 1957. He had his first exhibition in 1989. Colson works from numerous materials to create forms that often evoke familiar objects. His work seems to rise out of somewhere between pop art and conceptual art through the use of different mediums such as fiberglass, bronze, paintings, and watercolor. Though there is a sense of absence or silence from Colson’s work, they are equally loaded with humor. An example of this is Report (2001), which appears to be a cluster of trumpet hornlike objects protruding from the wall. With several horns pointing upright, one who expects a cacophony of sound will rest in perpetual expectation. Similarly, Colson has created various striped awnings that hang from the wall waiting in perpetuity for a circus to assemble underneath. In the untitled piece from 1982, Colson uses a found board to present a diptych image. On the right is an image of two fighting aircrafts, one above the other, flying parallel and away from each other. The left half is an unorganized set of arrows that seem predominantly tangled in the center. By creating this duality, Colson’s own commentary is unclear: Are they dualities of chaos/order; positive/negative; or mess upon mess? ~ Grace Kook-Anderson, Curator of Exhibitions at Laguna Art Museum
Edward and Nancy Kienholz Edward Kienholz, Unites States (1927-1994) Nancy Kienholz , United States, born 1943 Mixed media, edition 14 of 26, 67 1/2 x 18 x 12 inches Gift of Dr. and Mrs. James Croul, Alan and Kay Davison, Johanna and Gene Felder, Janet Taylor Gosselin, Dr. and Mrs. John Kennady, Richard Mumper, Kristen Paulson, Ted and Suzanne Paulson, Joan B. Rehnborg, Jacqueline Schroeder, Anne E. Summers Edward Kienholz was born in Fairfield, Washington, and grew up on a farm. Before moving to Los Angeles in 1953, Keinholz had supported himself with a variety of jobs, including working as an orderly in a mental hospital, as a used car and vacuum cleaner salesman, as a manager of a dance band, as a window display designer, as a bootleg club owner, and as owner of a restaurant. His background contributed to a sort of "homemade do-it-yourself modernism" growing out of the Beat aesthetic, which is visible in his assemblage sculpture, tableaux, environments, and conceptual pieces (1). In 1972, Keinholz began producing pieces jointly with his fifth wife, Nancy Reddin, a photographer born in Los Angeles, who was the daughter of Tom Reddin, the conservative former LA police chief. According to Reddin, she attended no art schools and like Kienholz was self-taught, "except for the fact that I went to ‘the school of Kienholz’ for over twenty years. I am a photographer, but Ed taught me everything I know about art. He taught me to weld and to solder, cast figures, paint, and to believe in my eye. (2)" The Kienholzes’ work holds an unique place in American art for not only its biting and insightful criticism of contemporary society, but also its empathetic musing on human nature. In 1979, the artists began signing all the work with both of their names. The Jerry Can Standard is one of a series of works called The Tin TVs, which the Kienholzes made in collaboration with Gemini G.E.L. beginning in the late 1970s. The Jerry Can Standard is made from assorted found objects, including a gasoline can, TV antenna, TV stand, doily, Fresnel lens, and light bulb. It also comes equipped with a tape player, which plays sound effects from a Western movie and crowd noises from a German soccer match recorded backward. Around the time of the publication of The Tin TVs series, Gemini G.E.L. created an ersatz newsprint ad selling the TVs or works of art at cutthroat prices. The ad had this to say about The Jerry Can Standard: "A Give Away Price of Only $6,195. An inexpensive piece straight out of the surplus store. Comes with its own custom stand and no picture, only a light and a suggestive sound track. Marvel as you imagine there is actually something going on. This set will fool you just like real TV does. It can be had for a cheap 10% Surcharge. (3)" Kienholz sent a lengthy letter to Sidney Felsen, founding partner of Gemini G.E.L., dated January 4, 1984, explaining that he and Nancy Reddin Kienholz continued to make works in the series because of their love/hate relationship with American TV. "In my thinking," he wrote, "prime time should be understood as the individual span each of us has left to live here on earth. It's a short, short interval and deserves the best quality possible. Certainly better than the boob tube pap we all permit in the name of bigger profits and free enterprise. (4)" ~ Susan M. Anderson, Independent Curator and Art Historian 1. This catalogue entry is based on information found in the Ed Kienholz Collections and artist files, Laguna Art Museum Archives. Also see Walter Hopps, Kienholz: A Retrospective (New York: Whitney Museum of Art, 1996). 2. Walter Hopps, Kienholz: A Retrospective (New York: Whitney Museum of Art, 1996), 256; and Peter Plagens, "The Great Assembler" Newsweek, March, 25 1996. 3. "Ed and Nancy Kienholz, A Big Pre-Easter Sale" (Los Angeles: Gemini G.E.L., n.d.), Laguna Art Museum Archives. 4. Ed Kienholz, To Gemini G.E.L (Los Angeles: Gemini G.E.L., n.d.), Laguna Art Museum Archives.
Matt Mullican United States, born 1951 Oil stick rubbing on rag paper, 96 x 48 inches Gift of Dr. John Menkes in memory of Joan Simon Menkes Born in Santa Monica in 1951, Matt Mullican lives and works in New York City. He received his BFA in 1974 from California Institute of the Arts. His work has been exhibited at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston and the Georges Pompidou Centre in Paris among others. A retrospective of his work was held at the Museu de Arte Contemporânea in Porto Alegre, Brazil, in 2000. Like his friend Allan McCollum and his fellow CalArts graduate Tim Ebner, Mullican is part of a generation of artists from the late 1970s and 1980s who shared a fascination with the effects of signs, symbols, and most any form of representation on society. It was a time when anything could be perceived as a sign for another meaning, only to be “read as text” in order to reveal its hidden significance. On one hand, their interest represented the influence of the introduction of new French theory into the American academy by philosophers such as collaborators Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, Jacques Derrida, and Jean Baudrillard. On the other hand, their interest represented a suspicion of authority and delusion after President Nixon’s impeachment and the Vietnam War. Many of Mullican’s pieces present a variety of symbols that appear on paper or canvas like hieroglyphics on a monument wall—intriguing but indecipherable. Often they feel familiar, as if they were directional signs that might be seen at a transportation hub. Yet, it is clear that their actual meaning is unknown. This experience serves to emphasize the artificiality of the symbols used in our society for communication, especially in advertisements and consumer culture. Mullican, then, has created his own language from recognizable symbols in order to map out a personal cosmology. He associates them with specific colors, too, in order that viewers might recognize them in several different works. Thus, they provide a moment of recognition, but nonetheless reinforce for us that his map is only for a private, parallel universe. ~ Tyler Stallings, Director of Sweeney Art Gallery at University of California, Riverside
Jud Fine United States, born 1944 Poles from Watt/Analogy, 1979-83 Mixed media, 105 x 2 inches diameter (each) Gift of Ruth and Murray Gribin Jud Fine’s early-1970s work was firmly rooted in the tradition of minimalist sculpture, made from unadorned materials such as chicken wire and bamboo, arranged into serial geometric configurations. Over the course of the decade the seriality remained, and the bamboo poles—augmented by ones made from copper, steel, and fiberglass—took center stage. But the minimalist’s aversion to narrative, pictorial, and decorative content fell by the wayside as Fine began to create hybrid works that incorporated complex, formally captivating two-dimensional images in often-elaborate sculptural installations that purposefully defied categorization. Out of this expansive practice emerged the works for which Fine remains best known—his arrangements of multiple 8-feet-9-inches-tall poles leaning in a row against a wall, each one modified at 12- to 18-inch intervals through a variety of techniques—painting, collaging, incising, puncturing, binding, gilding, etc.—to create a cluster of concrete nonverbal narrative modules whose linearity derives entirely from the linear form of the poles themselves. The interpretive impulse is thwarted by the apparently arbitrary shifts in visual language, which only occasionally includes legible pictographic content. The idea of a narrative is further reinforced by the poles’ arrangement in a regularly spaced sequence—arrayed like a group of intercepted fiber-optic transmissions from some techno-shamanic alien civilization. Additional layers of categorical confusion are rendered by the poles’ uneasy relationship to the conventions of both painting and sculpture. Arranged to suggest the rectangular form of a painting, the pole surfaces could, in theory, be spread out flat; yet they are emphatically—if incorrectly—engaged with gravity, and their objecthood, though flirting with a resemblance to anthropological artifacts, is never in doubt. ~ Doug Harvey, Artist, Curator, and Writer
Florence Arnold United States (1900 - 1994) Serigraph, 18 x 18 inches Gift of Robert Cugno and Robert Logan, Media Gallery Enterprises 2010.003.008 Florence Arnold was born in Prescott, Arizona. She was raised in mining camps, and as a little girl, helped her suffragette mother stump for women’s voting rights in Nevada. Arnold studied at Mills College, University of Southern California, and Claremont Graduate School. Arnold taught music for twenty years before taking on a second career as a painter. Affectionately known as Flossie to her friends, Arnold was an active figure in Orange County and was a cultural force through numerous involvements in the community. Having lived in Fullerton since 1923, she was actively involved with several institutions. It was not until Arnold was 49 that she picked up painting. Karl Benjamin was an influential teacher to Arnold. Other influences included artists in the Claremont community, such as Paul Darrow, Fredrick Hammersley, Doug McClelland, and Jack Zajac. John McLaughlin was also a noted influence for Arnold. Arnold embraced hard-edge painting and strived for pushing space and dimension to their fullest potential on the canvas. From the brochure of an exhibition in 1976, Arnold compares the qualities of music to painting: Music is reaching that moment of truth, that moment of pure perfection, that moment of absolute pitch, when all things are in perfect harmony, when everything comes out as that magnificent whole, that oneness. This is a moment of pure perfection. And so I think in a painting that’s successful. The difference is that music consumes time, and then it’s gone. Painting stops time, it holds time—this moment of space—and it locks it in for that moment…. Arnold was also an extraordinary colorist, as reflected in Black on Red, five subtle temperatures of red are horizontally placed in asymmetrical squares against a vertical canvas. All colors bleed off the canvas surface, creating a continuum of movement and Arnold’s use of black does not serve as a backdrop, but is just as sensitively attuned as the reds in this painting. Arnold amusingly displays this abstract interest in color in a 1986 interview, “Reflections Through an Artist’s Eye” with the Orange County Register, “There’s nothing wrong with painting daffodils, but I would just as soon paint yellow.”
Lynn Coleman United States, born 1951 Mixed media on paper, 30 x 40 inches From the Stuart and Judy Spence Collection, donated April 1999 by Judy and Stuart Spence Long before the release of Lords of Dogtown (2005), the feature-length film starring Heath Ledger, Lynn Coleman was commenting on Dogtown's surf and skate culture. In fact, since the 1970s Coleman has been integral to the coastal Southern California surf culture and has been painting autobiographical narratives reflecting on that culture, or "surfurbia." Coleman's Hot Night at the Dogtown Follies (1976) references the gritty area lying between Santa Monica Pier and Pacific Ocean Park in Venice, where she hung out in the 1970s with an influential group of surfer/skateboarders. In a lush palette, and with profuse patterning and repetition, the autobiographical watercolor also comments on the collision of art and popular culture. In one vignette, trained art seals jump through hoops to gain acceptance in the art world. In another, dogs high-step across the Muscle Beach Hot Dogs on a Stick concession in the Dogtown Follies. In still another, Coleman portrays herself as a gussied-up pig having a beer with her favorite trout at the Jamaican Garden Room at the Miramar Hotel, with the POP roller coaster below. Coleman's art is full of allusions to Southern California subcultural experience and puts a tongue-in-cheek spin on hot contemporary art world themes. Although Coleman had formal art training, and received graduate degrees from both California State University, Northridge and Los Angeles, her work acknowledges disparate influences from outside the mainstream world of art: the cartooning style of Rick Griffin, the wood engravings of Paul Landacre, and Disney animation. She credits Roberto de la Rocha, a member of the seminal Los Angeles Chicano collective Los Four, for having encouraged her to develop her distinctive graphic style. As a result, she was hired in the late 1980s to do artwork and write story lines for Thrasher Comics. Soon she developed her own comic strip about the environmentally conscious Alleygator. Coleman has often found herself at the forefront of the crossover between surf/skate culture and art. Coleman was the inspiration for the central character Jacaranda, a female artist and surfboard airbrusher, of Eve Babitz's novel Sex and Rage (1979). Babitz also profiled her for a 1974 Rolling Stone magazine article. Like Babitz, Coleman has also written about the cultural scene, including a seminal 1988 article on Los Angeles lowbrow artist Robert Williams, prior to the launch of his successful art career or his art magazine Juxtapoz. She has also done design work for surf industry notables, such as Larry Gordon and Skip Engblom among others. Coleman's art has been featured in mainstream publications, such as Esquire, Beach Culture, the New York Times, and Surfer's Journal, and in seminal museum exhibitions looking at the crossover between art and popular culture, such as Kustom Kulture: Von Dutch, Ed "Big Daddy" Roth, and Robert Williams (1993); Surf Culture, The Art History of Surfing (2002); and In the Land Of Retinal Delights: The Juxtapoz Factor (2008) (1). ~ Susan M. Anderson, Independent Curator and Art Historian 1. Bolton Colburn, "Mickey Mouse Goes Galapagos: Lynn Coleman's Phantasmagoric Narratives," Surfer's Journal (Summer 1997): 82–89.
John McLaughlin United States (1898-1976) Oil on canvas, 60 x 48 inches Gift of Mrs. John McLaughlin
Florence Arnold United States (1900 - 1994) Serigraph, 22 x 28 inches Gift of Robert Cugo and Robert Logan, Media Gallery Enterprises 2010.003.001 Florence Arnold was born in Prescott, Arizona. She was raised in mining camps, and as a little girl, helped her suffragette mother stump for women’s voting rights in Nevada. Arnold studied at Mills College, University of Southern California, and Claremont Graduate School. Arnold taught music for twenty years before taking on a second career as a painter. Affectionately known as Flossie to her friends, Arnold was an active figure in Orange County and was a cultural force through numerous involvements in the community. Having lived in Fullerton since 1923, she was actively involved with several institutions. It was not until Arnold was 49 that she picked up painting. Karl Benjamin was an influential teacher to Arnold. Other influences included artists in the Claremont community, such as Paul Darrow, Fredrick Hammersley, Doug McClelland, and Jack Zajac. John McLaughlin was also a noted influence for Arnold. Arnold embraced hard-edge painting and strived for pushing space and dimension to their fullest potential on the canvas. From the brochure of an exhibition in 1976, Arnold compares the qualities of music to painting: Music is reaching that moment of truth, that moment of pure perfection, that moment of absolute pitch, when all things are in perfect harmony, when everything comes out as that magnificent whole, that oneness. This is a moment of pure perfection. And so I think in a painting that’s successful. The difference is that music consumes time, and then it’s gone. Painting stops time, it holds time—this moment of space—and it locks it in for that moment…. Arnold was also an extraordinary colorist, as reflected in Black on Red, five subtle temperatures of red are horizontally placed in asymmetrical squares against a vertical canvas. All colors bleed off the canvas surface, creating a continuum of movement and Arnold’s use of black does not serve as a backdrop, but is just as sensitively attuned as the reds in this painting. Arnold amusingly displays this abstract interest in color in a 1986 interview, “Reflections Through an Artist’s Eye” with the Orange County Register, “There’s nothing wrong with painting daffodils, but I would just as soon paint yellow.”
Tony Delap United States, born 1927 Collotype, lithograph, and letterpress Sheet 21 x 15 inches Gift of Tom and Barbara Peckenpaugh In late 2010, the Museum received a promised gift of works by Tony DeLap from Tom and Barbara Peckenpaugh. The gift consists of fifteen works on paper and includes the Paris Suite of six prints, the Hands and Stick suite of seven prints, and two drawings. The Paris Suite was created after that artist’s 1984 sojourn in Paris. The six prints are “interventions,” in that DeLap utilized an historical postcard (a black and white collotype) and added something of his own making to the image. In all except one image, he added a nonobjective object, either a shape or a line—easily recognizable as one of his iconic forms—which he cleanly integrated into the existing image. In Pyramid, he has rather playfully balanced a blue arcing line across the peak. The only exception to the nonobjective additions is in La Grand Roue, a postcard image of the famous transporter bridge at Rouen, which was constructed in 1899, then destroyed during World War II. The postcard depicts the suspended ferry that was pulled underneath the tall bridge. DeLap has superimposed his “floating lady” silhouette in the rigging above the ferry. Peter Frank described the works in a 1989 essay as alluding to the magician. Form and meaning take on new resonance from the images as DeLap alters them with the introduction of but one single item . . . . DeLap has changed nothing, only added visual spice. The collotype medium integrates these changes seamlessly into the texture of each original image, diminishing the willful sense of DeLap’s intervention. Theses subtle perversions of various architectural structures (and by extension architectural structure in general), then, seem natural here. But, once more, things are not what they seem—and are not otherwise. In the Hands and Stick suite, DeLap has added a narrow stick to seven different images of hands, either as a pair or as a single hand. In most instances, the stick is floating near the hand, perhaps a wry play on the magician’s stick or magic wand. The prints were made in 1991 and based on photographic images from 1974.
John McCracken United States, born 1934 Polyester resin, fiberglass and plywood, 96 x 19 x 2 1/4 inches Gift of Murray and Ruth Gribin Berkeley-born John McCracken was, along with Larry Bell, the Los Angeles representative of the minimalist sculpture movement that swept through the art world in the mid-1960s. McCracken’s geometric constructions were featured in the seminal 1966 exhibit Primary Structures at the Jewish Museum in New York alongside that of Donald Judd, Robert Morris, Carl Andre, and others—the show that is generally considered to have put minimalism on the map. Yet McCracken’s work—translucent colored resins applied in thin, lustrous layers to fiberglass-coated wooden forms—didn’t conform to the tenets of the new movement, and his work came to embody a more complex and non-doctrinaire position in art history. It was also in 1966 that McCracken arrived at the formal solution that was to become his signature. His vertical rectangular “planks” that sit on the floor, leaning against the wall at a slight angle, operate simultaneously in the physical domains of sculpture and painting. McCracken’s earliest minimal works had been geometric abstractions on canvas and board, and to this day he considers color to be his primary medium. Nine Planks V is a quintessential example of the McCracken “planks,” which the artist identifies as “simple but complex works that are as beautiful as possible and that have as much ‘being’ as possible, and, as beings can, have a fair amount of mystery. (1)” According to McCracken, this sense of mystery comes from the work’s position between worlds—its ability to “both appear, because of the surface and material realness and sensuousness, and the reflective inclusion of the environment, and also at times to seem to disappear, because of the same reflections and the illusion of transparency.” ~ Doug Harvey, Artist, Curator, and Writer 1. John McCracken, e-mail message to the author, October 2009.
Laddie John Dill United States, born 1943 Sand, argon light and plate glass variable dimensions Gift of the artist 1991.034 Laddie John Dill was born in Long Beach and attended Santa Monica High School. He graduated from Chouinard Art Institute in 1968. By the time Dill was 28, he was offered his first one-man exhibition at the Sonnabend Gallery in New York. After graduation from Chouinard, Dill recalled, "I needed a job but I wanted to work where I could further my education as well." As an apprentice printer at Gemini G.E.L., located in West Hollywood, Dill had the opportunity to work closely with established artists including Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns, Claus Oldenberg, and Roy Lichtenstein. Dialog between artists of the 1970s resulted in experiments with materials previously not considered traditional art media, such as neon, sticks, wax, cement, and the relationship of those materials to each other. "It was a good healthy time for experimentation," Dill explained. "I was influenced by Rauschenberg, Keith Sonnier, Robert Smithson, Dennis Oppenheim, and Robert Irwin, who were working with earth materials, light, and space as an alternative to easel painting." Dill began experimenting first with neon and argon tubing, arranging the delicate, gas-filled, glass tubes into wall pieces. "I soon became interested in throwing the light against irregular surfaces such as brick walls, etc." Dill moved on to working three-dimensionally and filled a room in his studio with 10,000 pounds of silica sand. It was there that he mixed light and sand to create pieces which were more like painting than sculpture. "It was very much like doing a painting, except that it was on the floor, and I used shovels and brooms instead of a brush." During the 1970s Dill also began experimenting with wall pieces using cement in contrast with the smooth surface of glass. Using natural pigments he incorporates in his work a wide range of colors—brick reds derived from iron oxide, coal blacks from black sulphur, yellows, and naturally mined cobalt blues. Combinations of these natural pigments create a variety of brilliant but still "organic" colors.
Wallace Berman United States, born 1926 Verifax collage, 11-3/4 x 12-7/8 inches Gift of Ruth and Murray Gribin Wallace Berman was a seminal artist of the Beat Generation and a crucial figure in the history of twentieth-century postwar California art. Berman was at the center of a circle of artists, writers, and musicians, who fused poetry, jazz, ritual, and art to create an idiom that was dually expressive of both hope and disaffection. Considered the father of California assemblage along with Bruce Connor, Berman is also well known for his folio journal called Semina (1955–1964). A collection of photos, poetry, calligraphy, and art printed on cards that he sent in a limited edition to friends and colleagues, Semina is highly valued as a quintessential Beat art form. However, Berman's photomechanical prints, or Verifax collages, were his largest body of work. Berman began work on the collages in about 1963, at a time when he had come out of the shadows after a self-imposed exile from the Los Angeles art world. The Verifax machine was an early version of a photocopier that generated high-quality images. Berman used it to make unique works of art featuring an iconic image of a hand-held transistor radio repeated within a grid that "broadcast" hieratic imagery scavenged from the news and his personal belongings. Laguna Art Museum's small Verifax collage contains four images—an ear, a spaceman, a planetary orb, and a radial esoteric symbol. All are stock images in Berman's personal iconography that can be found repeated in other Verifax collages. Not only did Berman tune into the culture and pluck out things he was interested in, creating a visual diary of the time, he also subverted the social message through his presentation. Berman liberally used Hebrew letters as both decorative element and kabalistic symbol as a way to assert his Jewish identity and his orientation toward the mystical. Such surrealist juxtaposition and mysticism impart new meaning to Berman's images. What results is a sort of poetic language of the soul, a twentieth-century iconography, in which spacemen and presidents replace saints. And though his work can be read as a form of pop art, Berman's "distancing" reads more like hermeticism, or very potent poetry. An enigmatic personality with an aristocratic bearing, Berman had a brief and intense life. He died on his fiftieth birthday, killed by a drunk driver in Topanga Canyon (1). ~ Susan M. Anderson, Independent Curator and Art Historian 1. Rebecca Solnit, Secret Exhibition: Six California Artists of the Cold War Era (San Francisco: City Lights Books, 1990).
Laddie John Dill United States, born 1943 Mixed media on board, 30 x 40 inches Gift of Ruth and Murrary Gribin 2001.010.041 Laddie John Dill was born in Long Beach and attended Santa Monica High School. He graduated from Chouinard Art Institute in 1968. By the time Dill was 28, he was offered his first one-man exhibition at the Sonnabend Gallery in New York. After graduation from Chouinard, Dill recalled, "I needed a job but I wanted to work where I could further my education as well." As an apprentice printer at Gemini G.E.L., located in West Hollywood, Dill had the opportunity to work closely with established artists including Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns, Claus Oldenberg, and Roy Lichtenstein. Dialog between artists of the 1970s resulted in experiments with materials previously not considered traditional art media, such as neon, sticks, wax, cement, and the relationship of those materials to each other. "It was a good healthy time for experimentation," Dill explained. "I was influenced by Rauschenberg, Keith Sonnier, Robert Smithson, Dennis Oppenheim, and Robert Irwin, who were working with earth materials, light, and space as an alternative to easel painting." Dill began experimenting first with neon and argon tubing, arranging the delicate, gas-filled, glass tubes into wall pieces. "I soon became interested in throwing the light against irregular surfaces such as brick walls, etc." Dill moved on to working three-dimensionally and filled a room in his studio with 10,000 pounds of silica sand. It was there that he mixed light and sand to create pieces which were more like painting than sculpture. "It was very much like doing a painting, except that it was on the floor, and I used shovels and brooms instead of a brush." During the 1970s Dill also began experimenting with wall pieces using cement in contrast with the smooth surface of glass. Using natural pigments he incorporates in his work a wide range of colors—brick reds derived from iron oxide, coal blacks from black sulphur, yellows, and naturally mined cobalt blues. Combinations of these natural pigments create a variety of brilliant but still "organic" colors.
Carlos Almaraz Mexico (1941-1989) Acrylic on canvas, 77 x 51 inches Gift of Bonnie Zlotnick Yates and Peter Yates A quintessential figure of Los Angeles’ Chicano art scene, Carlos Almaraz studied art in various local institutions (including UCLA and Otis Art Institute), before heading for New York, where he tried—unsuccessfully—to fit in with the prevailing minimalist style. Nineteen seventy-one—the date of this untitled canvas—was a major turning point in the artist’s life. Having given up on New York, he returned to Los Angeles, moved in with his parents, and fell into a profound depression that led to a lengthy hospitalization for pancreatitis. Emerging from a near-death experience with a sense of renewed possibility, Almaraz began looking to his community and cultural roots for a new creative direction—a direction he would soon discover as a muralist for Cesar Chavez and as a founding member of the Chicano art collective Los Four. Untitled is an art-history anomaly, a graffiti-derived canvas that predates by a decade the art world’s early-1980s flirtation with street art. Moreover, it is an unusually successful example of the translation of graffiti’s visual vocabulary into the often-incompatible fine-art convention of the stretched canvas. Rather than transferring a self-contained single-authored graffiti “piece” to the confines of the rectangular picture plane, Almaraz has mimicked the layered, cumulative pictographic complexity that emerges over time from a succession of individual taggers leaving their signature. The sense he creates of a framed-off section of a much larger visual field, plus his use of such unlikely symbols as hearts and stars, as well as his bright—even fluorescent—color palette, establishes a connection between the gestural abstraction of the New York school, the loose and vibrant European pop of artists such as Niki de Saint Phalle, and the luminous, color-saturated populism that became Almaraz’s signature in the following decades. ~ Doug Harvey, Artist, Curator, and Writer
Ron Davis United States, born 1937 Enamel, polyester resin, and fiberglass, 51 x 141 inches Gift of the LAM Contemporary Collectors Council Though he was born and achieved renown as a painter in Los Angeles, Ron Davis spent his formative years in Cheyenne, Wyoming, making his way back to L.A.’s vibrant 1960’s art scene via the San Francisco Art Institute and Clyfford Still-style abstract expressionism. After a brief flirtation with op art, Davis struck upon a mode of abstract painting that established him as one of the preeminent, and most influential, abstract painters of the era. Davis’ idea was simple: rather than struggle against the hardwired illusionism of pictorial space, he would strip it down to its fundamental elements, exaggerate it, and render it in the kind of integrated industrial materials—colored resins over fiberglass—that emphasized the painting’s object-ness. The resultant trompe l’oeil geometric perspectival studies trumped Frank Stella’s related move into decorative extravagance and came close to eliminating the thorny abstract painters’ issue of spatial illusionism by pushing it to the foreground. Davis’ surfaces alternated between solid colors that conform to the depicted geometric form and a variation on “splatter” painting, providing a link to the still-influential New York school of abstract expressionists. The earlier fiberglass and resin works were built up in reverse in waxed Formica molds. By 1971, when he painted Four Block Box, Davis had found a more flexible resin that made his translucent shaped forms considerably flatter—in this instance bordering on the intricacy and perspectival play of Islamic tile work. A year later, citing health and aesthetic concerns, Davis had given up the use of resin and moved on to more traditional painting materials. Since the 1980s, he has increasingly explored digital 3-D imaging, producing new objects with a material called “heat fused pixel dust” from his home studio in New Mexico. ~ Doug Harvey, Artist, Curator, and Writer
Craig (Robert) Kauffman United States, born 1932 Acrylic and lacquer on vacuum-formed Plexiglas, 22 1/2 x 52 x 12 1/2 inches Gift of the Ruth and Murray Gribin Trust Craig Kauffman studied architecture at the University of Southern California and art at the University of California, Los Angeles, completing his MA in 1956. Initially an abstract painter, he exhibited first with Felix Landau Gallery, and then became one of the prominent and influential artists that showed regularly at Ferus Gallery. In 1964, he began experimenting with transparent plastics using vacuum-forming technologies to create objects that were painted to appear ephemeral by modulating the light around them. Kauffman’s bubbles experiment with the continuum of space, with surfaces that meld into the wall. This was a characteristic of 1960s and early-1970s Finish Fetish and Light and Space work, and it was seen as a strategy for merging the work with the environment and establishing, as seamlessly as possible, an interconnection of the object with the space of the surrounding room (1). Noted for their sensual, pearlescent colors and shapes, Kauffman’s bubbles evade principles of conventional painting and sculpture. No brushstrokes are apparent, and the surface of the bubble is slick plastic. The bubble itself sits out from the wall in high relief, placing it more in the realm of objects than of paintings, and despite its horizontal orientation, its bulging lozenge shape frustrates attempts to identify any traditional figure/ground relationship. The bubbles are like spectral images that persist in space without visible means of support. These objects express a curious inherent duality—they are both dematerialized and sensuous at the same time, more like a pleasurable memory than a hard fact. Kauffman enhances the effect in this particular bubble, as the wet pastel pink makes subtle reference to the female form. The artist’s bubbles exude a palpable feeling of visual seduction and directly speak to the pleasures of seeing, and of the senses. ~ Susan M. Anderson, Independent Curator and Art Historian 1. Bolton Colburn, "Inside Out," Surfer's Journal (Summer/Fall 2009): 64–69.
Roger Kuntz United States (1926-1975) Oil on canvas, 26 1/2 x 32 inches Gift of the Virginia Steele Scott Foundation Although Roger Kuntz lived in La Verne, a wooded and sparsely populated area outside of Claremont, and taught at Scripps College, beginning in 1958 he spent his summers in Laguna Beach at the Cortlander cottage at Crystal Cove. Based on his sojourns there, Kuntz made a series of paintings and drawings of the porch and the cottage. At this time, Kuntz was actively seeking what he called "the middle ground" between representation and abstraction, utilizing an unusual approach. Always painting in series, he took each subject through several stages of careful investigation beginning with numerous sketches and small-scale studies from life. Then he created multiple versions of the same subject, which he reworked in varying iterations. Kuntz's paintings of the porch at Crystal Cove exhibit this unusual methodology. They range from detailed, narrative figuration as in On the Porch to more austere, perceptually oriented paintings without the figure. In On the Porch, Kuntz shows a growing concern with space and light and the propensity to bifurcate the canvas with strong vertical and horizontal elements, sometimes even allowing compositional elements to cut across the model, in this case the artist's wife, Mocky. In the foreground, Kuntz has accurately portrayed a narrow volume of space within the confines of the porch rail, while also alluding to the deep space of the sea beyond. Kuntz also loosely rendered a tabletop still life in the middle distance, glimpsed through an open window on the porch. The Crystal Cove paintings awaken associations with the work of San Francisco Bay Area figurative painters such as Richard Diebenkorn and Paul Wonner, who had broken away from abstract expressionism in the early 1950s. Kuntz shared with these artists the practice of painting isolated figures in interiors and landscapes drawn from everyday life. However, he did not ascribe to the loose, painterly manipulation of surfaces or ambiguity of the Bay Area figurative painters. Kuntz sought to create an art that was intelligible to the viewer, positing a relationship between communicability and the middle ground. The Crystal Cove paintings were the catalyst for Kuntz's greatest body of work, the Freeway series, which would bring him national acclaim in the early 1960s (1). ~ Susan M. Anderson, Independent Curator and Art Historian 1. Susan M. Anderson, "Middle Ground" in Roger Kuntz: The Shadow Between Representation and Abstraction, ex. cat. (Laguna Beach: Laguna Art Museum, 2009), 49–57.
Richard Pettibone United States, born 1938 Acrylic on canvas, 6 3/4 x 5 inches Gift of Diana Zlotnick, Los Angeles, California Nineteen sixty-two proved to be a significant year for Richard Pettibone. It was the year of his graduation from Otis Art Institute and Andy Warhol’s first show at the Ferus Gallery. The following year was another significant marker for Pettibone—it was Marcel Duchamp’s first retrospective in Pasadena, California. Alongside Pettibone, artists such as Ed Ruscha, Wallace Berman, John Baldessari, Bruce Conner, and George Herms were working toward a more conceptual base. Pettibone had his first one-person exhibition at the Ferus Gallery in December 1965. For this exhibition, he replicated work from six important collectors of contemporary art in Southern California. Nancy Princenthal of Art in America wrote, “An intimist and an extremely accomplished practitioner in several mediums, Pettibone possesses a sensibility that evokes John Ruskin as much as Walter Benjamin, and having begun by rehabilitating the handmade in the age of industrial production, he is more or less unconcerned with technologies that have been developed since. (1)” Pettibone began making replications in the early 1960s, but he often scaled down the works; Pettibone laboriously made miniature stretchers from wood. He also developed an interest in Shaker furniture, at the same time taking an interest in Brancusi’s work: “Brancusi seemed to be doing in sculpture what the Shakers had been doing in their furniture, namely, trying to achieve a form that was an essence. (2)” Richard Pettibone was born in Alhambra, California, in 1938. He received an MFA from Otis Art Institute, Los Angeles, in 1962. ~ Grace Kook-Anderson, Curator of Exhibitions at Laguna Art Museum 1. Nancy Princethal, “Look again: surveying Richard Pettibone in an exhibition that covers 40 years of work, Richard Pettibone is shown to be a maverick appropriator, an erudite if irreverent connoisseur and an enduring original,” Art in America, March 2006: 132. 2. Ian Berry, Richard Pettibone: A Retrospective (Saratoga Springs: Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum, 2005), 18.
Tony DeLap United States, born 1927 Aluminum, paint and glass, 72 x 72 x 144 inches Gift of the LAM Contemporary Collectors Council Houdin’s House (1967) was exhibited the year it was made in the expansive American Sculpture of the Sixties exhibition organized by Maurice Tuchman jointly for the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The name Houdin refers not to Harry Houdini but to the founder of modern magic, the Frenchman Jean Eugene Robert-Houdin. It also refers to the ninety-degree angles commonly used by magicians to create an illusion of something being where it is not, or something not being where it is (1). In the case of Houdin’s House, that illusion is a floating lady. Born in Oakland, California, in 1927, DeLap studied at several Bay Area colleges, including the San Francisco Academy of Art before he moved to Southern California in 1965. Tony attended the Claremont Graduate School and became a Professor at the University of California, Irvine, from 1965 to 1991. During the 1950s and 1960s, DeLap was employed to work on trade shows exhibitions and practiced freelance graphic design while applying his talents at painting and sculptures. In fact, it was during his time as a designer, making displays for trade shows that could easily be constructed and taken apart, that he came up with the idea of making portable sculpture. The idea of portable sculpture, constructing something temporal, went hand in hand with some of the basic tenants of conceptualism that were beginning to get traction in art at the time—that it was the idea that was important, not necessarily the object. In the case of Delap, it is the illusion that is important, an interesting twist to the notion of the idea. True to Delap’s thinking, Houdin’s House—that is, its physical existence as an object—is much less important than the illusion it creates. To that point, the current version was re-fabricated for the 1994 exhibition at California State University, Fullerton, titled Tony DeLap, The House of the Magician: An Installation of Reconstructed Works from 1967–1979. Of course, art, in particular painting, has historically relied on similar kinds of magic, the suspension of belief, the tricks of visual perception, and the belief that you are looking into a window. Delap just makes that illusion real. 1. Mike McGee, Tony DeLap: The House of the Magician: An Installation of Reconstructed Works from 1967–1979, ex. cat. (Fullerton, CA: California State University, Fullerton), 14. Related Links:
Peter Alexander United States, born 1939 Cast polyester resin construction, 7 5/8 x 7 5/8 x 6 3/4 inches Gift of The Mark and Hilarie Moore Collection Los Angeles native Peter Alexander made his reputation as a member of the so-called Finish-Fetish movement—Southern California artists working with industrial materials often derived from the technology of the local custom car and surf subcultures. Alexander's specialty was building up cubes and wedges from layers of resin, which often contain other forms—sometimes amorphous, cloudlike shapes, sometimes other geometrical forms. Alexander’s career took an unusual turn in the early 1970s when he abandoned the minimalist sculptural practice that had gained him fame and began exploring a wide range of populist pictorial motifs, including sunsets, night cityscapes, and black velvet paintings of deep-sea life-forms. Unsurprisingly, reactions were decidedly mixed to this sudden embrace of the then-despised and supposedly discredited genres of picture-making. Nevertheless, Alexander stuck to his paintbrushes and produced series after series of luminous, sublime landscapes—including, in 2001, a sumptuous series of soft-focus monochrome acrylic views of Laguna Beach. Rather than undermining his earlier sculptural work, however, this long-term engagement with what amounts to a contemporary romanticism casts his resins in a new light. This untitled 1966 polyester cube, while retaining its connotations of minimalism, finish fetish, and the phenomenologically-minded Light and Space movement, takes on another layer of meaning—less art-historically correct but reinforcing Alexander’s claim to a consistent individual vision. Its hazy-orange-sphere-in-a-cube geometry suddenly seems like a detail from a fog-drenched London landscape by Turner; the materials and reductive composition suitably update the fog to smog and the UK to LA, while retaining the sublime romantic feelings of mystery, obscurity, and just plain awesomeness. ~ Doug Harvey, Artist, Curator, and Writer
Florence Arnold United States (1900 - 1994) Oil on canvas, 49 1/4 x 40 inches Gift of the artist 1972.005 Florence Arnold Florence Arnold was born in Prescott, Arizona. She was raised in mining camps, and as a little girl, helped her suffragette mother stump for women’s voting rights in Nevada. Arnold studied at Mills College, University of Southern California, and Claremont Graduate School. Arnold taught music for twenty years before taking on a second career as a painter. Affectionately known as Flossie to her friends, Arnold was an active figure in Orange County and was a cultural force through numerous involvements in the community. Having lived in Fullerton since 1923, she was actively involved with several institutions. It was not until Arnold was 49 that she picked up painting. Karl Benjamin was an influential teacher to Arnold. Other influences included artists in the Claremont community, such as Paul Darrow, Fredrick Hammersley, Doug McClelland, and Jack Zajac. John McLaughlin was also a noted influence for Arnold. Arnold embraced hard-edge painting and strived for pushing space and dimension to their fullest potential on the canvas. From the brochure of an exhibition in 1976, Arnold compares the qualities of music to painting: Music is reaching that moment of truth, that moment of pure perfection, that moment of absolute pitch, when all things are in perfect harmony, when everything comes out as that magnificent whole, that oneness. This is a moment of pure perfection. And so I think in a painting that’s successful. The difference is that music consumes time, and then it’s gone. Painting stops time, it holds time—this moment of space—and it locks it in for that moment…. Arnold was also an extraordinary colorist, as reflected in Black on Red, five subtle temperatures of red are horizontally placed in asymmetrical squares against a vertical canvas. All colors bleed off the canvas surface, creating a continuum of movement and Arnold’s use of black does not serve as a backdrop, but is just as sensitively attuned as the reds in this painting. Arnold amusingly displays this abstract interest in color in a 1986 interview, “Reflections Through an Artist’s Eye” with the Orange County Register, “There’s nothing wrong with painting daffodils, but I would just as soon paint yellow.”