Oral Histories

Interview of Karl Benjamin

Artist and Pomona College professor of art.
Los Angeles Art Community: Group Portrait, Karl Benjamin
Los Angeles Art Community - Group Portrait
Biographical Note:
Artist and Pomona College professor of art.
Palanker, Robin I.
Benjamin, Karl
Persons Present:
Tapes I-IV: Benjamin and Palanker; Tape V: Benjamin, Palanker, Nancy Olexo, Sally Shapiro, and Benjamin's sixth-grade class.
Place Conducted:
Benjamin's home in Claremont, California; the Gird Elementary School in Chino, California.
Supporting Documents:
Records relating to the interview are located in the office of the UCLA Library's Center for Oral History Research.
Interviewer Background and Preparation:
The interview was conducted by Robin Palanker, Interviewer-Editor, UCLAOral History Program (for "L.A. Art Community: Group Portrait"); Artist. B.F.A., Art, California Institute of the Arts. Palanker prepared for the interview by She studied slides of Mr. Benjamin's work, available at the library of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and at the Tortue Gallery, where his paintings were most recently exhibited. In addition, she consulted both oral and written sources. She spoke at length with Mallory Freeman, director of the Tortue Gallery, who provided many valuable insights, and she studied Jules Langsner's foreword to the catalog Four Abstract Classicists. Personal discussions with Mrs. Benjamin added yet another perspective.
Processing of Interview:
Editing was done by the interviewer, who checked the verbatim transcript against the tapes and edited for punctuation, paragraphing, and verification of proper names. Words or phrases introduced by the editor have been bracketed.Mr. Benjamin reviewed and approved the edited transcript, making few additions or deletions. He supplied a number of names not previously verified.Lawrence Weschler, Assistant Editor, Oral History Program, prepared the index and wrote the introduction.Joel Gardner, Senior Editor, Oral History Program, reviewed the transcript prepared by Program staff.
6.5 hrs.
Regents of the University of California, UCLA Library.
Series Statement:
This series includes interviews with prominent Los Angeles-based visual artists and other members of the art establishment whose careers span the period from the 1920s through the 1970s. It documents the art community of the pre-World War II period and the rise of Los Angeles as a nationally recognized art center in the postwar period. Funding for this series was provided by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.
Early life in Chicago; lack of early interest in art; education at University of Redlands; teaching sixth grade in Bloomington, California; need to teach art to children; discovering compelling interest in art; show of elementary school students' work, Scripps College; techniques of teaching painting, with analogies to teaching writing; response of students in Bloomington and Chino, California, schools; the nature of talent; development as painter; inclusion in exhibitions: Four Abstract Classicists, Los Angeles County Museum, 1958, Responsive Eye, Museum of Modern Art, 1965, and others; problems inherent in labeling artists; impressionism versus classicism; validity of hard-edge as classification; relations with other artists; impact of galleries on art scene; "vertical" and "horizontal" painters; relation of painting to other aspects of life.