Oral Histories

Interview of Craig Kauffman

Sculptor and painter.
Los Angeles Art Community: Group Portrait, Craig Kauffman
Los Angeles Art Community - Group Portrait
Biographical Note:
Sculptor and painter.
Auping, Michael Graham
Kauffman, Craig
Persons Present:
Tapes I to IV: Kauffman and Auping; Tape V: Kauffman, Auping, and program staff.
Place Conducted:
Kauffman's studio in Laguna Beach, 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 Michael Auping, Interviewer/Editor, UCLA Oral History Program; Curator/Editor, Los Angeles Institute of Contemporary Art; B.A., Art History, California State University, Fullerton; M.A., Art History, California State University, Long Beach.
Processing of Interview:
Mitch Tuchman, principal editor, edited the verbatim transcript, checking it for accuracy and editing for punctuation, paragraphing, spelling, and verification of proper nouns. The final manuscript remains in the same order as the taped material. Words or phrases introduced by the editor have been bracketed.Kauffman reviewed and approved the edited transcript. The index, introduction, and other front matter were prepared by Cheri Derby, editor.
7 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.
Youth and education in Eagle Rock, California--Architecture studies at University of Southern California--First exhibition: Klee-like and abstract expressionist influenced work--Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles--The Syndell Studio and the Merry-Go-Round shows--Beginnings of Ferus Gallery--Finishing school and facing the draft--Traveling to New York and Europe--San Francisco and first mature paintings--Second San Francisco sojourn--Abstract expressionist style paintings--The Ferus group.
The Ferus group (continued)--Concerns in abstract expressionist style work (1950s)--Watercolors--Paintings on glass, then Plexiglas--"Hockey stick" pieces (ca. 1962)--Vacuum-formed pieces (ca. 1963)--Beginning to use plastic--California "transparent" color--Pop art and other sixties styles--"Washboard" pieces (ca. 1966)--"Bubble" pieces (ca. 1968)--Work patterns and income--Teaching at the University of California, Irvine--Move to New York, 1970-71--Conceptual work--Use of Morano color.
Morano color "bubbles"--"Loop" paintings (ca. 1969)--Color--Giving titles to works--Series versus individual pieces--Form, content, and the limits of painting--Scale--Art historical influences--Is painting the carrier of the avant-garde?--Art for the survival of the artist--Originality versus authenticity--Relationship of craft to quality--Quality as moral choice--Japanese tea bowls.
Being a Southern California artist--Provincialism and chauvinism in art--Feminist art and ethnic art--The role of museums--Rating the Los Angeles County and the Pasadena art museums--Galleries: East Coast versus West Coast--The role of art critics.
Post-"loop" hanging pieces and light (conceptual) pieces (ca. 1971)--Peripatetic Artists Guild and other projects with Bob Morris--"Bar" pieces in plastic (ca. 1972)--Eccentric shapes, non-series pieces, transitional work--From plastic to wood--The vocabulary of the wood-structured paintings: scale, illusionistic space, complexity, color, paint application--Making the wood-structured paintings.
Making the wood-structured paintings (continued)--Using more canvas--The physical and philosophical borders of painting--Universal and personal, sophisticated and eccentric statements---Color in the wood- structured paintings--Various paint media: oil, acrylic, lacquer--The painting in relation to the wall--Wood structure per se: human scale and the elegance of the primitive--Influences on his work--Well-remembered exhibitions--Anticipating Paris--Different colors in different cities.
Return from Paris--Paris' effect on his work--Paintings done in Paris--Catalan paintings and travels in Europe--Literal structure in painting--Stained-glass windows--Matisse--Adding pictorial elements in the Paris works--Interest in shadows--Abstract versus figurative painting: the dialectic of aesthetic development--Color, collage, and watercolor in the Paris works--Reading the Paris paintings--The process of making them--The ideal size for a painting--Paintings that dominate a room--The environment of a painting on a wall--Abstract expressionist texture in his painting--Relationship with Felix Landau--Shared studios and friends in the sixties--Ed Moses, Les Carr, Allen Lynch, Robert Irwin--Parties, scarce funds, girls, gallery openings, jobs--Billy Al Bengston--Walter Hopps--Other Ferus personalities: Ed Kienholz, John Mason--The "new" Ferus and the Irving Blum Gallery--New York’s lost charm.
Pre-Paris '76 paintings and Paris '76 paintings: to make the structure evident or not--Color--Paint application--Persistent images--A work in progress--Antecedents of wooden structure--Figurative elements in latest work--A "bubble" and other plastic pieces--Tea--Beginnings as a painter--Success--Being part of art history--The elements of good art--The public for abstract art--Adding pictorial elements again.
Difficulty of sustaining abstraction as a style--Effect of life-style on work--Teaching.