Oral Histories

Interview of Max King

Craft and Folk Art Museum Graphic Designer, 1977 – 1984.
Craft and Folk Art Museum Oral History Project
Biographical Note:
Craft and Folk Art Museum Graphic Designer, 1977 – 1984.
Benedetti, Joan
King, Max
Persons Present:
King and Benedetti.
Place Conducted:
Benedetti's home in Santa Monica, California.
Supporting Documents:
Records relating to the interview are located in the office of the UCLA Library’s Center for Oral History Research.Researchers can also access the Craft and Folk Art Museum records, ca. 1965-1997 (collection no. 1835) in the UCLA Library's Department of Special Collections.
Interviewer Background and Preparation:
The interview was conducted by Joan M. Benedetti. B.A., Theater; M.A., Library Science, Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana. Related Experience: Milwaukee Public Library Decorative Arts Librarian, 1967 – 1968; CAFAM Museum Librarian 1976 – 1997. From 1998 – 2012, Benedetti worked to process the CAFAM Records, 1965 – 1997, which are now part of Special Collections at the UCLA Young Research Library. She is the author of several articles on folk art terminology and small art museum libraries and the editor of Art Museum Libraries and Librarianship, Lanham, MD: ARLIS/NA and Scarecrow Press, 2007.Benedetti prepared for the interview by reviewing the CAFAM timeline developed while working on the CAFAM Records at UCLA. Benedetti also reviewed the lists of CAFAM exhibitions and catalogs produced during Max's tenure (1977-1984). During Max's eight years at CAFAM, she and Benedetti shared work space in the "cottage" (now demolished) on Curson Avenue around the corner from CAFAM. Joan's work with the CAFAM Records, her experience with the other CAFAM oral history interviews, and her personal knowledge of CAFAM during her 21-year tenure as CAFAM Museum Librarian (1976 – 1997), assisted in her preparation for the King interview.
Processing of Interview:
The transcript was edited by Joan and Max for spelling of names and Joan added full names and opening dates of CAFAM exhibitions where appropriate. Both Max and Joan also added further information in brackets for clarification and deleted with ellipses some back-and-forth comments that did not add to the reader's understanding of the narrative. Time stamps have been added to both the table of contents and the transcript at five-minute intervals; the time stamps make it easier to locate the topics in the transcript that are mentioned in the table of contents.
2.25 hrs.
Regents of the University of California, UCLA Library.
Series Statement:
The Craft and Folk Art Museum (CAFAM), founded in Los Angeles by Edith and Frank Wyle, grew out of The Egg and The Eye, a commercial art gallery/restaurant devoted to international contemporary craft and folk art—and (in the restaurant) omelettes. The gallery opened November 1, 1965 at 5814 Wilshire Blvd. and transitioned in 1973 to a 501(c) (3) non-profit, the Craft and Folk Art Museum, in the same location. From 1973 to 1984, Edith Wyle served as program director; in 1975 Patrick Ela was hired as administrative director. Wyle retired in 1984, going on the board, and taking the title of founder/director emeritus. Ela was then appointed executive director, and he added design to the museum's program. The restaurant closed in 1989, but the museum is still operating in the same place.The CAFAM Oral History Project was conceived by former CAFAM museum librarian (1976 -1997) Joan M. Benedetti, during her processing of the CAFAM institutional archives (Craft and Folk Art Museum Records: ca. 1965 – 1997), donated to UCLA Special Collections when CAFAM closed temporarily at the end of 1997. At the time, it was thought to be a permanent closure: all staff files including papers, catalogs, ephemera, clippings, press releases, photos, posters, videos, audiotapes, films, and some non-accessioned objects were given to UCLA Special Collections; the permanent object collection was sold at auction; the library collection was given to LACMA. While working on the archives, Benedetti determined to further document CAFAM's history through interviews with persons who had participated in that history. She conducted seventeen of the eighteen oral history interviews and transcribed seven of them. The rest were professionally transcribed with financial support from Frank Wyle. All transcripts were edited by Benedetti and then reviewed and edited by each interviewee. When the recordings and transcripts were completed, they were donated (with the interviewees' permission) to UCLA Library's Center for Oral History Research.The interviewees were selected by Benedetti based on what she knew of their involvement with CAFAM. These persons are by no means the only ones associated significantly with CAFAM's history. Quite simply, they were both significant and available during the time Benedetti had to work on the project as a volunteer.Of the seventeen people Benedetti interviewed over twenty-seven months (January 2008 – March 2010), ten are former staff and six are former board members, including co-founder and board chair Frank Wyle. Wyle's daughter, Nancy Romero, who had worked on several CAFAM exhibitions, was also interviewed. (Edith Wyle had been interviewed for the Archives of American Art in 1993.) When Benedetti completed the CAFAM Records processing in 2012, an interview with her was recorded by Joyce Lovelace, contributing editor for American Craft magazine. As the topic is CAFAM during roughly the same time period, the Benedetti-Lovelace interview is included here.
Growing up in Ohio--Move to California--High school in Whittier; Max and sister Joy study art at California State University, Long Beach--Max gets nickname, “Max”-- 5:00 Parents, sister, Joy--10:00 Works on Queen Mary--Decides she needs adventure--15:00 Puerto Rican vacation turns into “grand adventure” with Russian architect, job with local ad agency--Living costs too high--Max returns, works on Queen Mary again--Travels to Mexico--Early 1977, answers ad for Craft and Folk Art Museum (CAFAM) receptionist--20:00 Merat Kebede--25:00 Mac, Brenda Hurst--CAFAM as vital, golden years--The Egg and The Eye restaurant, the Shop--Janet Marcus, Karen Copeland--Judith Bronowski, Artesanos Mexicanos exhibition--30:00 Japanese Toys exhibition and teahouse-- Edith Wyle and others “expand experience beyond galleries”--35:00 Starts as receptionist; graphic skills recognized--Milt Zolotow, Ed Tuttle advice--CAFAM logo--40:00 American Crafts in the White House first catalog--Joan Mondale--Natzler:The Ceramics of Gertrud and Otto Natzler, 1971-1977--45:00 Artists/curators worked with on catalogs--Romanian Folk Textiles, curator Joyce Winkle--Max and Joan move to Curson Avenue--Cottage, late 1978--Preparator, Jorge Casillas, makes large light tables--50:00 Curson cottage--Nina Green, other staff there--55:00 Joan learns from Max about photography, especially slides, documenting exhibitions, part of job as librarian--1:00:00 Max re-designs stationery; all working papers--Annual Festival Primavera--1:05:00 Edith Wyle, founder--Both had strong opinions--Max followed Edith’s direction--Edith developed respect for her--1:10:00 CAFAM struggled financially--CAFAM’s dependence on young women staffers--Exploited, but a “passionate sort of calling”--More about Edith Wyle--Edith’s office, staff meetings there--When Edith dies in 1999 Patrick Ela asks Max to design memorial invitation--1:15:00 Wyles’ house--How special it was--Many parties-- Frank Wyle--Invitation with Archuleta watermelon--1:20:00 Attempt to produce Wyle Laboratories collection catalog--Frank Romero, Murals of Aztlan--1:25:00 Talli and William Wyler--Mrs--Anwar Sadat--Close Packing and Cracking--1:30:00 Bradley Miller gives her tumbled clay piece--Traditional Toys of Japan--Textile Traditions of Afghanistan--Building yurt-- New Mexico Space and Images--Working with Sharon (“Shan”) Emanuelli on poster/catalog--Four Leaders in Glass, curated by Shan--1:35:00 Traditional Textiles of Tunisia, Trudy Reswick, curator--Traveling to Tunisia--1:40:00 Scary moments in Tunisia--Malibu Tile catalog--1:45:00 Masks in Motion, curated by Willow Young--Mask as Metaphor curated by Emanuelli--Gallery 3 poster designed at beach--Made in L.A., Bernard Kester--1:50:00 Roger Marschutz, photographer-- Murals of Aztlan poster--Tom Vinetz shoots six-week mural process--1:55:00 Shuji Asada dinner party--Asada poster--Art of the Dark Crystal, Jim Henson--Black Folk Art in America-- Handmade in Nepal/ Four Villages--The Greek Ethos, Basil Jenkins--CAFAM calendar--Janet Marcus, education events--Willow Young, Festival of Masks--Festival posters 1977–1984 by Max--Aaron Paley, Mask Parade--2:00:00 Designing exhibition labels--Karen Copeland’s baby--Many parties--Staff weddings--Edith’s and Patrick’s assistants--2:05:00 Ian Barrington, the restaurant--2:10:00 Tomi Haas, Rita Lawrence, Ed Tuttle, Milt Zolotow--Mark Gallon, early Associates events--2:15:00 Joan amazed Max worked on so many museum projects--They agree those were “golden years.”