Craig Kauffman on paper

Craig Kauffman, said to be one of the most prominent and influential artists to have come out of the Los Angeles art scene of the 1960s, currently has a drawing retrospective at the Armory Center for the Arts in Pasadena. In a 2001 NY Times review of a show at Sandra Gering, Ken Johnson wrote that Kauffman contributed to the Los Angeles ”fetish finish” movement, with Minimalistic, vacuum-formed plastic shapes, slickly spray-painted in ways that bespoke enthrallment to California hot-rod and custom-car culture. In its technical fanaticism, it was what some might call “guy art.” David Pagel reviews Kauffman’s Armory show in the LA Times. “There is plenty of gentle captivation, quiet vitality and restless pleasure in the survey. Organized by Jay Belloli, it consists of 57 pieces, most the size of sketchbook pages and all made between 1949 and 2008. It’s as if Kauffman, now 76, had spent a good part of the last 50 years going out of his way to make drawings that are invisible to people who see things only in terms of their ability to deliver instant gratification. Many of the drawings here have never been publicly exhibited.

“The get-it-all-in-an-instant attitude that fuels so much current behavior — visual and otherwise — plays no part in Kauffman’s best drawings. They are slow reads that fly in the face of urban life’s rapid pace by flying beneath the radar, where they make little places — or create simple occasions — for delightful discoveries, serendipitous insights and see-for-yourself satisfactions. An exceptionally light touch, which is never called on to do too much, is evident in the wispy scratches, casual scribbles and occasional smudges of color that Kauffman lays down with a fine brush or sharp pencil. The tentativeness that dribbles from the surfaces of his works is neither scrappy nor exquisite but somewhere in between. Less than suggestive of his own insecurities, it is more indicative of an unassuming manner, one that avoids pretense, prefers obliqueness to directness and behaves as if the best things in life happen by accident.” Read more.

Check out a 2008 video interview in which Kauffman discusses the relationship between drawing and painting. “I keep trying to find an answer and the next day I just go back.”

Craig Kauffman: A Retrospective of Drawings,” organized by Jay Belloli. Armory Center for the Arts, Pasadena, CA. Through Nov. 16.

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