Posts that relate to artist biographies

Gordon Locksley, Art Dealer Extraordinaire

A bus from Chicago pulled into a Minnesota snowstorm. Early fifties. A young man cast forth, hooded in an opera cape. From Chicago’s theater and street scenes, Gordon Locksley had arrived in Minneapolis.

In time, Gordon Locksley along with business and former personal partner Prof. George Shea would create the modern art scene in post-war Minneapolis. As I write this memoir, I recall Gordon with his charisma and drive, meanwhile more reserved George Shea, professor of Japanese literature, remains remembered for his refined taste.

Fifties Minneapolis was a comfortable well-to-do city along with its twin, Saint Paul, serving a large hinterland – fluid class lines, while progressive, and literate. Robust theater had replaced its Vaudeville era, also with a distinguished opera, important museums, and a world class orchestra.

Conventional Minneapolis was susceptible to new stimulation.

I admire how Gordon slid into and molded the changing local art scene, mid to late twentieth century. His timing was fortuitous, promoting a new art paradigm with the energy flow of gay culture through personal contacts, and as this culture was positioning toward mainstream.

Art dealings began with their tony hair salon, the Red Carpet. They promoted sales to rich clients, first posters, later original art.

Gordon with Prof. Shea introduced the new conventions and placed the art scene on steroids. New movements of Pop art and later Minimalism were confronting conventional taste.

This new art scene was deftly carried into sales. The abstract expressionist era of Willem de Kooning and the tapping-one’s-subconscious methods of Robert Motherwell and George Morrison were being overtaken, first by Pop, then by the Minimalists.

Among the Pop artists Gordon promoted Roy Lichtenstein, who sped action to the momentary. Lichtenstein painted lit light bulbs, explosions, brushstrokes, BenDay dots as instant brushstrokes, throwaway comic books — stylized and banal. Then Claes Oldenburg monumentalized everyday things. In grand form, Claes made soft sculpted hamburgers, 5-story clothespin, elephant size shuttlecocks, bridge of spoon with a cherry, metallic Mickey Mouse…

and Andy! Andy Warhol marketed fame. Andy featured famous people. Famous products. “In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes” You make the context. Cans of soup, then in multiples. Campbell Mushroom Soup. Leitmotif of church casseroles. Famous people in Masks. Marilyn in mask. Marilyn in Double. Marilyn in multiples. Marilyn’s lips. Marilyn’s death mask.

Andy removed art’s authority: “Anyone can make this.” “There is nothing to it. Nothing there.” Yet the market loved it. His silkscreen 200 One Dollar Bills brought $43.8 million dollars at Sotheby’s. A silkscreen, and with duplicate serial numbers!

And Gordon was his dealer. Featuring Andy with riotous parties.

Gordon sped up the art scene. Parties with live bands, wild costumes, dancing, press articles, TV. Cristo’s wrapped nudes in their Lowry Hill home. Their unit in this neo-Renaissance mansion comprised the lower floor. It was centered around a grand balustraded staircase, a cameo for presenting famous guests.

A second theme of Gordon’s art was stripping art’s attributes: The Minimalists They did not merely pare down art’s form as did Brancusi, Malevich, or Isamu Noguchi. Rather they forced removal of art’s attributes.

Having already lost narrative during the abstract expressionists, Minimalists gnawed away at art’s conventions. The new art required planning art instead of discovering art. Curves, natural materials, anything with human associations must go. Ellsworth Kelly removed color modulation, even non-primary coloration. Frank Stella removed frames, Sol Le Witt removed physical boundaries. Then Dan Flavin’s neons brought light directly into the artwork. Art was no longer a passive object reflecting sunlight.

“What a pleasure to hear your voice!” as Gordon would answer my phone calls. Yet I don’t recall my first meeting Gordon. Once at the Red Owl grocery noticed Gordon and George looking at me. Likely I knew who they were from TV or newspapers. Also, Gordon was a good friend of my mentor, prominent antiques dealer Joe Walton. Soon I got to know Gordon, while my friend Denny McGann sought Gordon’s advice on his idea of a lighted box with two-way mirrors.

Upon knowing Gordon better, I learned aspects of modern art and on art dealing. “Always return favors.” Regarding Dan Flavin’s neon tube piece, when I asked what this was about “What better way to say Fuck You!!” he answered. Yet I missed some pointers like that of a proposed a trade of an Ad Reinhart drawing for a small male nude bronze (then and now worth around $1,000, and the Ad Reinhart? Never mind.)

Around 1977 I was invited by Gordon and George to attend an art opening of John Chamberlain’s crushed automobiles. Crushed dreams? Arriving in my vintage Bentley may have been risky as Cunningham had once bought a collection of pristine autos from a museum and proceeded to strip them of interior, engine, parts. Meanwhile I had asked Gordon whether my casual dress was OK; he said he only required a jacket being an art dealer. I was fine. He always cared more for his friends than for their appearance. He was intensely loyal to friends.

My greatest gifts from Gordon occurred at the Mia dinner honoring him. A friend asked Gordon whether he knew me: “From the beginning of time!” he exclaimed. And later Gordon complimented an article I had written on Andy Warhol.

William Scott

William Scott was born in Scotland in 1913. He shortly afterward moved to Northern Ireland with his family, where he began his artistic education with Kathleen Bridle, a local art teacher. He went on to study at the Belfast School of Art, and then later at the Royal Academy in London, where he initially studied sculpture before switching to painting.

After his graduation, he and his wife Mary Lucas, who he had met in art school, moved to France to open an art school with Geoffrey Nelson, a fellow painter. This school allowed Scott to pursue his artistic career in France while also focusing on teaching, a lifelong passion of his. During this time, Scott began to achieve artistic success, displaying his paintings–at this point, primarily still lifes–at the Paris Salon d’Automne.

At the start of World War II, Scott and Lucas moved back to Britain, where Scott enlisted in the army. In the army, Scott served in the Royal Engineers as a lithographic draftsman, putting his art skills to patriotic use. Following the war, Scott went to teach at the Bath Academy of Art. During this period, his success continued to grow, with multiple solo exhibitions, as did his network of other important artists. He was closely tied to the St. Ives Group of artists and also built friendships with abstract expressionists such as Mark Rothko and Willem de Kooning. It was during this period when Scott first began experimenting with abstraction in his works.

As he continued to gain success, he left his position at the Bath Academy of Art and painted full time. He represented the United Kingdom at the Venice Biennale and the São Paulo Biennale, where he won the prestigious Sanbra Purchase Prize. In the 1960s, Scott traveled the world with his art, exhibiting throughout Europe and Asia and doing a yearlong residency in Berlin. He lectured for the British Council in Australia, Mexico and India. His work also received great acclaim within Britain, with a retrospective exhibit at the Tate in 1972, which showed 135 of his works and many other major exhibitions. In addition, he was conferred honorary doctorates from Trinity College Dublin, Queen’s University Belfast, and the Royal College of Art in London, as well as being elected to the Royal Academy.

This piece is an important demonstration of the major art themes of Scott’s life, showing his still lifes on their slide into abstraction, containing both abstract and representational elements. The objects, while still recognizable, are flattened, and seem almost to hang off a horizon line rather than sit on a table. Scott’s subtlety in his blending of colors creates vibrance in an otherwise stiff composition, retaining the mood of his earlier still lifes.

Walasse Ting

Today in 1967 A.D.

In our time life more comfortable and complicated

People more busy and nervous

More money and more war

Everybody want more and more expensive living

If you talk about nature, she running into flower shop or go to country for weekend

If anybody melancholy please take an aspirin

A poem is nothing

Not bigger than a banana not worth three cents

Sometimes after big dinner I wish you

Take a look little star

See yourself

without

a

mirror

 

-Walasse Ting, preface to Chinese Moonlight.

Walasse Ting was a painter and a poet, a powerhouse in the mid-20th century art and intellectual scene. His work was fluorescent and shocking, intended to confront the viewer and force them to pause their worldly cares to focus on beauty. Born Ding Xiongquan in Wuxi, Jiangsu province in 1929, Ting had little formal artistic education. After a brief stint at the Shanghai Art Academy, he left for Paris, arriving in 1949. He quickly fell in with the CoBrA group, an avant-garde collective of artists known for their spontaneous way of painting and rebellion against the artistic establishment. Their emphasis on Outsider Art had a profound effect on Ting, especially since he had little art training and tended to see himself as an outsider in the art world.

In 1959, he left Paris for New York City, where he was influenced by Pop Art and Abstract Expressionism. He became friends with many artists working in these styles, including greats such as Andy Warhol, with whom he once put on a joint exhibition. His work was influenced by these connections, pulling ideas from both movements and fluctuating between abstraction and figural works with a unique ease. He also began finding inspiration in more traditional sources, using bold strokes inspired by the calligraphy of his native China. In addition to art, he began publishing poetry during this period, both original poems and translations of classical Chinese poems. He published thirteen books, many of which contained illustrations by himself and his artistic contemporaries.

In 1970, he won the Guggenheim Fellowship Award for Drawing. His career continued to flourish, and he split his time between New York and Amsterdam, painting, writing, and displaying his works. He additionally made many trips to Paris to exhibit at the Salon de Mai and traveled to Tahiti to explore the tropical landscapes and colors. During his long and varied career, he had over 60 solo exhibitions of his paintings, as well as making forays into theater direction and teaching. In all his endeavors, he tried to use art to bring beauty into the lives of as many people as possible, because, in his words, “[w]ithout beauty, life makes no sense.”

This painting is a fine example of Ting’s abstract works. The vigorous sprays of intense color across the subdued green background create contrast and movement, blending the abstract style popular with his artistic contemporaries, such as Jackson Pollock, with traditional Chinese notions of the beauty in blank space. This work is considered by many to be his most original, and perhaps the high-water mark of his career.

Margaret Roper

Margaret Roper (1505-1544) was the eldest and favorite daughter of Sir Thomas More. Extremely well educated for a woman of her time, she was particularly well-known for her knowledge of Latin and Greek. Her translation into English of Precatio Dominica by the Dutch humanist Desiderius Erasmus, a close family friend, was one of the earliest translations ever published by a British woman, and was very well-received. She was her father’s closest confidante in his later years, and his writings about her make it clear that he saw her as an intellectual equal. After his execution in 1535 for his refusal to accept Henry VIII’s departure from Catholicism, she and her lawyer husband, William Roper, were the people who ensured that his story did not die with him. Along with rescuing and preserving his head, Margaret carefully collected and protected More’s writings, particularly his letters from prison. Her diligence ensured the survival of the narrative of More’s martyrdom, likely leading to his eventual sainthood, conferred in 1933.

This portrait is a copy by a well-trained artist of part of an original portrait by Hans Holbein the Younger. Holbein, often seen as the greatest portrait painter of his generation, first came to England in 1526 with a letter of recommendation to Sir Thomas More from Erasmus, who he had painted previously. Along with painting his now-famous portrait of More, Holbein also painted a group portrait of More with his family. This painting was destroyed by a fire in the 18th century, and now survives only through copies. Copying paintings was a common practice in the 16th century, and Holbein’s works were in high demand. His portraits were extremely popular during his lifetime, and after he died, no other portrait painters initially stepped up to take his place. As a result, the market for copies of his portraits boomed in the century after his death, as collectors clamored for Holbeins of their own. The majority of these were created within a century of his death, a fact backed up for several pieces by dendrochronology. Research even suggests that many copies were created using Holbein’s own drawings and patterns, which had come into the possession of Henry VIII following Holbein’s death.  

This portrait is most likely one of those early copies. There was evidently some desire to own portraits of Margaret, since multiple portraits of her alone copied from Holbein’s Sir Thomas More with his Family and Household are extant, including one in the National Trust in Knole, Kent. This was likely due to her influential status and fame as a model woman of letters. This painting is generally consistent with the other surviving copies; however, Roper’s bodice is here depicted as solid black and does not include a red panel as in other versions. The details of her costume are carefully rendered, with layers of mordant creating a low relief forming the gold decorations and chains in her garments. This painting includes Margaret Roper’s arms, which consist of her husband’s impaling her own, made up of Thomas More’s quartering her mother’s.

Le Pho

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Le Pho was born in Vietnam in 1907. As a child, he was constantly finding opportunities to make art. As the son of the Viceroy of Tonkin, he had the opportunity to study art at the newly established Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Hanoi under Victor Tardieu (1870-1937), a well-respected French painter. In 1931, he traveled to France with Tardieu, where he studied at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris on a scholarship. He then traveled to Italy to do research, also visiting the Netherlands and Belgium in his tour of Europe.

After returning to Vietnam, Le Pho became a professor at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Hanoi. During his professorship, he decided to continue his education by making trips to China to study and make art. While in China, he studied traditional Chinese sculpture, visited museums, and even had the opportunity to paint the Emperor and Empress.

In 1937, he was sent to Paris to work on the Indochina Pavilion at the International Exposition of Art and Technology in Modern Life. He stayed in France after the Exposition, where he found great success as an artist. His first solo exhibition was in 1938, and soon after, his work began getting international exposure. His works were widely distributed, particularly in the United States because of an exclusive contract he signed in 1964 with Wally Findlay Galleries, an American company.

Despite his expatriate status, Le Pho kept close ties to his homeland. He was active in the Vietnamese community in Paris, and worked with Vietnamese dignitaries and intellectuals to advocate for better treatment of the colonized Vietnamese people. His ties to his homeland are also evident in his subject matter. His paintings featured women and flowers, which he depicted in ways influenced by Vietnamese traditions and aesthetics.

 

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Hisao Domoto

Hisao Domoto was born in Kyoto to a family of artists. His uncle, Insho Domoto, was a well-respected member of the Japanese art scene, known for his works in the traditional Japanese Nihonga style, particularly his temple screens. Domoto began his art education by studying Nihonga painting at the Kyoto Municipal School of Arts and Crafts. He achieved early critical success while still in school there, exhibiting at the Japan Fine Arts Exhibition, where his work was met with high acclaim. In 1952, he traveled to Paris to study oil painting. He soon became associated with the Art Informel movement, which was flourishing in Europe at the time with its spontaneous abstractions and focus on breaking artistic tradition. He achieved great success in this style, staging his first solo exhibition in 1957 and winning prestigious awards such as the Lissone International Art Exhibition Award.

In the early 1960s, however, Domoto grew disillusioned with the Art Informel movement, and began to develop a style uniquely his own. He continued to create abstract works, but instead of rejecting tradition the way his Art Informel peers did, he looked to his traditional Japanese training for inspiration, creating careful, clean compositions. His Solutions of Continuities series marks this turning point in in his artistic mindset. In this series, which Domoto began in 1963, he broke new ground for abstract art with his technicality and intentional composition as well as his usage of traditional Japanese techniques and aesthetics.

This piece, Solution de Continuité II, painted in 1970, is a stunning example of the innovations of this series. Domoto’s masterful skill is evident in the subtlety of the painting, particularly the creation of depth by using varying transparencies of paint. The clean, matte finish of the painting is reminiscent of his early Nihonga training, while the subject matter remains abstract. These elements, combined with Domoto’s own style of neat yet highly dimensional composition, make this piece a fine and unique example of Domoto’s work.

Gustave Baumann

Gustave Baumann was born in Germany in 1881. He immigrated to the United States with his family at the age of ten, ending up in Chicago. In Chicago, he apprenticed at an engraving company while studying at the Art Institute of Chicago by night. Following his studies, he began to work in advertising, opening his own firm in 1903. However, his true interest was always in art, so after saving enough money, he traveled to Germany to study at the  Kunstgewerbe Schule, or School of Arts and Crafts. The meticulous craftsmanship taught at this school became a defining feature of Baumann’s art throughout his career.

 

When he returned to Chicago, he immersed himself in his art, quickly gaining enough financial success that he was able to move out of the city to the countryside of Indiana, where he began creating woodblock prints based on the scenic landscapes he saw there. These works led to the beginnings of his international success, exhibiting at the Salon in Paris and winning various awards.

Beginning in 1917, Baumann traveled the United States, first visiting the East Coast and then heading west to New Mexico, where he intended to spend a summer with friends in Taos. Once there, however, Baumann fell in love with the New Mexico scenery. He spent all summer trying to capture it through sketches and prints, but felt he had not done it justice and needed more time to truly depict it well. A trip down to Santa Fe confirmed this feeling for him, and he decided to move there.

Baumann spent the next several years traveling throughout the Southwest, sketching the scenery and turning those sketches into prints, working in bright and distinctive colors to present the landscape as he saw it. As his prints gained more and more commercial and critical success, Baumann continued to stay close to his roots, working carefully and creating all of his prints unassisted. He slowed down both his traveling and his printmaking toward the end of the 1930s, but continued to create art inspired by old traditions and new landscapes until his death in 1971.

Edward Steichen

Edward Steichen was one of the fathers of American photography, both artistic and commercial. Born in Luxembourg, Steichen’s family immigrated to the United States when he was two years old. Eventually, the family ended up in Milwaukee, where the young Steichen was an apprentice with a lithographic firm. He soon turned his interests to painting and photography, deciding in 1900 to travel to Paris to study and immerse himself in art. He stopped in New York on his way to Europe, where he sought out Alfred Stieglitz, the vice-president of the Camera Club of New York and a leading figure in American art photography. Stieglitz was impressed with his work and bought several pieces. The two created the basis for what would become a long and productive working relationship before Steichen left for Europe.

Steichen spent two years in Paris, during which he shifted his interests almost entirely to photography, learning new cutting-edge methods for taking and developing photographs. During this time, Steichen made his mark as a portrait photographer, but he was also exposed to the French art scene. When Steichen returned to the US, he immediately rose to the top of the art photography scene. He joined Stieglitz’s new group, the Photo-Secession, through which many of his photographs were published and his work was displayed in many exhibitions. His photography style at this time was painterly, fitting perfectly the Photo-Secession’s goal of establishing photography as a fine art. He returned to Paris in 1907, where he continued to learn new photographic techniques, but also was active in the art scene, fostering friendships with artists such as Auguste Rodin.

When World War I began, Steichen was quick to volunteer. During the war, Steichen worked taking photographs from planes, furthering his already developing interest in the technical side of photography. In his early art photographs, he had striven towards a soft and foggy style, sometimes even kicking his camera stand while taking photographs to achieve a blurred effect. During the war, however, he had to learn to do the opposite, trying to take the clearest photographs possible from the unsteady surface of an airplane. He had to add a new level of technicality to his photography, and this technicality is something that stuck with him after the war, shifting his style to be much clearer and more realistic. The war had another major effect on Steichen’s life: it effectively ended his friendship with Stieglitz, who did not share Steichen’s fervent patriotism and retained some loyalty to Germany, his home country. This was the last nail in the coffin for their already strained relationship: Stieglitz resented Steichen’s growing interest in commercial photography, which Stieglitz saw as a betrayal of the artistic ideals they had shared in the Photo-Secession, a group which Steichen, in turn, felt that was increasingly a self-centered project for Stieglitz.

After the war, Steichen turned his interests almost entirely to commercial photography. He did advertising photography and magazine spreads, taking portraits of the most famous and important people at the time for publications such as Vogue and Vanity Fair. He became hugely successful, defining the stars of the generation through his characteristic portraiture and innovating fields such as fashion and advertising photography. While he claimed to be past his former artistic aspirations, his artistic background clearly helped him to look at things differently and create new standards for photography. His studio drew important and famous clients until he closed it in 1938. After the closing of his studio, he went on to be a lieutenant commander for the U.S. Navy during World War II, documenting the war in the Pacific theater. He then went on to be a curator of photography for the Museum of Modern Art in New York, eventually becoming the head of that department, making a triumphant return to the art world to round out his career.

Édouard Detaille

Édouard Detaille is known as one of the greatest French military painters. His paintings possess the heroic, romantic spirit favored by his contemporaries, but are also known for their accuracy and detail, aided by both his artistic training and his actual military experience.

Born in Paris in 1848, Detaille showed an early talent for art. After completing a standard education, he went to work with Ernest Meissonier. Meissonier (1815-1891) was a well-respected French military painter, known particularly for his detailed approach to painting, a method he had learned from studying the work of the 17th century Dutch masters. Detaille learned this detail-oriented approach to painting from Meissonier, a characteristic that would define his paintings throughout his career. Detaille first displayed his work at the 1867 Salon, showing a painting titled The Corner of Meissonier’s Studio. Meissonier touted his student’s work, and Detaille quickly become known in his own right. As The Art Journal put it in 1888, “the student surpassed the master.”   

In 1870, Detaille joined the French military, serving in the Fourth Corps d’Armée during the Franco-Prussian war. He was stationed at St. Maur, and sketched all of the battles he participated in directly after the fact. Later during the war, he became personal secretary to General Félix Antoine Appert (1817-1891), which allowed him to fully witness many of the major events of the war, such as the siege of Paris. The scenes he observed during the war–and his sketches of them–later formed the basis for many of his paintings, as well as providing him with the basis of realism he used to create paintings which depicted war in a much more accurate way than many of his contemporaries, including the horrors alongside the heroism.

After his brief military career, Detaille focused exclusively on painting, creating many works based on his own experiences as well as from other wars. Along with individual paintings, he provided illustrations for several books about the military, and was the driving force behind a heavily illustrated two-volume encyclopedia of French Military uniforms. He even traveled to other countries to study their military uniforms, and became quite a collector of uniforms and military paraphernalia. In keeping with this interest in history, he completed many paintings of historical battles and military activity. While he obviously did not observe these battles firsthand, he retained his dedication to accuracy in these historical paintings, often visiting the battle sites for research.

This painting is one of these carefully researched historical paintings. It depicts trumpeters of the 23rd Regiment of Dragoons greeting Alsatian villagers during the Napoleonic wars. It illustrates the close relationship between the soldiers and the villagers, demonstrating Detaille’s interest in Alsatian sympathies to the French cause. An excellent example of Detaille’s work, particularly due to its size and number of figures and horses, this painting brilliantly uses the dramatic sloping lines of the roof to draw the eye to various vignettes within the painting. In addition, this work is notable for the inclusion of a dog. Detaille enjoyed hiding dogs in his paintings, and this particular dog appears in several of his works.

 

Dale Chihuly

Dale Chihuly first encountered glass art as an interior design student at the University of Washington. Immediately fascinated, he went on to study glass at the University of Wisconsin, which was the first university in the United States to teach glassblowing. From there, he went on to the Rhode Island School of Design, where he continued to learn about glass and eventually ended up teaching. His education continued with a Fulbright   Fellowship to go to the famous glassblowing studios of Venice. After his time in Italy, he returned to his home state of Washington to found his own glass school, the Pilchuck Glass School, with Ann and John Hauberg, influential supporters of the arts in Seattle. At this school, his art style and process truly flourished. In particular, Chihuly first fostered the collaborative method of glassblowing he had witnessed in Italy at Pilchuck, something that would become a hallmark of his artistic process.

Involved in these early collaborations was photographer and collector Edward Claycomb. Claycomb worked with Chihuly from 1979 to 1985, photographing his art in New York City, Rhode Island, and at Pilchuck Glass School, where Claycomb was the staff photographer from 1979 to 1980.  Claycomb, a former glassblower himself, remembers his time working with Chihuly fondly, saying, “Dale was the most fun, generous and kind artist I have ever had the honor to work with. These times could easily be called the most fun and best memories of my life.”

The pieces featured here, which make up Claycomb’s entire collection, are extremely representative of Chihuly’s style from the 1970s and 1980s. They include pieces from several of  Chihuly’s series, including Baskets, Seaforms, and Macchia. In these series, Chihuly pushed the limits of what could be created with glassblowing, experimenting with his use of color and form. During this experimental process, he created innovative new glassblowing techniques, such as his usage of an opaque “cloud” layer in his Macchia pieces to keep the colors on the exterior distinct from the color used in the interior.