Craig Kauffman


Paper, Plastic & Wood


June 29th – August 17th, 2019

Cirrus is pleased to announce a survey exhibition of paintings and works on paper by Craig Kauffman. Spanning the years 1971- 1999 the works on view reflect a sensuous and luminous color sensibility fused with the artist’s fascination with the unorthodox. Kauffman is a native Californian and seminal figure in contemporary Los Angeles art who is perhaps best known for implementing plastic as his primary medium. Although he has been associated with critical groupings such as Finish Fetish and Light and Space, his work precedes those categories, and his work substantially transcends their limitations.


Kauffman’s origins were in architecture, enrolling early in the School of Architecture at the University of Southern California, he was mentor and friend to Frank Gehry before transferring to the Department of Art at UCLA in 1952. One of the original members of the Ferus Gallery, Kauffman participated in the now legendary opening show, Objects on the New Landscape Demanding of the Eye where he also had his first solo show in 1957. Among others key to the west-coast contemporary canon, Kauffman was particularly influential to Robert Irwin and Ed Moses, both of whom with which he shared a Los Angeles studio.


The relationship between color and surface was a primary concern for Kauffman, expressed concisely through his internationally renowned series of vacuum and press-formed plastic wall reliefs that investigate the material aspects of color. The exhibition marks the rare display of one of such forms; Untitled, 1973 never previously exhibited in an LA gallery and not shown since it’s display at Pace Gallery in New York in the seventies. This glossy and symmetrical work utilized a vacuum-formed molding technique developed for commercial signage. The transparent, plastic “bubbles” that formed were then painted from behind, achieving a luminous effect through the integration of color and ambient light, to create works which cannot be classified as either painting or sculpture.


Kauffman felt printmaking was not a separate but equal activity to painting. Using similar colors, the prints on view are finished ideas in conversation with his works on plastic and paper. The earliest four prints selected for the exhibition were made when Cirrus founder, Jean Milant approached Kauffman in 1971 after seeing what Kauffman called a “colored water reflection piece” in the Transparency, Reflection, Light, Space exhibition at UCLA. Affected by the reflections of colored light on the walls of the gallery, Milant proposed a magnified image of a blood cell he saw on the cover of Scientific American be translated through lithography – it’s undulations emulating the ripples of light in Kauffman’s earlier work. Together they hand-printed each of these four prints in red, violet, green, and yellow tones in an edition of eighty. This was to be their first of many projects together and the evolution of this collaborative relationship – and changes in Kauffmans overall practice – can be seen throughout the years through the prints on view in the gallery.


This long-overdue exhibition can be understood as a survey showing the origins of the kind of minimal work that was made in and around Los Angeles in the early seventies and eighties, work which differentiated itself in its emphasis on surface, synthetic materials, industrial processes, and perception. The exhibition will be on view from June 29th through August 17th, 2019.