This Summer Session we’re going Back to School, and in addition to providing pedagogical resources and investigating the state of arts education, we are also looking at work that is informed by the idea of “school.” Today we bring you a review from Catherine Wagley’s column L.A. Expanded, wherein Wagley reviews separate gallery exhibitions by Craig Kauffman and Liz Craft. Wagley’s analysis pivots around the notion of “school” as a particular aesthetic within an artistic movement and “school” as a craft aesthetic, drawing an intriguing connection between the obsession with materiality seen in both Kauffman’s “Cool School” sleekness and the disheveled aggression of Craft’s sculptures. This article was originally published on April 30, 2010.
Craig Kauffman has a shoe fetish. He’s had it since he was a child. “My mom wore high heels,” Kauffman explained in a 2008 interview, the same interview in which he talked about the affect campy lingerie ads from Frederick’s of Hollywood had on his adolescent mind. (“Blow-up bras, stuffed padded bras, rear ends,” Kauffman recalled. “[Frederick] was a genius.”) The work that stems directly from Kauffman’s fetish—dumb-fisted, transparent paintings that L.A. Times critic Christopher Knight recently referred to as “rather tepid”—is far from compelling. But the fact that the artist known for sleek, vacuum-formed abstractions lusts after stilettos and patent leather pumps? That is compelling, especially since freshly lacquered custom car parts are more often assumed to be Kauffman’s main muse.
New Work, Kauffman’s soon-to-close exhibition at Frank Lloyd Gallery, features two paintings of shoes, but these hang on an unobtrusive side wall. The central attraction, a series of delicate, drape-formed plastic shells that look like glitter-filled candy dishes, hang in the main gallery. The glitter is real and, like the acrylic wall reliefs Kauffman began making back in the 1960s, each shell has a perfectly smooth surface. The hot pink, aqua, Astroturf green, and lavender that color these sculptures have the manicured gloss suited to a Prada showroom.