Craig Kauffman

Craig Kauffman. Photo: Sheedy & Long Photography

 

Best-known for his vacuum-formed plastic works, whose curving surfaces extend from the wall in stunning, vibrant hues, Craig Kauffman (1932–2010) was one of the most significant figures to emerge from the fertile art scene in 1950s and 1960s Los Angeles. For nearly six decades, he created painterly and sculptural objects that continually experimented with form, color, material and space. Deeply engaged with art history and twentieth-century modernism, Kauffman’s work reflected artistic currents of his time, including painterly abstraction, minimalism and post-minimalism, but retained a formal thrust and an aesthetic energy all its own. Sprüth Magers has represented the artist’s estate since 2016.

 

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Kauffman had his first solo exhibition at age twenty at Los Angeles’ most prominent gallery at the time, Felix Landau. Like so many young artists in the 1950s he moved through a period of Abstract Expressionism, and he spent time in Paris, New York and San Francisco absorbing European modernist canvases and other influences, including Chinese landscape painting and Japanese ceramics. He was an integral part of the original stable of artists associated with the renowned Ferus Gallery in Los Angeles and began experimenting with different techniques and materials before discovering the malleability and color possibilities of industrial plastics in the early 1960s.

Though often characterized as a sculptor because of his influential work with plastic, Kauffman operated first and foremost as a painter—a fact borne out in interviews and the insistently wall-bound nature of his works—and he maintained his interest in plastic as a novel, transparent substrate for luminous, sensual color in many forms. Inspired by Constructivist precedents using plastic, such as those of László Moholy-Nagy, the earliest of Kauffman’s experiments involve acrylic sheets, spray-painted from the back in primary and flesh-toned compositions inspired by Fredericks of Hollywood lingerie catalogs; set within shadow-box frames, light interacts variously with the clear and opaque surfaces. Kauffman soon moved on to works incorporating biomorphic abstract shapes in low relief and translucent, candy-colored hues that gradually extended further away from the wall. By the late 1960s, he had advanced to his singular bulbous forms (his so-called Bubbles), overlaid in pearlescent lacquers that generate atmospheric effects of light and reflection. Kauffman’s Loops (1969) comprise drape-formed sheets of painted plastic that cast colorful shadows upon each work’s adjacent wall, doubling its hues through projected light.

At the turn of the 1970s, Kauffman had reached the end of his initial work with plastic, and he gradually returned to the basic tenets of painting in his innovative Constructed Paintings (1973–76). The artist developed a singular vocabulary of shapes—triangular and quadrangular forms, bisected at different angles by thin linear bands, with areas left empty exposing the supporting wall—that explore unconventional painterly supports and structures while expanding Kauffman’s luminous color sensibility. Through the artist’s integration of color, line and shape, the series achieves an insightful architectural presence and extends Kauffman’s investigation into the relationship between art and its environment.

In the 1990s and 2000s, Kauffman returned to plastic, generating a dazzling array of largely circular forms—including bubbles, flower-like shapes and oval compositions—whose scale is more intimate than that of his previous work. The artist’s sensuous use of color is in full effect in these later series, which often feature compacted, shimmering fields of glitter at their center that catch and reflect light in varied ways. Eccentric and intuitive in their combinations of pigment and structure, they remain clearly connected to Kauffman’s pioneering body of work.

 

Craig Kauffman sits down to talk about his work
Armory Center for the Arts, Pasadena, CA, 2008

Works
Craig Kauffman Estate
Craig Kauffman
Untitled, 1969

Craig Kauffman
Untitled, 1969
Acrylic lacquer on plastic
185.4 × 127 × 22.9 cm
73 × 50 × 9 inches

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Craig Kauffman Estate
Craig Kauffman
Untitled Wall Relief, 1967/2008

Craig Kauffman
Untitled Wall Relief, 1967/2008
Acrylic lacquer on vacuum formed plastic
132.1 × 182.9 × 38.1 cm
52 × 72 × 15 inches

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Craig Kauffman Estate
Craig Kauffman
Untitled, 1971

Craig Kauffman
Untitled, 1971
Acrylic lacquer on press-formed plastic
121.9 × 243.8 × 5.1 cm
48 × 96 × 2 inches

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Craig Kauffman Estate
Craig Kauffman
Untitled, 1962

Craig Kauffman
Untitled, 1962
Acrylic on paper
27.9 × 22.2 cm
11 × 8 3/4 inches

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Craig Kauffman Estate
Craig Kauffman
No. 7, 1963

Craig Kauffman
No. 7, 1963
Acrylic lacquer on plastic
203.2 × 106.7 cm
80 × 42 inches

Craig Kauffman Estate
Craig Kauffman
Untitled, 1964

Craig Kauffman
Untitled, 1964
Acrylic lacquer on vacuum formed plastic
228.6 × 118.1 cm
90 × 46 1/2 inches

More views
Craig Kauffman Estate
Craig Kauffman
Untitled, 1962

Craig Kauffman
Untitled, 1962
Ink on paper
27.9 × 21.3 cm
11 × 8 3/8 inches

More views
Craig Kauffman Estate
Craig Kauffman
Untitled, 2001

Craig Kauffman
Untitled, 2001
Acrylic plaster and acrylic lacquer
81.3 × 91.4 × 16.5 cm
32 × 36 × 6 1/2 inches

More views
Craig Kauffman Estate
Craig Kauffman
Untitled, 2009

Craig Kauffman
Untitled, 2009
Drape-formed acrylic with acrylic lacquer and glitter
91.4 × 101.6 × 20.3 cm
36 × 40 × 8 inches

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Craig Kauffman Estate
Craig Kauffman
Untitled, 1966

Craig Kauffman
Untitled, 1966
Acrylic on vacuum formed plastic
195.6 × 96.5 × 15.2 cm
77 × 38 × 6 inches

More views
Craig Kauffman Estate
Craig Kauffman
#1-5, 1994/1995

Craig Kauffman
#1-5, 1994/1995
Drape-formed acrylic with acrylic lacquer
79.4 × 54 × 11.4 cm
31 1/4 × 21 1/4 × 4 1/2 inches

More views
Craig Kauffman Estate
Craig Kauffman
Lansones, 2007

Craig Kauffman
Lansones, 2007
Acrylic lacquer on vacuum formed plastic
86.4 × 96.5 × 30.5 cm
34 × 38 × 12 inches

Craig Kauffman Estate
Craig Kauffman
Untitled, 1962

Craig Kauffman
Untitled, 1962
Acrylic and mixed media on paper
217.2 × 106.7 cm
85 1/2 × 42 inches

More views
Details
Craig Kauffman Estate

Craig Kauffman
Untitled, 1969
Acrylic lacquer on plastic
185.4 × 127 × 22.9 cm
73 × 50 × 9 inches

Craig Kauffman
Untitled, 1969
Craig Kauffman Estate
Craig Kauffman Estate

Craig Kauffman
Untitled, 1969 (detail)

Craig Kauffman
Untitled, 1969
Craig Kauffman Estate

Craig Kauffman
Untitled Wall Relief, 1967/2008
Acrylic lacquer on vacuum formed plastic
132.1 × 182.9 × 38.1 cm
52 × 72 × 15 inches

Craig Kauffman
Untitled Wall Relief, 1967/2008
Craig Kauffman Estate
Craig Kauffman Estate

Craig Kauffman
Untitled Wall Relief, 1967/2008 (detail)

Craig Kauffman
Untitled Wall Relief, 1967/2008
Craig Kauffman Estate
Craig Kauffman Estate

Craig Kauffman
Untitled Wall Relief, 1967/2008 (detail)

Craig Kauffman
Untitled Wall Relief, 1967/2008
Craig Kauffman Estate

Craig Kauffman
Untitled, 1971
Acrylic lacquer on press-formed plastic
121.9 × 243.8 × 5.1 cm
48 × 96 × 2 inches

Craig Kauffman
Untitled, 1971
Craig Kauffman Estate
Craig Kauffman Estate

Craig Kauffman
Untitled, 1971

Craig Kauffman
Untitled, 1971
Craig Kauffman Estate
Craig Kauffman Estate

Craig Kauffman
Untitled, 1971 (detail)

Craig Kauffman
Untitled, 1971
Craig Kauffman Estate
Craig Kauffman Estate

Craig Kauffman
Untitled, 1971 (detail)

Craig Kauffman
Untitled, 1971
Craig Kauffman Estate

Craig Kauffman
Untitled, 1962
Acrylic on paper
27.9 × 22.2 cm
11 × 8 3/4 inches

Craig Kauffman
Untitled, 1962
Craig Kauffman Estate
Craig Kauffman Estate

Craig Kauffman
Untitled, 1962

Craig Kauffman
Untitled, 1962
Craig Kauffman Estate

Craig Kauffman
No. 7, 1963
Acrylic lacquer on plastic
203.2 × 106.7 cm
80 × 42 inches

Craig Kauffman
No. 7, 1963
Craig Kauffman Estate

Craig Kauffman
Untitled, 1964
Acrylic lacquer on vacuum formed plastic
228.6 × 118.1 cm
90 × 46 1/2 inches

Craig Kauffman
Untitled, 1964
Craig Kauffman Estate
Craig Kauffman Estate

Craig Kauffman
Untitled, 1964 (installation view)

Craig Kauffman
Untitled, 1964
Craig Kauffman Estate
Craig Kauffman Estate

Craig Kauffman
Untitled, 1964 (detail)

Craig Kauffman
Untitled, 1964
Craig Kauffman Estate

Craig Kauffman
Untitled, 1962
Ink on paper
27.9 × 21.3 cm
11 × 8 3/8 inches

Craig Kauffman
Untitled, 1962
Craig Kauffman Estate
Craig Kauffman Estate

Craig Kauffman
Untitled, 1962 (detail)

Craig Kauffman
Untitled, 1962
Craig Kauffman Estate

Craig Kauffman
Untitled, 2001
Acrylic plaster and acrylic lacquer
81.3 × 91.4 × 16.5 cm
32 × 36 × 6 1/2 inches

Craig Kauffman
Untitled, 2001
Craig Kauffman Estate
Craig Kauffman Estate

Craig Kauffman
Untitled, 2001 (detail)

Craig Kauffman
Untitled, 2001
Craig Kauffman Estate
Craig Kauffman Estate

Craig Kauffman
Untitled, 2001 (detail)

Craig Kauffman
Untitled, 2001
Craig Kauffman Estate
Craig Kauffman Estate

Craig Kauffman
Untitled, 2001 (detail)

Craig Kauffman
Untitled, 2001
Craig Kauffman Estate

Craig Kauffman
Untitled, 2009
Drape-formed acrylic with acrylic lacquer and glitter
91.4 × 101.6 × 20.3 cm
36 × 40 × 8 inches

Craig Kauffman
Untitled, 2009
Craig Kauffman Estate
Craig Kauffman Estate

Craig Kauffman
Untitled, 2009

Craig Kauffman
Untitled, 2009
Craig Kauffman Estate
Craig Kauffman Estate

Craig Kauffman
Untitled, 2009

Craig Kauffman
Untitled, 2009
Craig Kauffman Estate
Craig Kauffman Estate

Craig Kauffman
Untitled, 2009

Craig Kauffman
Untitled, 2009
Craig Kauffman Estate
Craig Kauffman Estate

Craig Kauffman
Untitled, 2009 (detail)

Craig Kauffman
Untitled, 2009
Craig Kauffman Estate

Craig Kauffman
Untitled, 1966
Acrylic on vacuum formed plastic
195.6 × 96.5 × 15.2 cm
77 × 38 × 6 inches

Craig Kauffman
Untitled, 1966
Craig Kauffman Estate
Craig Kauffman Estate

Craig Kauffman
Untitled, 1966

Craig Kauffman
Untitled, 1966
Craig Kauffman Estate
Craig Kauffman Estate

Craig Kauffman
Untitled, 1966 (detail)

Craig Kauffman
Untitled, 1966
Craig Kauffman Estate

Craig Kauffman
#1-5, 1994/1995
Drape-formed acrylic with acrylic lacquer
79.4 × 54 × 11.4 cm
31 1/4 × 21 1/4 × 4 1/2 inches

Craig Kauffman
#1-5, 1994/1995
Craig Kauffman Estate
Craig Kauffman Estate

Craig Kauffman
#1-5, 1994/95 (detail)

Craig Kauffman
#1-5, 1994/95
Craig Kauffman Estate

Craig Kauffman
Lansones, 2007
Acrylic lacquer on vacuum formed plastic
86.4 × 96.5 × 30.5 cm
34 × 38 × 12 inches

Craig Kauffman
Lansones, 2007
Craig Kauffman Estate

Craig Kauffman
Untitled, 1962
Acrylic and mixed media on paper
217.2 × 106.7 cm
85 1/2 × 42 inches

Craig Kauffman
Untitled, 1962
Craig Kauffman Estate
Craig Kauffman Estate

Craig Kauffman
Untitled, 1962

Craig Kauffman
Untitled, 1962
Details
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Exhibitions at Sprüth Magers
Craig Kauffman Estate

Crossroads: Kauffman, Judd and Morris
Donald Judd, Craig Kauffman, Robert Morris
January 19–March 31, 2018
London

Crossroads: Kauffman, Judd and Morris is Sprüth Magers’ second curated exhibition presenting Craig Kauffman’s work displayed alongside his influences and contemporaries. The show presents six works from Kauffman’s fertile period of 1966–71, when he addressed the issues of structure and form in painting, the use of industrial materials, painting’s relationship to the wall, and dematerialization. His work is contextualized by the inclusion of work by Donald Judd and Robert Morris, as well as supplemental materials from the Kauffman archives. The exhibition, Kauffman's début at the London gallery, presents the three artists together for the first time in Europe.

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Craig Kauffman: Works from 1962–1964 in Dialogue with Francis Picabia and Marcel Duchamp
Marcel Duchamp, Craig Kauffman, Francis Picabia
April 30–June 25, 2016
Berlin

In Sprüth Magers' inaugural exhibition with the Craig Kauffman Estate, the gallery presents a selection of early works on paper and plastic pieces from the 1960s. Following a period of travel in Europe from 1959 to 1961, Kauffman returned to his native Los Angeles to commence work on several series that looked to his personal interests in the historical avant-garde. Foremost was a reworking of the nude as machine that took place some decades earlier by Marcel Duchamp and Francis Picabia. Their shared interests in new materials and the mechano-erotic human form inspired Kauffman to react against the abstract painting of the 1950s.

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Craig Kauffman Estate
Press

Crossroads: Kauffman, Judd and Morris
Flash Art, review by Alex Bennett, February 5, 2018

Nothing minimal about all this
The Times, review by Waldemar Januszczak, January 21, 2018

Sprüth Magers Shines a Light on Craig Kauffman’s Influential Minimalism
Observer, feature by Margaret Carrigan, January 10, 2018

Sprüth Magers Presents Three Varied Solo Exhibitions For Berlin Gallery Weekend
Artlyst, review, April 30, 2016

California’s Cool Comers
Time, feature, August 30, 1968

Craig Kauffman
Artforum, essay by Jane Livingston, February 1968

Biography

Craig Kauffman (1932–2010) lived and worked in Los Angeles and Angeles City, Philippines. Selected solo exhibitions include Sprüth Magers, Berlin (2016), Frank Lloyd Gallery, Santa Monica (2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2008), Armory Center for the Arts, Pasadena (2008), Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (1987), La Jolla Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego (1981–82), Pace Gallery, New York (1972, 1970, 1969, 1967), and Ferus Gallery, Los Angeles (1967, 1965, 1963). Selected group exhibitions include Sprüth Magers, London (2018), Hall Art Foundation, Reading, VT (2017), Museum of Modern Art, New York (2016), Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris (2016, 2006), Laguna Art Museum, Laguna Beach, CA (2015, 2011), Los Angeles County Museum of Art (2015, 2007, 2000, 1981, 1973), Barbican Art Gallery, London (2013), Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin (2012), J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles (2011), and Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (2010, 2004, 1991). 

Education
1956 MA, University of California, Los Angeles
1955 BA, University of California, Los Angeles
1952 School of Architecture, University of Southern California, Los Angeles
Teaching
1967–1994 University of California, Irvine
Public Collections
Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY
Art Institute of Chicago
Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, PA
Chazen Museum of Art, Madison, WI
Cleveland Museum of Art
Hammer Museum, Los Angeles
Laguna Art Museum, Laguna Beach, CA
Long Beach Museum of Art
Los Angeles County Museum of Art
Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebæk
Mark Taper Forum, Los Angeles
Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago
Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles
Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego
Museum of Modern Art, New York
Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena, CA
Oakland Museum of California
Orange County Museum of Art, Newport Beach, CA
Philip Morris Foundation
Phoenix Art Museum
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Santa Barbara, CA
Seattle Art Museum
Tate, London
University of New Mexico Art Museum, Santa Fe
Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, WI
The Frederick R. Weisman Art Foundation, Los Angeles
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York