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Craig Kauffman (U.S., 1932-2010) is considered to be one of the most inventive American artists of the postwar era. Often cited as a seminal figure in the Los Angeles art world during the 1950s and 1960s, Kauffman rose to the attention of critics and collectors with his first one-man show of paintings at Landau Galleries in Los Angeles in 1953. His exhibitions at the legendary Ferus gallery, from 1958 through 1965, inspired the clean, cool abstraction that defines the period in modern art from Los Angeles.

Although he is often associated with movements in Los Angeles art, his work was always informed by a broad historical knowledge of European painting and Asian art. Often working in series, Kauffman continued to explore unorthodox supports for painting during the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. Using materials ranging from acrylic plastic to silk, Kauffman always maintained a sensuous, high-key use of color. During his six-decade career, he continued to exhibit both in the U. S. and internationally.

Craig Kauffman is widely recognized for his six decades of paintings, drawings, and prints. Characterized by an obsessive pursuit of sensuality within the structure of painting, Kauffman’s engagement with unconventional materials and techniques defies categories. Throughout his prolific career, Kauffman challenged conventions, as he merged his interests in abstraction, color and perception. Although he has been associated with critical groupings such as Finish Fetish and Light and Space, Kauffman’s work precedes those categories, and his work substantially transcends their limitations.

Even at the age of 20, Kauffman’s 1953 solo exhibit at Landau Galleries was favorably reviewed by Jules Langsner in Art News. Kauffman was one of the original members of the legendary Ferus Gallery, and participated in the opening show, Objects on the New Landscape Demanding of the Eye. Critics and his peers regarded Kauffman’s first solo show at Ferus in June of 1958 as a major and influential exhibition of painting.

However, it was Kauffman’s wall relief paintings on acrylic plastic that gained him international attention and fame. After an initial group of works with flat plastic, Kauffman discovered the industrial process of vacuum forming, and proceeded to translate his sensuous forms into wall reliefs, painted on the reverse with sprayed acrylic lacquer. The works were shown first at Ferus, and subsequently by Pace Gallery in New York, where they were well received. By the summer of 1966, Kauffman’s acrylic plastic wall relief paintings were featured on the cover of Art in America. Kauffman would go on to participate in 57 exhibitions in New York during his career.

Kauffman continued to exhibit at Pace in New York, and by 1967 his work had been acquired by the Whitney Museum of American Art. In 1969 the Museum of Modern Art added Kauffman’s work to the collection, an acquisition by curator Kynaston McShine. In what the artist considered to be the most accurate curatorial statement about his work, historian and critic Barbara Rose included Kauffman in A New Aesthetic at the Washington Gallery of Modern Art, along with seminal Minimal artists Donald Judd, Dan Flavin, and Kauffman’s colleagues Larry Bell, Ron Davis and John McCracken. As Rose noted in her catalogue essay, "Shaping the brittle sheet plastic into a series of voluptuous curves, Kauffman achieves a kind of abstract eroticism that is purely visual."

Born in Los Angeles on March 31, 1932, Robert Craig Kauffman enrolled in the School of Architecture at the University of Southern California, but transferred to the Department of Art at UCLA in 1952, where he received his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in 1955 and Master of Fine Arts in 1956. Kauffman traveled and lived in Paris and New York during subsequent years, and also taught painting at the University of California Irvine from 1967 to the early 1990s. Eventually, he took up residence in the Philippines, where he continued to work in a home and studio that he designed, until his passing in May of 2010. His work is in the collections of over 38 museums worldwide.

Recent exhibitions include Crosscurrents in Painting and Sculpture, 1945—1980, J. Paul Getty Museum and the Martin Gropius Baü, Berlin; Phenomenal: California Light, Space, Surface, Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego; Hot Spots, Kunsthaus Zurich; Time & Place: Los Angeles 1957—1968, Moderna Museet; and Pop Art Design, Vitra Design Museum, Louisiana Museum, and Moderna Museet. Kauffman’s work was also a significant part of major surveys including Sunshine and Noir, Louisiana Museum in 1997 (which traveled throughout Europe); A Minimal Future? Art as Object 1958—1968, Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles in 2004; and Los Angeles, Birth of an Art Capital 1955—1985, at the Centre Pompidou in 2006.

Kauffman’s work is included in the permanent collections of major museums around the world, including the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Louisiana Museum, Humlebaek, Denmark; the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; The Tate Modern, Liverpool; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; and the Art Institute of Chicago.

Museum Collections

Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York
The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois
Bennington College, Bennington, Vermont
Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Chazen Museum of Art, Madison, Wisconsin
Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, Ohio
Delaware Art Museum, Wilmington, Delaware
Frederick R. Weisman Art Foundation, Los Angeles, California
Grunwald Center for the Graphic Arts, Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, California
Housatonic Museum of Art, Bridgeport, Connecticut
Laguna Art Museum, Laguna Beach, California
Long Beach Museum of Art, Long Beach, California
Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, California
The Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Denmark
Milwaukee Art Museum, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, Fort Worth, Texas
Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, Illinois
Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, California
Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego, California
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Norton Museum of Art, West Palm Beach, Florida
Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena, California
Oakland Museum of California, Oakland, California
Oceanside Museum of Art, Oceanside, California
Orange County Museum of Art, Newport, California
Phoenix Art Museum, Phoenix, Arizona
Princeton University Art Museum, Princeton, New Jersey
San Diego Museum of Art, San Diego, California
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, California
Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Santa Barbara, California
Seattle Art Museum, Seattle, Washington
Sheldon Museum of Art, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Smithsonian American Art Museum
The Tate Gallery, London, United Kingdom
University of New Mexico Art Museum, Albuquerque, New Mexico
University of Sydney, Australia
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, Virginia
The Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota
The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York

Selected Solo Exhibitions

2023      Craig Kauffman: Constructed Paintings 1973–1976, Sprüth Magers, London,
2019      Paper, Plastic & Wood, Cirrus Gallery, Los Angeles, California
2018      Crossroads: Kauffman, Judd and Morris, Sprüth Magers, London, England
2016      Craig Kauffman: Works From 1962 - 1964 in Dialogue with Francis Picabia and
                    Marcel Duchamp,
Sprüth Magers, Berlin, Germany.
2015      Drawings: 1958 - 1961, Frank Lloyd Gallery, Santa Monica,
2014      A Survey of Late Work, Frank Lloyd Gallery, Santa Monica,
2013      Constructed Paintings 1973 - 1976, Frank Lloyd Gallery,
                    Santa Monica, California
2012      The Numbers Paintings, Frank Lloyd Gallery,
                    Santa Monica, California
2011      Sensual/Mechanical, Frank Lloyd Gallery, Santa Monica, California
2010      Loops, Frank Lloyd Gallery, Santa Monica, California
              Works on Paper Retrospective, Cirrus Gallery, Los Angeles, California
              Late Work, Danese Gallery, New York
              New Work, Frank Lloyd Gallery, Santa Monica, California
2009      Wall Relief Sculpture From the Sixties, Nyehaus, New York
2008      Craig Kauffman: A Drawing Retrospective, Armory Center for the Arts,
                    Pasadena, California
              New Wall Relief Sculpture, Frank Lloyd Gallery, Santa Monica, California
2007      Patricia Faure Gallery, Santa Monica, California
2004      Craig Kauffman: Works from 1960’s, Franklin Parrasch Gallery, New York
2003      Sandra Gering Gallery, New York  
2001      Sandra Gering Gallery, New York
1999      Bubbles, Patricia Faure Gallery, Santa Monica, California
1998      Painted Drawings, Patricia Faure Gallery, Santa Monica, California
1995      New Work, Patricia Faure Gallery, Santa Monica, California
1992      The Works Gallery South, Costa Mesa, California
1990      The Works Gallery South, Costa Mesa, California
1988      The Works Gallery, Long Beach, California
              New Paintings, Asher/Faure Gallery, Los Angeles, California
              Craig Kauffman: Wall Reliefs, 1967-69, Santa Barbara Contemporary Arts
                    Forum, Santa Barbara, California
1987      Craig Kauffman: Wall Reliefs from the Late 1960's,  
                     Whitney Museum of American Art, New York
1985      Asher/Faure Gallery, Los Angeles, California
              Fuller Goldeen Gallery, San Francisco, California
1983      New Paintings, Asher/Faure Gallery, Los Angeles, California
              Craig Kauffman, Faith and Charity in Hope Gallery, Hope, Idaho
1982      Thomas Segal Gallery, Boston, Massachusetts
              Blum Helman Gallery, New York
              Drawing, Cirrus Gallery, Los Angeles, California
1981      Craig Kauffman: A Comprehensive Exhibition, 1957-1980, organized by the La
                    Jolla Museum of Contemporary Art; traveled to the Elvehjem Museum of Art,
                    Madison; the Anderson Gallery at Virginia Commonwealth University,
                    Richmond; and the Oakland Museum (1982)
              New Paintings, Asher/Faure Gallery, Los Angeles, California
1979      Recent Paintings, Grapestake Gallery, San Francisco, California
              New Works, Janus Gallery, Venice, California
              Blum Helman Gallery, New York
1978      Arco Center for Visual Art, Los Angeles, California
1976      Comsky Gallery, Los Angeles, California
              Robert Elkon Gallery, New York, New York
              Galerie Darthea Speyer, Paris, France
1975      Riko Mizuno Gallery, Los Angeles, California
1972      Galerie Darthea Speyer, Paris, France
              Pace Gallery, New York
              Irving Blum Gallery, Los Angeles, California
1970      Pasadena Art Museum, California, traveled to the University of California, Irvine
              Pace Gallery, New York
1969      Irving Blum Gallery, Los Angeles, California
              Pace Gallery, New York,
1967      Ferus/Pace Gallery, Los Angeles, California
              Pace Gallery, New York
1965      Ferus Gallery, Los Angeles, California
1963      Ferus Gallery, Los Angeles, California
1960      Dilexi Gallery, San Francisco, California
1958      Paintings and Drawings, Ferus Gallery, Los Angeles, California
              Dilexi Gallery, San Francisco, California
1953      Landau Galleries, Los Angeles, California