Craig Kauffman, “Constructed Paintings: 1973-1976” (catalogue)

You probably know Craig Kauffman for his bulbous vacuum formed plastic works, wall-mounted reliefs that productively confuse the histories of painting and post-war domestic product design. He made other works too, such as curling sheets of colored acrylic, but Google image search (an easy straw poll) is dominated by these alien objects that look like sucked boiled sweets.

Which makes the current exhibition of his work at Frank Lloyd Gallery in Santa Monica all the more revelatory. Between 1973 and 1976 Kauffman put aside his trademark plastics and experimented with wood and canvas constructions that, like his earlier works, hover partway between the categories of painting and sculpture.

Some of the works seem to refer to the chirpy colorful geometry of early Postmodern design (Michael Graves came to mind, but also Peter Shire, who is associated with Frank Lloyd Gallery). Others seem strikingly contemporary—if you’d told me that they were by some 30-something New Yorker, I’d have believed you. (Richard Aldrich has experimented with similar techniques in his wildly varied practice.)

The exhibition would have been great whoever it was by, and whenever the paintings were made. But the fact that they were by an artist who is so often pigeonholed by his earlier, more iconic works, made it all the more exciting.

A digital catalog for the show can be downloaded here.

Above: Craig Kauffman, Untitled, 1973-1974. Acrylic on wood and muslin, 96 x 83 ½ inches. Courtesy of Frank Lloyd Gallery and the Estate of Craig Kauffman