Heidenreich in Hollywood: Tracing the path of the artist's estate

Heidenreich in Hollywood: Tracing the path of the artist's estate

This conversation is part of a series of interviews with families and individuals who collected and preserved the legacy of painter Carl Heidenreich. On October 5, 2017 KunstWorks' Alla Efimova interviewed Richard Buxbaum about how he reconnected with Emanuel Wolf, the largest collector of Heidenreich's art, making it possible to appreciate the full extent of the artist's legacy.

Read More

Carl Heidenreich and the Circle of Hannah Arendt: an Interview with Gerhard and Regina Casper

Regina and Gerhard Casper with Untitled (1931) by Carl Heidenreich.

Regina and Gerhard Casper with Untitled (1931) by Carl Heidenreich.

Gerhard Casper is President Emeritus of Stanford University. Before joining Stanford University, Professor Casper was a longtime faculty member at the University of Chicago, where he served as the provost of the university, the dean of the law school, and a professor of law. He began his career as a professor of political science at the University of California at Berkeley. Mr. Casper has written and taught primarily in the fields of constitutional law, constitutional history, comparative law, and jurisprudence. Regina Casper, M.D., was a Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Chicago conducting research in affective disorders and eating disorders before assuming the appointment as Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science in the School of Medicine at Stanford University. She is now an emerita professor, but remains active. Born in 1937, Gerhard Casper grew up in Hamburg, Germany. Mr. Casper studied law at the universities of Freiburg and Hamburg. In the fall of 1964, Mr. Casper emigrated to the United States.

This conversation is part of a series of interviews with families and individuals who collected and preserved the legacy of Carl Heidenreich for the past half-century. On July 12, Alla Efimova interviewed Gerhard and Regina about their dedication to the painter. Below, the interview has been excerpted for clarity and brevity.

Alla Efimova: Let’s start by talking about your early lives. How did you come to New York and enter the German refugee community?

Gerhard Casper: Chronologically, it begins with me. I was a graduate student at Yale Law School in 1961 and ’62. One of my high school teachers had sent me a postcard from her vacation in Norway and said, when I got to New York, I absolutely had to look up Charlotte Beradt, who was a friend of hers and who was a refugee from Germany. She had been a journalist in Berlin and, in 1938, with her second husband, via Britain fled to New York.

I got to know her. This teacher of mine had said she was absolutely reliable—highly neurotic but absolutely reliable. I certainly found her to be reliable. She lived on West End Avenue.

And that’s where I saw my first Heidenreich abstract watercolor. I was a student at Yale, but every so often I went to New York to visit with her.

Charlotte Beradt had just done something interesting. While she was still in Germany, in the Thirties, in the Nazi period, she began to collect all of the dreams of her friends that had manifest political content and wrote them up and smuggled them out of the country.

After ’45, she collected them together again and, at the time I got to know her, she had just done a broadcast for the West German radio station in Cologne and then published a book called Das dritte Reich des Traums where she published some of these dreams. They were very startling and very interesting and so we talked a lot about that.

Charlotte Beradt was a close friend of Hannah Arendt’s, and through Charlotte, I met Hannah and we became friends. And of course, Hannah was the main connection to Heidenreich. Hannah and I later taught at the University of Chicago together.

I went back to Freiburg, where Regina and I met at a student party. Regina was doing her doctorate, I was doing my doctorate, and there was my connection to Lotte Beradt that we kept up, of course.

Hannah Arendt—who had been a student of Karl Jaspers’, who was at that point in Basel—saw to it that I got to know him. We met in Basel. She had published at that time, of course, Eichmann in Jerusalem, which was first published in the New Yorker and then as a book.

When the articles had appeared in the New Yorker, I had written her a critical letter about it, and I expressed what I did not agree with and so on. And she had shown it to Jaspers, and Jaspers then wanted to see me

I had meanwhile received an appointment as an assistant professor at Berkeley. Regina, independently of me, had pursued an interest in an internship in the U.S.

Regina Casper: I arrived in the Fall of September of ’64 by boat in New York City to do a rotating internship at St. Mary’s Hospital in Passaic, New Jersey, co-sponsored by the Ventnor Foundation, a Quaker foundation. Charlotte Beradt welcomed me on the pier in New York City, as our ship moved into the harbor. Before I set foot on land, my camera was stolen. I had wanted to take a picture of Charlotte and placed the camera in my bag. All around were a lot of people. When I wanted to take the photo, the camera was gone. This is how my life in America started.

I worked in New Jersey at St. Mary’s Hospital in Passaic, which meant you could easily take the bus to the Bus Authority Terminal in New York City and then I would take the metro and visit Charlotte on 785 West End Avenue, a parterre apartment. 

Gerhard, by September 1964 had gone to California in Berkeley. During the fall and the winter, I got a chance to meet everyone in the circle in New York City.

GC: Known as Das Dorf, by the way. They referred to themselves as Das Dorf.

RC: Right, it was called ‘the Village.’ The Village consisted of Charlotte Beradt, Hannah Arendt, Heinrich Blücher (her husband), the Klenborts who I believe also own pictures by Heidenreich, and Lotte Köhler.

In the course of that year, Lotte Köhler inherited a large amount of money and bought a number of Heidenreichs.

Everyone assembled regularly, mostly at Charlotte’s apartment.

Whenever I had time off from work, I left for New York City. Because it was easy to reach by bus and metro, I spent many weekends with Charlotte. I met Heidenreich in 1964. He impressed me as a quiet man. I did not know how ill he was. This was before his return to Germany where he died in 1965.

GC: From what you said, I think you met him at Hannah Arendt’s.

RC: I guess it could have been at Hannah’s. I know it was in an apartment, so it might have been Hannah’s apartment. At the time, we had seen his paintings only at Charlotte Beradt’s and Hannah’s apartment. We did not own any Heidenreichs—in fact, we did not own anything.

In the fall Charlotte and a group of friends went to see a collection of his paintings in Upstate New York at Therese Dessau’s house—the daughter of Paul Dessau. There I bought the oil painting, "The View from the Window," which adorns the entrance hall.  

GC: We stayed over two years in California and then went to Chicago.

Regina and I—this has really been quite wonderful—we have always been more or less in agreement about what art we find interesting and what we wanted to buy. If I gave you a tour of the house, we have a fairly eclectic collection, but with a tendency towards the Expressionists and the Abstract Expressionists. We bought mostly at auctions, in Chicago and then in Berlin, at Grisebach. We are not wealthy, so we never bought anything very expensive. We bought what we could afford and what we liked. Very simple.

Heidenreich, to me … first of all, there is the more realistic Expressionist part of Heidenreich, of which we own examples. But then, there are the abstract paintings, and the work is so extraordinarily good. His draftsmanship was incredible, his sense of color, his sense of using the space.

RC: There is an interesting phenomenon: when people come into our house and they are not familiar with these paintings, they immediately take to them. They say, “Oh, what is this? Where is this from?” They take an active interest. They like and admire Heidenreich’s paintings. I hope we will give Heidenreich a chance to be seen.

AE: That's what we're trying to do. On the one hand, we’re all devoted to Heidenreich because we feel that the work itself stands on its own. And the more time goes by, the more we can appreciate it.

But there's also something about the work. They are artifacts of the circle of a certain mid-century history, and an ethic, and a politics, which is also now so important to preserve. And it's the circle that you're describing, that you were a part of.

Do you see caring for this work as part of preserving the legacy of the anti-Nazi resistance?

RC: His activities started already in the Twenties—anti-Nazi activities. He was against the Nazis already in Munich.

And then, he had joined the Communist party. His major activities were both anti-Nazi activities and Pro-Communist activities and I think that is important to say. The Nazis did not, I think, persecute him only as a Communist, but as opposing the Nazis.

GC: His German period and what it consisted of is one thing. This city landscape we have is possibly one of those, and then definitely this portrait which we just acquired.

We relate mostly to the more contemporary Heidenreich, the Heidenreich post-war, who worked in New York and whose work Das Dorf appreciated.

Now you asked the question, is it important? Is the interest in Heidenreich important as part of the memory of the circle in New York City at the time? When I think of those circles, all kinds of things come to mind. You have the writers, you have the academics—and it is an incredibly diverse group. Painters did not figure in that group. As far as I know, Heidenreich was the only one.

RC: It's interesting, because if you think of musicians or painters, what is interesting about Heidenreich is that this entire group there—the Village—actually loved Heidenreich and collected him. Heidenreich was the unifying factor.

I think they collected to him as a painter representing a reality which they knew and appreciated. He was appreciated for his high artistry and really loved because he was such a powerful painter.

AE: I actually am not aware, now that I think of it, of other German painters who were refugees.

GC: Of course, the way the German figurative art was present among the émigrés in New York, for instance, was to the extent to which they had been able to bring some of their art out of Germany. We own a [Max] Pechstein in watercolor from Lotte Beradt that we inherited after her death, that hung in her New York apartment. That was part of what she brought with her.

And then, Heidenreich.

AE: He may be, actually, quite unique, in that way. What would you envision, if you were to envision a legacy for Heidenreich?

GC: Now comes an interesting question. Do we think of Heidenreich as an American artist?

Yes, we think of him as such. He has done a lot of work here and, like other American artists, he had an existence before. That is connected obviously to his later work. But that will not stand in the way.

And he was a citizen.

Museums, such as the Art Institute in Chicago or the Metropolitan Museum of Art, have long sections on American art, chronologically organized in some way. That's where we need Heidenreich. First, we have to get him to hang in the Art Institute as part of the American collection.

Curatorial Reflection on the work of Carole Doyle Peel


The exhibition of Carole Doyle Peel's work took place at Kala Art Gallery from April 30 - May 3 with a memorial service and reception on April 30. 

When I was invited to curate the exhibition of works by Carole Doyle Peel as part of KunstWorks in advising the Carole Doyle Peel Estate, I was excited by the prospect of attending to a more classically situated artist whose work was not only technically accomplished, but whose references to art history were embedded directly in the compositions of her drawings and paintings. I encountered the work for the first time through images online and printed in Helen Frierson’s monograph of the artist; through these platforms, I learned about the work's historical dimension, including Carole’s biography, interests, and artistic focus.

Born in 1934 in Los Angeles, Peel took part in the development and experimentation with modernist art that fermented in the San Francisco Bay Area in the 1960s. She was professor emerita of California College of the Arts, where she taught for 47 years. While some of her paintings had taken on overtly political messages, she was known especially for her quieter portraits and still lifes. These were indoor arrangements combining everyday objects and art historical references, often set against vividly-patterned fabric, rugs, and wallpaper.

From portraits of friends and students to large-scale still lifes in graphite and, more recently, vibrant graphite and gouache tableaux, Peel’s work transformed everyday scenes into allegorical ones. Her graphite compositions are full of textures and pattern, a combination of visual intensity and rigorous draughtsmanship. Although more loosely-rendered, her portraits in gouache show an attention to individual personalities in a few brief brushstrokes. Through unusual perspectival arrangements and repeating motifs, her work connects classical history with modern life and references to both antiquity and the Renaissance. In surveying work throughout her career, the importance of illusion, depth, and technical rigor to Peel’s work is clear.

One description from Frierson's monograph struck me in particular. Larry McClary, Peel's colleague at California College of the Arts, wrote, “Carole skillfully weaves the dimensionality of the Italian Quattrocento, the decorative surface treatment found in post-Impressionist Japonisme, and the spatial ambiguity of abstract expressionism, into drawings whose psychological content and beautiful, abstract arrangements have won her so many admirers.” I think this accurately encapsulates the many influences and art historical techniques I encountered while spending time with the artwork.

Carole Doyle Peel, Duccio and Music of Berlioz (Benvenuto Cellini), 1992/93, graphite, 32x40". Collection of the Estate of Carole Doyle Peel.

Carole Doyle Peel, Duccio and Music of Berlioz (Benvenuto Cellini), 1992/93, graphite, 32x40". Collection of the Estate of Carole Doyle Peel.

In Duccio and Music of Berlioz, Peel foregrounds a seemingly scattered array of opera glasses on a surface of white table linens stacked four layers thick. In the foreground, the tablecloths create an unusual visual perspective. The different layers of the picture plane rising one on top of another, as though seen from above; however, the background of historical references, including the detail of an angel taken from Duccio di Buoninsegna's Maestá (1311), are shown directly perpendicular to the viewer. Delineated as large, darkly shaded and detailed forms, they draw forward into the same narrow space of the image rather than behaving as a background. Similarly, the binoculars point in many different directions, gesturing to the illusion of depth created in Peel's composition. Some seem to gaze into the distorted curves of the water glasses, while others point outward, inspecting the world beyond the frame of the drawing. Look through any set of binoculars and their distant image would jump forward, enlarged. As an allegory for the collage of vision, the opera glasses create a visual experience similar to Peel's tableau, moving from the real space of the tabletop to distant and referential spaces of Duccio, Berlioz, and others in the sheet music, notebook, and classical references.

Carole Doyle Peel, Fan with Ribbons and Water Glasses, 2000, graphite, 40x32". Collection of the Estate of Carole Doyle Peel.

Carole Doyle Peel, Fan with Ribbons and Water Glasses, 2000, graphite, 40x32". Collection of the Estate of Carole Doyle Peel.

Seeing the work in person gave me an entirely new appreciation of the level of detail, compositional complexity, and visual play in Carole’s body of work—particularly in the drawings. Many of these were larger than expected. In reiterating specific objects in successive drawings, whether the binoculars from Duccio and Music of Berlioz or ribbons, gilded frames, and water glasses like those in Fan with Ribbons and Water Glasses, these objects become symbolic, underscoring an admiration for allegorical strategies from Renaissance and European masterpieces and creating variations on a theme. Because there is so much small detail in her pieces, it was hard for me to fully appreciate each work in the rush of images collected on my USB drive. Instead, I had to wait to see them in person to fully understand their immediacy and subtlety.

The first real look I got of Carole’s work, in person, was of it filling all the spare corners and surfaces of Lars Lucker’s framing shop at North Berkeley Frame. There, the beautiful surface of the graphite drawings was finally apparent, and I could pay attention to the smaller details: the door hinge in the upper right corner of Fan with Ribbons and Water Glasses, revealing a further room and the illusionistic trick that the background is not a single, flush surface; or the shadow of the ribbon underneath the cabinet that alters the sense of lighting and space in the same drawing.

Her unique approach to drawing and portraiture fuses old-master virtuosity, a mastery of the modernist idiom, and a keen and compassionate vision of contemporary life. In honoring her work and memory, the exhibition gathered together over forty large-scale drawings and numerous unframed works on paper, both sketches and studies.

Exhibition Reception, April 2017. Photo by Douglas Sandberg.

Exhibition Reception, April 2017. Photo by Douglas Sandberg.

Three Generations Champion Rebel Painter Carl Heidenreich: KunstWorks to Lead the New Foundation

Left: Richard M. Buxbaum in his Berkeley home, September 2016 Right: Henry Buxbaum at the opening of Carl Heidenreich’s exhibition, Goethe Institut, New York, 1971

Left: Richard M. Buxbaum in his Berkeley home, September 2016

Right: Henry Buxbaum at the opening of Carl Heidenreich’s exhibition, Goethe Institut, New York, 1971

For half a century, the Buxbaum family cared for the artistic legacy of the German-American artist Carl Heidenreich (1901-1965). Henry Buxbaum, a German-born doctor started collecting Heidenreich’s paintings and works on paper in the early 1950s and championed the artist in the United States and Germany throughout his life. Richard Buxbaum continued his father’s project. A distinguished legal scholar and Professor Emeritus at UC Berkeley Law, Richard Buxbaum worked to preserve the artist’s work, to steward the network of his collectors and friends, and to stimulate research, publications, and exhibitions. He now serves as the President of the Carl Heidenreich Foundation. On September 26, Alla Efimova interviewed Buxbaum about his family’s loyalty to this riveting artist. Below are the excerpts from the interview.

Alla Efimova: Can we start by talking about your father and his life in Germany?

Richard Buxbaum: My father, Henry Buxbaum, was Jewish; my mother wasn’t. He was born in 1900 in a really rural village in Hessen, Assenheim, which I visited often afterwards. And when he was eight, thanks to the initiative of his mother, they moved to Friedberg. By good luck, the Oppenheimer family of diamond fame (in South Africa) originally came from Friedberg. The son of the Oppenheimers came to Friedberg once and left “a purse,” as it was called in those days, with the local rabbi to support a worthy Jewish boy, who would otherwise not have the means to study. Gymnasium— the college-bound secondary school— was really for the middle and upper classes who had the money; very few people went to gymnasium at that time, I would say under ten percent of the age group. So my father was lifted out of a very poor family.

In his own memoirs, which were published in Germany, he always said, and I saw it in him, that he was never as comfortable as when he was with other people of limited background, because that was how he had grown up. And he was always a little defensive around more educated people, even though he got to the Gymnasium , and in those years you learned Ancient Greek, Ancient Latin, and in his case, Ancient Hebrew as a curricular supplement.

During World War I he was drafted into the army, in late 1917 or early 1918, and ended up in a medical unit and not on the front, unlike his older brother. He then went to medical school, worked for five or six years as a substitute doctor around the Hessen villages, which he knew very well, and met my mother in Friedberg where she was the women’s fashion buyer for a department store. Then he bought a practice—it was all socialized medicine at that time—in 1930 from the widow of a doctor in Griesheim, which was an even smaller village.

In 1933 he was kicked out of this official system by the Nazi regime but opened his own practice. He was the last Jewish doctor to practice with a general patient community because there was no other doctor in Griesheim. When the Nazis passed the penal laws in 1936, prohibiting an Aryan from treating a Jew and vice versa, he was the only one who still continued. And he did until 1938, so almost too long.

AE: So let’s now turn to post-immigration, your family’s life in Upstate New York, and the relationship with the German émigré community?

RB: After emigrating to the United States, my father bought a practice in Canandaigua, New York, a beautiful community, and that’s where he practiced until he died in 1979 at age 79. Around 1950-52 he got interested in art. In Upstate New York there was a community of both émigrés and artists.

My father got very interested in Carl Heidenreich through other German émigré friends. He started buying paintings from Carl, and often could give him a kind of payment, a couple hundred for a painting, as regularly as possible.

AE: What’s your memory of Carl Heidenreich?

RB: I met Carl around 1957. My father was invited to a New Year’s Day celebration at Hannah Arendt and Heinrich Blücher’s house through Carl. That is, Carl got that invitation for us. They were teaching at Bard College but their apartment was in Manhattan.

I’d read all of Hannah Arendt’s work, and to be invited to her soiree, or more precisely an afternoon matinee party, was really thrilling to me. I really enjoyed that, and enjoyed Carl and my father being welcomed there. Most of the guests were New York glitterati, so he didn’t fit in particularly. But Arendt and Blücher were wide-ranging people, they had a tremendous network of old friends: Jewish, communists, socialists, etc.

AE: There’s just something about this combination in Carl Heidenreich, his particular rebelliousness, risk-taking, and kind of recklessness, that is very appealing.

RB: Oh, absolutely. We all would love to have a background like that—Spanish Civil War, anti-Stalinist, Trotskyist, free—but none of us was in the mood to risk it, or at least in those days. My father came from too poor a background to be anti-bourgeois! For him that was the aspiration!

AE: What happened at the end of Heidenreich’s life and what was your father’s role?

RB: It was clear to my father already two or three years earlier, and I recall some vague conversations that Carl was living with cancer, and stomach cancer wasn’t an easy cancer to cure, or even to get into remission. Carl was in New York, he had an émigré community there, he was very well placed. He was a member of a circle around Oskar Maria Graf, who created a famous Bavarian beer and Weisswurst roundtable in Yorkville. Graf was a left-wing writer who had gotten to know Carl quite well in that time.

In the last stages of his life, with considerable help from my father, Carl was able to get some very good shows in Berlin, thanks to some of his old political allies in the state government and state media institutions. My father got to know these people there and in Frankfurt.  He really worked hard using these connections to get a very important Frankfurt show. It had a big success: there were good sales and reviews in the German papers.

AE: What’s important to you about the Heidenreich story, and what do you think is important about it to remember and preserve?

RB: Even if I would not have gotten connected to the work through the family, I wouldn’t stay connected if I weren’t convinced this was very good quality work, and it should be part of a canon. My main concern right now is to get the next generation into continuing the project, and fortunately with my daughter Hannah Buxbaum and Joachim Rosengarten, and I hope with Roger George and Elissa Wolf-Tinsman (trustees of the Carl Heidenreich Foundation), that this is going to be in place. And that’s the most important thing to me right now.

Understanding the term "legacy"

The term legacy is widely used in a variety of contexts—law, history, business—yet it is porous to the point of being hollow. In my professional work with artists and artists’ estates, I encounter situations where ambiguity of the term translates into ambiguity of planning and strategy. The term also begs to be better defined as it anchors the emerging field of Legacy Studies within Art History.  

The refrain to a song by Eminem includes the lines:

This is my legacy, legacy, yeah
There is no guarantee, it’s not up to me, we can only see

Indeed, the key to finding meaning in the current cultural application of the term legacy is in its intentionality. To what extent can it be destined or guaranteed?

Etymologically, legacy is derived from Latin legare, generally meaning something bequeathed. There are two diverging applications of the term. The first indicates a negative, stubborn residual— something that influences the present. Such is its sense in “the legacy of colonialism” or “the legacy of communism.” The cultural, economic, or political burden inherited by one generation from another, is thus seen as not intentional, but baked into the societal framework in a lasting, unyielding way.

Nicole Dextras, Legacy, Ice, 8 foot high ice text on the Yukon River, Dawson City, Yukon. 

Nicole Dextras, Legacy, Ice, 8 foot high ice text on the Yukon River, Dawson City, Yukon. 

A contrasting sense of legacy postulates an intentional gesture, a gift structured to benefit the future. In a legal context, a legacy is a gift of property left in a will. In the cases of artists, writers, and musicians, this intentional sense of legacy can be further separated into two distinct categories:

1) An artist can bequeath real estate, cash, and other tangible assets (such as art) to an institution that will steward them to advance the individual’s vision. One’s legacy will be maintained by a benefiting future generations through a charitable mission. As an example, a year prior to her death in 1985, Marie Walsh Sharpe established a foundation, bequeathing her estate to support gifted American visual artists. For nearly a quarter of a century, the foundation offered free studio space for year to artists selected by a jury of fellow artists. Legacy planning or legacy gifts in this sense mean a transfer of liquid assets to public institutions in order to operate programs to further the donor’s intent. In this case, legacy is not necessarily tethered to the donor’s creative output.

2) An artist may desire to secure a cultural legacy based on a lifetime’s work. In the past, public recognition or oblivion were seen as a matter of fate. In the words of Eminem, “it’s not up to me, we can only see.” Vagaries of the art market, trends in scholarship, and museum politics, contributed to canonizing certain artists while obscuring the names of others. In the last two decades, however, artists have been encouraged to be proactive about legacy planning. Institutions such as the Joan Mitchell Foundation, the Marie Walsh Sharpe Foundation, and Artist Trust, have run programs and issued guidelines for artists, ranging from assistance in cataloging their work to recommendations on estate planning strategies. Last year, Research Center for Art and Culture (RCAC) launched the Elder Artists' Legal Resource, a website based on nearly a decade of research into the needs of aging artists. The website provides advice and templates for inventory development, valuation and taxation issues, and estate planning. By now, over three hundred artists across the U.S. have opted to start their own foundations to ensure the long-term impact of their work. The Aspen Institute’s Artist-Endowed Foundations Initiative identifies them as “a rapidly emerging force in cultural philanthropy and artistic heritage stewardship.”

The idea of intentional control and premeditation of an artist’s legacy as  positive cultural contribution to future generations is rather new. It stands in sharp contrast to the romantic notion of a sensational discovery of an unrecognized genius and a random sleight of fate. The growing approbation of legacy planning by living artists indicates a trend to consider visual artists’ work as an asset than can be controlled by the maker rather than the market. Envisioning the footprint one leaves on the culture should not be solely the privilege of those who possess tangible assets to be bequeathed. At KunstWorks, our goal is to help artists find new ways to assert influence over their intellectual property and legacy.

Findings #2: Charles Fahlen: One Nebulous Pig

I am haunted by a strange pig. Rather, a pig print. When looking through the work in the studio of the late sculptor Charles Fahlen (1939-2010), I pulled out a number his printmaking experiments from the 1960s. The pig challenged me.

Charles Fahlen. Pig, 1960s. Print. Estate of Charles Fahlen

Charles Fahlen. Pig, 1960s. Print. Estate of Charles Fahlen

The image undeniably refers to the ubiquitous pork-butchering diagram. The contoured, flat profile is unmistakable. Yet, Fahlen pig is smudgy and nebulous, floating on the very large sheet of paper. It is grounded by the purple symbol, as if stamped with a seal. Does the symbol stand for something or is it simply a graphic element that pins the pig to the page, reminding us of flatness? 

Pork Butchering Diagram. St. John Restaurant, London

Pork Butchering Diagram. St. John Restaurant, London

Nöelle, Fahlen’s widow, keeps the airy studio in Gurneville, CA meticulously organized. There is serenity and clarity in the entire setting: the house, the cottage studio, the garden nestled among the redwoods, not far from the Russian River. 

Fahlen taught sculpture at Moore College of Art in Philalphia, PA, for over thirty years before moving back to his native California. In the last decade of his career he was mostly known for wall-hanging sculptures, created of multi-layered grids, made of variety of industrial materials. Several of these sculptures are installed in the Guerneville studio. Frenzy, for instance, is made of steel, copper, and aluminum, and arranged in a strict matrix of metallic strips.

Frenzy, ©2009. Steel, copper, aluminum, epoxy, and pigments. Estate of Charles Fahlen 

Frenzy, ©2009. Steel, copper, aluminum, epoxy, and pigments. Estate of Charles Fahlen 

In another sculpture, Flammox, a metallic matrix takes on organic form, protruding from the wall like a giant tit pulled forward by the weight of many nipples. The multicolored balls, resembling fish net weights, are handmade epoxy forms. On close examination, their pigmentation is cloudy and irregular, contrasting sharply with the strict geometry of the sculpture.

Flummox, ©2009. Brass, aluminum, copper, stainless steel, epoxy, and pigments. Estate of Charles Fahlen 

Flummox, ©2009. Brass, aluminum, copper, stainless steel, epoxy, and pigments. Estate of Charles Fahlen 

The epoxy balls of Flammox give me a clue to the mystery of Pig.  The whimsical, cloudy pigmentation on their surfaces resist the rigid organization of the supporting structure. Similarly, the nebulous pig wiggles away from the flat, mechanical surface of the print.


Findings #1: Irving Guyer

As I visit artists' studios and storage spaces, look through drawers and boxes that had not been opened for many years, peek into garages and attics, I am bursting with the joy of discovery. There are exquisite objects, lovingly and intelligently made, waiting to be found, admired, appreciated. In this series of blogs, Findings, I will focus on a single object from an artist's estate that particularly thrilled me. Some estates are clients of KunstWorks, some are not.

I will start with the estate of Irving Guyer (1916-2012), brought to my attention by his daughter Leonie Guyer.

Irving Guyer, Pinetum VI (Evening I), oil, acrylic, ink on four-part canvas, 48 x 60 inches, 2007 

Irving Guyer, Pinetum VI (Evening I), oil, acrylic, ink on four-part canvas, 48 x 60 inches, 2007 

91-year old artist, whose eyesight was compromised by macular degeneration, living in the Sierra Foothills, made a series of paintings of tree trunks. For Pinetum VI four smaller stretched canvases were connected to create a large canvas. The painting is both gigantic and intimate. The viewer is asked to see the trees but ignore the forest. There is light and darkness, luminosity and texture, order and imperfection, depth and veneer. 

 In 2011, a year before he died, Guyer wrote:

Art movements do not mean progress, they represent the search for interstices others may have passed over. And they also bear witness to the overwhelming urge to join the band of brothers who search for life with paint, hands and minds. (italics mine)

Art as the "search for life with paint, hands and minds..." He does not mention eyes but refers to art-making as a purely tactile process--a powerful idea.

 Irving Guyer did find life. According to Leonie, he was still a charming bon vivant, smoking, drinking, and joking into his late age.

"White Cube" no more

The essays in Brian O'Doherty's influential book Inside the White Cube: The Ideology of the Gallery Space (The Lapis Press, 1986) first appeared in Artforum in 1976. O'Doherty was the first to explicitly confront a particular crisis in postwar art as he sought to examine the assumptions on which the modern commercial and museum gallery was based. One of the assumptions concerned the display of modern art on sterile, white walls of rectangular gallery spaces. It has become so familiar that it is still rarely questioned. Works of art, plucked out of messy studios and cluttered homes, now float against white background, surrounded by ample breathing space and demand singular focus and attention.

Two Bay Area dealers of postwar art defy the convention, mixing modern art with antiques and vintage objects. Artworks are treated as friendly and livable.

Gaetan Caron and Rob Delamater of Lost Art Salon find suitable homes for paintings and works on paper from the estates of lesser known postwar artists by catering to interior decorators. Works are tastefully presented in reconditioned period frames; artists are well researched by a group of graduate student interns; and the artists' heirs are treated with great respect.

Lost Art Salon showroom, San Francisco

Lost Art Salon showroom, San Francisco

Collier Gwin of Foster+Gwin pairs his collection of postwar abstract art and sculpture with high-end European antiques. You will find BayArea Abstract Expressionist paintings next to 17th-century Italian consoles, a Robert Arneson' sculpture next to a French marble tabletop. The effect is unexpected and stunning. Antique furniture and modern art somehow feel more accessible and contemporary.

Foster+Gwin showroom, San Francisco

Foster+Gwin showroom, San Francisco

Online Legal Resource for Elder Artists

In 2007, Research Center for Art and Culture (RCAC) at Columbia University published a study called Above Ground: Information on Artists III: NYC Aging Artists.

The study revealed a great lack of legacy planning in the visual arts community. As an example, 61% of aging visual artists have made no preparations for their artwork after their death.

In response to the study's findings, in 2010 RCAC launched ART CART: Saving the Legacy, an educational program at several colleges and universities in New York and Washington, DC. The program provided aging artists with hands-on support to manage and preserve their life's work, and by provided students with experience and mentorship in the preservation of artistic legacy.

This November, RCAC packaged many of the practical advice and planning guidance developed through ART CART into a website that can be used by artists across the country. The Elder Artists' Legal Resource website is a collaboration among Columbia Law School, the City University of New York Elder Law Clinic, Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts, and RCAC, which is now housed at the National Center for Creative Aging. The website provides solid advice and templates for inventory development, valuation and taxation issues, and estate planning.