Craig Krull, Los Angeles as a statement
February 27th, 2015, Bergamot Station, Building B3, 11:30am. The weather is cold and exceptionally cloudy. The lemon trees are blooming.
For years, I had a preset idea of Los Angeles even before I knew that one day I would have to live there. That idea was forged by the architectural photographs of ultra-contemporary houses I saw in Design and Architectural French magazines. Those images stuck in my head were the cause of me accepting to move here. Because I thought to myself that if Los Angeles is able to grow those kinds of architectural houses, highlighted in such a way by such a talent, I certainly would find for me a way to call Los Angeles “Home”.
Life is that funny that the very first time I came to visit Bergamot Station, I entered randomly into a gallery, and I recognized them all. All the photographs with my dream houses were on the walls; the unique black and multiple greys of the iconic Case Study House #22 (left), the Kaufmann House in Palm Springs just to name a few by whom I will learn to be the most famous L.A Architectural Photographer Julius Shulman. It was happening at Craig Krull Gallery. I would learn later that the first time he saw Shulman’s B&W photos he instantly knew he could re-contextualize these photographs to show them as fine art. Since then Craig Krull showed Julius’s work in exhibitions all around the world, San Francisco, Toronto, New York, Atlanta, London, Paris, Berlin, Munich, Milan and the photographs have been included in substantial private and museum collections.
“Our place is part of what we are”
Those images totally symbolize Craig Krull as a gallery owner. They give the feel, the mood of Los Angeles and they were made by an artist from Los Angeles. Krull likes to say “LA is my home, and it will be my home no matter what happens” meaning that, most of the artists he decided to represent are since day one from “home”. He deliberately shows a “place-oriented artwork” and likes to quote often poet Gary Snyder “Our place is part of what we are”. As a statement.
What does he like in LA?
“I like what a friend of mine said “I’m not sure if I love L.A, but I’m good at it!”. This is pretty funny, and he is right because you get to know how to make LA work for you. What do I love about LA? Same things I suppose that most people here, the climate, the light. Overall the winter light on an afternoon on a stucco building… with the shadows… You know, everyone loves that.
Moreover, I like the openness. We are not tied down to tradition. Of course we do have a History and it’s a powerful, strong History but we are not so engrained in the tradition of that History so that you might find in other cultures like England or Japan for example. It’s just so open here.”
From Art History to contextualize…..
Indeed, Craig Krull is from “home“. He was born in San Fernando Valley, CA, in August 1960 which, he says, “was the year that John F. Kennedy was nominated at the Democratic National Convention, Downtown Los Angeles. It was also the year that Julius Shulman took his famous photograph Case Study House #22”. “For me at least 1960 has always been this year of American optimism, almost the pic or the pinnacle of the trajectory that American Optimism and Modernism took to that point.” This is how he presents himself because he likes to put things in their context. He says, “I’m passionate about culture, I’m passionate about history. Art History taught me a lot about the relationship between art and civilization”. This is the reason he naturally went to study Art History at the Cal State University of Long Beach. However, when it came to begin a Master program at UCLA, he left it because: “I realized I wanted to be in the art world as soon as possible and was perhaps becoming impatient with academia” In other words, he was ready to appropriate his “home” context on his own
….to an art gallery to re-contextualize
At that turning point, he went into work at Ace Gallery where he met with Billy Wilder, David Hockney, and Roy Lichtenstein and felt this is where he belongs.
Later in the 80s he worked at Jan Turner Gallery as a Director. In 1991, when Jane moved her gallery to a new location on Melrose Avenue, there was a not occupied mezzanine there. Craig Krull got that funny idea to suggest to his boss to spare the gallery to develop his own business! And Jane Turner was smart enough to understand the situation by suggesting a partition, he would have to limit his show to photography to complement what she was showing. This was the very debuts of Craig Krull as a gallery owner in 1991.
In 1994, he decided to move to a new place on his own at Bergamot Station, Santa Monica: a brand new underground-industrial showcase for arts. As he was no longer attached to his previous commitment, he naturally developed his roster to painters and sculptors, most of them from “home” of course. What he likes the most is to put their art into the new context of an art gallery. This is the reason he wants curating his shows and also the reason he is not afraid of showing up to three exhibitions in the same month. He likes it, and he is very good at it. Every time I come to see an exhibition, I am invited to a new journey.
Today, Craig Krull has a roster of 67 artists with photographers like John Humble, Richard C. Miller, Julian Wasser, Michael Light, sculptors like Woods Davy, painters like DJ Hall, portraitist like Don Bachardy or others multi-disciplinary like Alexis Smith, George Herms –to name just a few-
L.A. the place to be?
“I prefer to think that we work becoming the place instead of considering LA as “THE PLACE”. Because when you call something “THE PLACE” it sounds like it is almost over in a way. I think it is really better to be becoming than to have arrived. Then when it is known it’s almost like a tourist thing, like a cliché. It’s just like somebody’s expectation attached to it, and it puts a kind of pressure to perform in a way. When you are becoming, you know people are paying attention but you’re tripping and falling and growing. That’s to me the exciting part, and that’s what we’ve been doing for a very long time. I really think we are still on that path.”
Since I have lived here for more than seven years, I totally understand Craig Krull. L.A. cannot be compared to any other megalopolis. L.A by itself is a piece of art. It is a patchwork made of many layers interacting with each other. For those reasons, it will keep “becoming”. It is endless. Yes, Los Angeles is that fascinating and it can take a full life to get to understand all the facets of what has become to me a “home”.
Beatrice Chassepot, March 28th, 2015
In order to understand what makes Los Angeles so unique, Beatrice Chassepot has started to conduct interviews with Gallery Owners from Los Angeles to draw a “Series of portraits of Gallery Owners from Los Angeles”. She already wrote the portraits of Louis Stern, Stephen Cohen, Sonce Alexander, Rosamund Felsen.