Craig Kauffman was a key figure in the Los Angeles and wider American art scene during the 1960s and 1970s. A new show at  Sprüth Magers in London, recently opened celebrating his phase of work to what the artist called his “constructive Paintings” Produce between 1973 and 1976 they marked a departure from his earlier, potentially more well known work.

In his work Kauffman wanted to move away from what the wider art world would consider “traditional painting techniques” and instead create paintings from multiple layers of various unconventional industrial and organic materials such as acrylic, aluminium, plexiglass, wood, and muslin to name a few.

Untitled, 1971, Acrylic lacquer on press-formed plastic121.9 × 243.8 × 5.1 cm48 × 96 × 2 inches, courtesy of the artists estate and Sprüth Magers.

One of the defining features of Kauffman's constructive paintings was this use of layering. The artist would build up layers of materials, often with different colors and textures, to create a sense of depth and dimensionality. This layering also allowed him to play with the way that light interacted with his works, creating subtle shifts in color and luminosity as the viewer moves around each piece.

Kauffman's works at this time were also notable for their use of colour. As an artist he was always known for his bold, saturated colors, often using hues such as bright yellows, oranges, and pinks. These colors which he continued to make use of were often juxtaposed with cooler tones such as blues and greens, creating a sense of visual tension and contrast. Paint was also applied by various unorthodox methods. As can be seen in Wooster Orange a painting made in his New York studio in 1975 and featured in the Sprüth Magers show. It was constructed with a framework of wooden members of a strong, dimensionally stable and lightweight wood known as jelutong. Once formed, the artist would then, work from the backside of the painting applying paint with impressions from cardboard, and smearing this application of paint gesturally with rags and cloths.

Wooster Orange, 1975Acrylic on wood and muslin246.4 × 200.7 cm97 × 79 inches, courtesy of the artist's estate and Sprüth Magers.

Framing of the constructive paintings was also an important aspect of this phase of Kauffmans practice. Rather than simply hanging his works on a wall, Kauffman often created custom frames or supports that would further enhance the visual impact of his works. These frames, often made from the same materials as the painting itself, created a seamless integration between the two.

Overall, Craig Kauffman's constructed paintings represent a unique and innovative approach to painting that pushed the boundaries of what a painting could be. Often seemingly to blurring the line between painting and sculpture, they were also particularly influential in the development of post-minimalism, a movement which sought to move beyond the strict formalism of minimalism and explore more conceptual and experiential aspects of art. During this period between 1973 and 1976 the artist created a legacy of works that were both visually stunning and intellectually engaging and are paintings the continue to influence and inspire artists to this day.

Craig Kauffman, Constructed Paintings 1973–1976, Installation view, Sprüth Magers, London, April 14—May 20, 2023, Photo: Ben Westoby

Craig Kauffman, Constructed Paintings runs until 20th May 2023 at Sprüth Magers, London.