Category Archives: Words from Peter Loughrey

Straight from the director of LAMA himself. Interviews, advice, and personal insight from a guy who’s been in this business since 1989.

Peter’s Auction Picks of the Day: October 8th

The Look You Love for Less

Does this double dip recession have you down to your last three Aston Martins?  Has your maid been forced to fire her personal trainer?  Have you been forced to make the embarrassing switch from single-malt to blended?  At tomorrow’s auction the blue chip names are likely to do as well as always but what about the buyers who love the look yet can’t afford a mega-star signature at the bottom of the canvas?  For all those noveau-poor enthusiasts out there, here are a few suggestions for works that can be fetched for a fraction of the big names but still have all the wall power…

Can’t afford $3,000 for an Ellsworth Kelly (Lots 19-22)?  How about Lot 245, James Norman’s Number 7, with all the beautiful colors and bold primary shapes of the Kelly for a sixth of the estimate?  Or Lot 243, John Friel’s gorgeous Untitled 1966 canvas for a cheerful, sharp, and sleek graphic impact?

Have a thing for Roy Lichtenstein’s Shipboard Girl (Lot 223) but find it unwise to sail first class?  How about Lot 226, Blondie by Paul Dillon?  Dillon shares Lichtenstein’s fascination with the power of newsprint comics, their unpretentious pop impact–and both artists subvert the comics’ comforting banality to critique the culture at large.  But with Blondie, Dillon adds the power of Warholian repetition, not only with the comic but with the stern newspaper masthead–then tops it all off with the bold yellow stencil, “Blondie”, which not only personalizes the work but conversely reduces it to a product, a commodity to be crated.  Where Lichtenstein mutates and purifies the dull newsprint hues of his Sunday funnies inspirations into brilliant colors, Dillon embraces the original comic’s muted, faded grandeur.

Got an eye for Op but can’t shop till you drop?  Instead of Lot 170, Bridget Riley’s Untitled (Fragment 7), why not go with Victor Vasarely, an equally strong name.  Check out Vasarely’s Tau-Ceti, Lot 171, which will probably go for less than a quarter of the Riley.  What first appears to be a grid of identical green squares subtly morphs into a series of ever-changing diagonals.  Still too much?  How about Lot 229, KLE I & Untitled, by Kyohei Inukai–three eye grabbing Serigraphs from the height of the era.   Or Charles Hinman’s Untitled & Color Door, Lot 172, two pre-CGI assaults on our expectations for shape and perspective.

Finally, if conceptual, text-based works turn you on but the price of John Baldessari (Lots 160 and 161) turns you off, may I suggest Hot Shot by Ed Ruscha, Lot 167?  Eternally clever, Ruscha offsets the word “hot” twice for graphic impact against a background of what looks like stylized television static–the garish title phrase spoofing both its self and the medium.

Or Lot 162 by Alexis Smith, which was Peter’s pick of the day on October 4th.  What self-respecting Angelino wouldn’t want a local gal’s visual tribute to LA’s greatest poet of crime, Raymond Chandler?  And if this is too rich for your blood try Wall Batterton’s Toy Dispenser, Lot 168–playful, witty, impishly burdening a 2-D stamp with the curse of gravity.  And one of the favorites for many of those who have visited our showroom this preview is the equally witty, “Do Not Touch Work of Art”, Lot 169 by Gifford Myers.  Myers captures the coldness and distance–the opposite of playfulness and freedom–that sadly can be the gallery and museum experience.  And what if you’re not only counting your pennies but are afraid of being called a slave to brand names?  What could be less ostentatious than a work by Anonymous, Lot 5 entitled !&!&!& I & Yield–a series of five smart and colorful calligraphic blasts.

Whatever you passion, whatever your budget, these items show that Richard Dorso’s collection has something you can acquire and will treasure.

Lot 245 James Norman  Number 7    1963  Acrylic on canvas   Signed, titled and dated on stretcher; Westerly Gallery New York label verso on stretcher  Canvas: 36″ x 36″; Frame 37″ x 37″     Provenance: Westerly Gallery, New York  Estimate $500 – 700

Lot 243 John Friel  Untitled    1966  Acrylic on canvas   Signed and dated verso  33.75″ x 32.25″   Estimate $500 – 700

Lot 226 Paul Dillon  Blondie    1978  Stencil on laminated newsprint   Signed, dated, titled verso  Sheet: 20″ x 24″; Frame: 20.5″ x 24.5″  Estimate $500 – 700

Lot 167 Ed Ruscha  Hot Shot   Published by Bernard Jacobson, Ltd., London  1973  Lithograph on white wove paper  edition of 100   5.875″ x 8.25″; Frame: 10.5″ x 13″  Estimate $4,000 – 6,000

Lot 169 Gifford Myers  DO NOT TOUCH WORKS OF ART    1979  Unglazed ceramic relief on plaque   Signed and dated lower left on verso, “4” lower right verso  10.375″ x 14.375″  “Do not touch works of art”, gallery postcard for Gifford Myers exhibition attached to back   Estimate $500 – 700

Peter’s Auction Picks of the Day: October 7th

Five by Tancredi

European or Abstract, Expressionism was all the rage in the 1950s when Mr. Dorso bought these outstanding examples of the form by Tancredi Parmeggiani (Lots 33-37).  Only a few true believers might have predicted this genre would endure to become perhaps the most iconic style of the atomic age.

Peter loves Tancredi’s art because, like Pollock, it is uncompromisingly pure, raw expression.  His works neither represent nor evoke nor symbolize a setting sun, a sad grandma, or a rainy day—nor it does it represent a sad grandma in a rainstorm against a setting sun.  In these examples Tancredi manifests his emotions only through gesture, color, shape, and the physical properties of the paint itself.

Being pattern-seeking creatures, who can blame us for occasionally “seeing” recognizable forms in Tancredi’s work?  For example, Lot 33 may stir within the mind’s eye impressions of the atom—or a supernova—or the Milky Way.  This is Tancredi’s unique fantasia on Pollock’s famous drip technique.  The warm and ominous “rainbow” background makes it Tancredi’s own.

Likewise, Lot 34 tempts us to imagine some large object hovering above an enormous mesa, even casting a shadow.

And Lots 35, 36, and 37 inevitably call to mind the cross-section of a cell—or the planet earth… or fertilized egg.  As with formal meditation, the more one clears the mind, the more one leaves room for other thoughts to flood into the void.  This is both the pleasure and the danger of surrendering to art that transcends symbols, transcends “meaning”.

Lot 33 Tancredi Parmeggiani (called Tancredi)  Untitled    c. 1955  Mixed media on board    Board: 13.75″ x 19.75″; Frame 24″ x 29.75″  Estimate $8,000 – 12,000

Lot 34 Tancredi Parmeggiani (called Tancredi)  Untitled    c. 1955  Mixed media on paper   Signed lower right  Sheet 14″ x 19.5″; Frame 19.75″ x 25″  Estimate $8,000 – 12,000

Lot 35  Tancredi Parmeggiani (called Tancredi)  Untitled    c. 1955  Mixed media on paper   Signed lower right  Sheet: 13″ x 17.5″; Frame 14″ x 18.5″  Estimate $4,000 – 6,000

Lot 36 Tancredi Parmeggiani (called Tancredi)  Untitled    c. 1955  Mixed media on paper   Signed lower right  Sheet: 13″ x 17.5″; Frame 14″ x 18.5″   Estimate $4,000 – 6,000

Lot 37 Tancredi Parmeggiani (called Tancredi)  Untitled    c. 1955  Mixed media on paper   Signed lower right  Sheet: 13″ x 17.5″; Frame 14″ x 18.5″  Estimate $4,000 – 6,000

Peter’s Auction Picks of the Day: October 6th

Turn on, Tune in

Today we have a little fun with art you can plug-in, whether it lights up, does a little dance, or something in between.

With the flip of a switch, the stained glass window of Lot 80, Bruce Houston’s Untitled (Diorama of Worshippers) lights up from within.  The cheap, prefab school boys stand reverently but not before some ancient sacred relic.  No, their reverence is for a much newer holy fetish: a stained glass replica of a Mondrian painting.  They worship at the church of the new.  And the headless black dress model whom the boys surround?   Well, we might guess that’s the closest these feckless lads will be getting to a lady for a long, long time.

Lot 219, Julio Le Parc’s Forme en Contorsion sur Trames Rouges, already looks like it’s moving before you plug it in.  But when the aluminum ribbon starts to move, causing the background stripes to undulate and fold into themselves in its metal reflection, that’s when this already vibrant work goes into pop bliss overdrive.

Chuck Prentiss’ classic Kinetic Box, Lot 234, takes a handful of Christmas-style bulbs, and with only smoke and mirrors (okay, no smoke–just rather smokey mirrors) turns them into a hazy infinity of colorful light.

Finally, Lot 235, Reflection II by L. Dworkin, with its twin arcs of wires, fuses, and metal bars, has an industrial-age soaring quality, like wings of a future long past.  Tiny industrial lights, despite the 1973 pre-computer technology, are programmed to flash progressively from bottom to top and back again for your own personal light show.

Lot 80 Bruce Houston  Untitled (Diorama)    c. 1980-95  Mixed media   Signed bottom  11.675″ x 11.375″ x 5″   Estimate $500 – 700

Lot 219 Julio Le Parc  Forme en Contorsion sur Trames Rouges   Editions Denise Rene, Paris  1968  Boxed kinetic multiple with motorized aluminum motif  # 57 of 250  Editions Denise Rene label verso  39.5″ x 12″ x 6″  Estimate $4,000 – 6,000

Lot 234 Chuck Prentiss  Kinetic Box    circa 1969  Stainless steel with lights  Estimate $500 – 700

Lot 235 L Dworkin  Reflection II    1973  Metal with bulbs  AP  Signed, titled and dated verso; Note on verso “Repair parts and instructions inside”  Box 16″ x 16″ x 9.5″  Estimate $500 – 700

Peter’s Auction Picks of the Day: October 5th

Known Unknowns

Peter’s picks of the day focus on five exquisite figural paintings by artists the general public may not be familiar with, but who are nonetheless outstanding talents–and were showcased in L.A.’s finest galleries during the great flowering of the 1960s.

Lot 64, Daniel Broadbender’s Untitled (Three Women’s Faces), strongly evokes 1920s German Expressionist approach to mood and line. The background figures have flat, blue ovals for eyes–blanks slates that portray either sadness or bliss, depth or emptiness, while the central figure’s mask-like face is nonetheless furrowed with intensity. Whoever thought brown eyes could be called fiery?

Lot 65, Sheila Wrono’s Untitled Nude, strongly resembles Wrono’s contemporary, Tom Wesselmann, though this is hardly the case of one artist emulating another, rather two superb painters rising from the same sensibility. The nude’s pose is both explicitly sexual, and quite literally primitive, curling into the frame like a orangutan as if trying to squeeze into the canvas’ small size – – cramped by it, waiting to burst from it, her wig-like red shocks of hair beckoning us.

Contrast Wrono’s wild child with the pensive, restful figure in Lot 66, Sherman Labby’s Sunday Morning.  Where before the nakedness is born of desire, here the figure is nude because there is no need to be otherwise. She has her paper, her breakfast, and all the time in the world (at least until Monday morning). Bathed in the cool white light of the a.m.,  her body casting a beautiful blue shadow, our subject gazes out the window, not with longing but contentment.

Displaying a whole other kind of satisfaction is the society matron of Lot 67, Vernon Lobb’s Untitled 1963 portrait.  Framed like a paparazzi’s loose snapshot she is Jackie K…or the boss’ wife.  Entitled, forever looking down with grace and far, far away, her funereal black uniform of the rich almost seeming to rise out of her oversized shopping bag of Rodeo Drive treasures.  Only the muted deathly green of her skin and environs suggest she’s living a more complicated reality.

With our final painting of the day, Peter suggests James Jarvaise’s 1961 Untitled (Figure by the Window).  One can imagine Mr. Dorso out on one of those great La Cienega art walks some 50 years ago, ambling into the Felix Landau Gallery (one of the most important galleries of the era) and walking out with this terrific mix of somber and brilliant.  As with Wrono, Jarvaise can be compared with an artist of a similar style, this time to the great David Park but as before neither artist is imitating the other.  Color-wise, the background is treated as foreground and the foreground is treated as background, to the point where the window behind the subject threatens to become the star.  It is the background that is given vivid blocks of color and a relatively three-dimensional draftsmanship.  On the other hand, the forlorn male at the painting’s center has a face muted and flat, his round Charlie Brown head is drawn in a childlike manner.  He resembles not a painted subject at all but an underpainting, a crude sketch for where the artist would have put his protagonist, had he not forgotten to do so.  One can speculate on whether this was a comment on the subject’s race, on how in 1961 the black male was relegated to society’s backdrop, even if he was across the table from you, even if he was three feet away.

Lot 64 Daniel Brobender Untitled (Three women’s faces)    second half of 20th century  Oil pastel on paper   “Daniel Brobender” written on back of frame  Sheet 11″ x 13.75″; Frame 17″ x 20″  Estimate $500 – 700

Lot 65 Sheila Wrono Untitled (Nude)    1964  Oil on panel   Signed verso  Panel: 4.25″ x 3.75″; Frame: 5.5″ x 5″   Estimate $500-700

Lot 66 Sherman Labby Sunday Morning    c. 1965-75  Oil on canvas   Signed verso; signed lower right; Ankrum Gallery label verso  Canvas: 11″ x 7″; Frame: 11.5″ x 7.5″  Estimate $500 – 700

Lot 67 Vernon Lobb Untitled (Portrait of woman in glasses and coat)    1963  Oil on board   Signed and dated lower right  Canvas 5.5″ x 4.5″; Frame 8″ x 7″   Estimate $500 – 700

Lot 68 James Jarvaise Untitled (Figure by Window)    1961  Oil on canvas   Initialed and dated lower right; Felix Landau Gallery label verso  Canvas: 12.25″ x 10.25″; Frame: 13″ x 11″  Estimate $2,000 – 3,000

Peter’s Auction Picks of the Day: October 5th


Today’s pick is the Richard Tuttle Untitled from Letters (Lot 218). This work is from the artist’s landmark series of alphabet letters. Each of the letters in the series was abstracted and many of the forms did not resemble actual letters, but this one appears to resemble a “b”. Richard didn’t know what letter it resembled, he just thought it looked like a heart, which is why he bought it. The lot comes with a postcard invitation addressed to Richard Dorso to view the show at the Betty Parsons Gallery. The piece has a reasonable estimate, there is no reserve, it is in excellent condition, it has complete provenance, and this is the first time it has been on the market since new – what more could you want?

The following is a conversation between Peter Loughrey (PL), Richard Dorso (RD), and Bianca Dorso (BD), which took place earlier this year at Mr. Dorso’s apartment:

PL: Can you tell me where the Richard Tuttle came from?

RD: The Parsons Gallery. In New York.

BD: Betty Parsons.

PL: Betty Parsons. And was that the show with all of the different letters?

RD: All of them.

PL: So, you could just pick one or you could buy all of them?

RD: I don’t think anyone would buy all of them. But you could, if you wanted to. But most of us were buying individual pieces.

PL: What attracted you to this one?

RD: It was a heart. And I liked hearts.

PL: I really like the case that it’s in. And the light on top.

RD: I did that.

PL: I think it shows it off really beautifully.

RD: Yeah. What do you think that’s worth today?

PL: I’d put an estimate of 15,000 to 20,000. But I think it would go for more.

BD: Wow.

RD: I love the piece.

PL: It’s pretty great. I think it could be one of the top ten pieces (in the sale) and I’d like to do research and write a special entry for that piece, so it’s nice to know that you bought it from that gallery show.

RD: Oh yes. Betty Parsons was one of the hot dealers in New York with new people and she was very enthusiastic.

PL: Can you recall the show itself, like anything about the show opening or who you went with?

RD: What I used to do was duck out at noon and run through the gallery. And I got to the Parsons Gallery and I had never seen that kind of work before so it stopped me cold, so I immediately bought the heart. I thought of buying a second one because whenever I liked anything, I always bought a second picture. But for some reason, I was running out of time so I bought that.

PL: Do you remember how much it was at the time?

RD: You sure you want to hear?

PL: I’d love to know.

RD: 50 dollars.

PL: Wow, that’s great. Do you remember anyone else who bought them at the time? Did you have friends who also bought them?

RD: No.

PL: Because that show was a very popular show. All those pieces sold out and they show up occasionally on the marketplace. It’s kind of a legendary show for him.

RD: Oh really?

PL: Oh yeah.

RD: Well, it was a spectacular show because it was a pretty good size gallery, I think it was on 57th, and he had pieces—just packed on the wall.

PL: How was this piece hung? Was it hung on the wall or was it on—

RD: On the wall.

PL: On the wall. And did they just have it resting on pins?

RD: Yeah.

PL: I like it better in a box.

RD: Yeah, so do I. Makes it more important.

Lot Information

Lot 218
Richard Tuttle
Untitled from Letters (The Twenty-Six Series)
Soldered metal
Sold with postcard from Betty Parsons Gallery
Object: 8.25” x 10.5” x 0.5” Plexibox: 9.5” x 12.75” x 5.25”
Estimate $15,000-20,000

Peter’s Auction Pick of the Day: October 4th


Today’s pick is the Alexis Smith Chandlerisms #7 (Lot 162). It’s text and collage and also kind of appropriation art. She is appropriating a phrase from a Chandler novel, illustrating an isolated phrase. There is a whole wall full of them at the Geffen Contemporary at MOCA, approximately the same size and similar in composition – a small object collaged onto a board with a phrase or groups of phrases. The difference between the ones at MOCA and ours is that ours can be hanging on your wall by Monday morning.

Los Angeles collage artist Alexis Smith (born 1949) interprets the American social and cultural landscape through an integration of found objects and literary references. After graduating from the University of California, Irvine in the early 1970s, she moved to Venice, a burgeoning artist’s community. She worked for Frank Gehry, and in her free time she steadily gathered a collection of fragments for her collages from motels, garbage bins, and thrift stores. As a passionate reader, Smith would sift through volumes of Walt Whitman poetry, Jorge Luis Borges short stories, and Raymond Chandler detective novels for literary snippets she could animate with her mounting stockpile of popular culture detritus. Raymond Chandler’s tales of murder in Los Angeles were particularly appealing to Smith, “I really got into his use of metaphor. He made these memorable comparisons to things. I thought, ‘I can do something with those. I can do the visual equivalent.’” For Chandlerisms #7 (1978), Smith extracted a quick, witty string of Chandler’s text and placed it below a pair of miniature cocktail glasses, which serve as a graphic focal point for the film noire dialogue. Smith explained that a unique frame was chosen for each of the Chandlerisms based on the content of the piece. Organized by the Whitney Museum of Art, a retrospective of her work at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 1992 showcased many of her Chandlerisms.

Conversation between Peter Loughrey (PL), Richard Dorso (RD), and Bianca Dorso (BD). 

PL: What inspired you to buy the Alexis Smith?

RD: Which one is the Alexis Smith?

BD: The two martini glasses.

RD: Oh, I had forgotten about that. I loved it. I was quirky in what I liked. For instance, I liked Bruce Houston, and I think there are four Bruce Houstons (in the collection). I liked the Alexis Smith for the same reason. I went from paintings to assemblages and there are about close to 10 of them I think between Alexis Smith, Bruce Houston, Hannah Stills and Roland Reiss.

PL: The more I look at your collection the more that I noticed there are so many distinct areas. For example there are a lot of the early classic modern works by the School of Paris artists like Braque and Zao Wou-Ki. I imagine that you collected those works in the 50s and there are a lot of conceptual works from the 60s like text-based works such as Baldessari’s paintings and Alexis Smith’s text based piece, and other works with text on them. And then there are these Pop and Op and graphic works like Robert Indiana and Lichtenstein and the Warhol shopping bag and I wondered did you move on, or did you continually buy things that you were interested in?

RD: I am thinking. I just bought what I liked and there was no plan. I would see something, like the Alexis Smith, which I had forgotten about, and I loved it and bought it.

Lot Information

Lot 162 
Alexis Smith
Chandlerisms #7 
c. 1978 
Collage in Plexiglas frame 
Quote from Trouble is My Business, “Sweet, isn’t he?” she said. “I’d like eight of him for my cocktail set.” 
Frame: 9.5” x 12.25” 
Estimate $1,500-2,000 

Literature: Smith, Alexis. Telephone interview. 28 Aug. 2011.

Watters, Sam. “Alexis Smith, collage artist uprooted.” Los Angeles Times, 16 May 2009. Web. 28 Aug. 2011.

Peter’s Auction Picks, Monday October 3rd: Ellsworth Kelly

Today is the first day of Peter’s Auction picks for The Collection of Richard Dorso. For the rest of the week Peter Loughrey, Director of LAMA, will be giving his insight on select lots from the collection of over 400 works of art.  This sale is particularly special because Peter had a chance to speak with Richard Dorso about some of the pieces before he passed away this April at the age of 101.

Today my pick is the group of four Ellsworth Kelly lithographs. I like them because they use simple, primary colors combined with simple shapes. Whether the shapes are free form as in Green (Lot 21) or whether he uses more geometrical shapes like  Orange and Blue over Yellow (Lot 19), the composition is bold and carefully arranged.  Camellia II  (Lot 22), which at first glance appears radically different for Kelly, is from a series of flowers that while compositionally do not relate to any of the other works, are to me just as bold and graphic.

In the series of conversations that I had with Mr. Dorso, he told me the following story about an Ellsworth Kelly that he sold to filmmaker Billy Wilder:

Peter Loughrey (PL), Richard Dorso (RD), and Bianca Dorso (BD):

PL: I wanted to ask you about the people you inspired. I know that you went around with Billy Wilder and with Norman Lear, but I’d love to know particular stories or works that maybe you introduced them to, especially Billy Wilder, who most of my clients know.

RD: Well, Billy was a big collector before I met him. He lived in Europe and it was right before the Invasion and he was a picture actor and director and he says he also was a dancer for hire. I don’t know how much romance is in that. The rest is nonsense. He was one of the funniest men in the world. I sold him an Ellsworth Kelly. He’d never seen an Ellsworth Kelly before.

PL: Do you remember what year that was?

RD: About 1960. And he bought anything that he liked. And he had a wonderful collection, which sold at the auction company.

PL: Christie’s.

BD: Or Sotheby’s?

RD: Whichever it was. It sold for around $35 million. So it was considerable—he didn’t have big paintings but he had a big Balthus and he had Renoirs and he had a wonderful eye. And when he lived in Paris, he spent every quarter he had on art. So anyways, he took this amorphous looking Kelly and it was sitting in his office and somebody came in who didn’t know anything about art and said, ‘What’s that?’ and Billy said, ‘It’s an Ellsworth Kelly. I just bought it.’ And the man said, ‘What does it mean?’

PL, BD and RD laugh, especially RD.

RD: And Billy said, ‘It’s the War of 1812.’ And then the man looked at him and said, ‘I can see what you mean.’

All laugh again.