John Nyquist

John Nyquist

Known for his high level of craftsmanship, John Nyquist worked in exotic woods and created pieces that were impeccably made. He created spindle-back rockers, upholstered lounge chairs, credenza, music stands, free-edge coffee tables, jewelry boxes and dining tables among many other forms. His careful design choices, and his religious attention to the finishing (the polishing, sanding and fine upholstery and leathers) created lusciously tactile pieces that yearned to be touched, and used.
John Nyquist influenced generations with his teaching and his life-long studio practice. He taught at CSLULB and Cerritos College as well as at the Anderson Ranch in Colorado during the Summer. Gerard O’Brien of Los Angeles’ Reform Gallery/The Landing handles Nyquists work. O’Brien notes:

“Like many of the makers in the post WW2 era, John will be remembered for mentoring many a woodworker as an educator, and inspiration for making ones way as a craftsman. He was also an incredible draftsman, his line drawings were a work of art in and of themselves.”

John Nyquist was born in 1936 in South Dakota and raised in the Black Hills. His father was a physician in the C.C.C. (Civilian Construction Corps). The artist remembered his very cold early years living under the shadow of Mt. Rushmore:

“..we lived in a one room log cabin during that time. No running water and no electricity. The cabin was only a short distance from Mt. Rushmore, which was being constructed while we lived there. As a young child I remember the actual carving of the monument. After WWII, my father returned from the war and we moved to California.”

Nyquist met his lovely wife Shirley in Long Beach, when they were both in High School. They were married in 1957 and together they raised 6 beautiful children.
Over the last decade, Nyquist enjoyed a resurgence of interest in the hand-made studio movement of the 20th Century, and John’s work has been included nationally for sale in both fine 20th Century Design auctions and high-end design galleries on both coasts. In 2009, Nyquist was honored at Bonhams + Butterfields Auction Company as part of their ongoing Bonhams’ Design Lecture Series. Gerard O’Brien of Reform Gallery notes:

‘I had the good fortune to handle a number of John’s finest commissioned pieces over the years, a true highlight was having his arm chair from CA Design, inspired by Mexican furniture he had seen. John’s form and line were his own.’

John Nyquist represents a generation of artists and craftsmen who rejected a 9-5 desk job in order to live a more self-directed and fulfilling life in the arts. In 1976’ publication “Craftsman Lifestyle: A Gentle Revolution”, Nyquist noted:

“I take sincere pride in my work and confine it to one geographical area. I want to work directly with my clients, and stand behind my work, even after it has left the shop. I think if the individual takes personal responsibility for the attitudes and actions that represent him, he has a more meaningful life.”

John simply loved to work and he would get lost in his studio, working for hours and hours in his creative “groove.” In 1976 John described his studio time:

“One of the satisfactions of being a craftsman is the sensory pleasure you get from your materials and tools. I guess, when you get down to it, we craftsmen get to a point where there’s nothing we want to do as much as our work and then we find it hard to explain.”

His family notes that he had no clock or wristwatch in his studio.

“When it’s dark, I go home” – John Nyquist

John was laid to rest on Saturday, September 8th at a packed service at St. Bartholomew’s Catholic Church in Long Beach. The Nyquist family and close friends gathered at the family home after the funeral for a lively and celebratory reception. There, John’s widow Shirley was surrounded by her children and grandchildren. Stories told by his students, children and colleagues remembered him as a dedicated, thoughtful, generous man and a skilled artisan and teacher.
John Nyquist will be missed.

Acknowledged influences on his own work are Shaker furniture, Scandinavian Design of the 1950’s and the organic shapes of nature.

A selection of John Nyquist’s work offered at Bonhams Auction Co. (Photo: Shirley Nyquist)

Nyquist’s work was shown consistently during his lifetime in major exhibitions and shows including the seminal “California Design” exhibitions (1964-1976) at the Pasadena Museum of Art. John maintained a studio practice, and a bevy of faithful private clients who commissioned his work for their homes and offices for over 60 years. In the last decades of his life, he enjoyed a national reputation as part of a small number of noted makers who led the West Coast studio-craft movement.

Katie Nartonis is an Art + Design writer, curator and auction specialist based out of Los Angeles, California and Taos, New Mexico. She is currently co-authoring a book on the seminal San Diego designer/maker, “Jack Rogers Hopkins: California Maverick”(with Co-Writer/Editor Jeffrey Head). She is the founder of The Nartonis Project and is Art + Design Editor of SoCal Magazine. www.thenartonisproject.com

A selection of John Nyquist’s work offered at Bonhams Auction Co. (Photo: Shirley Nyquist)

Artist in Residence: Rebecca Niederlander

Artist in Residence: Rebecca Niederlander

“History, context, one’s particular experience with a material, all play a tremendous role in the connection made between an artist and their viewer.”

Rebecca Niederlander is a sculptor and installation artist interested in revealing cosmic truth. Through contemplation, and a thoughtful manipulation of materials, Niederlander perceives clues to the subtle mapping of a larger order. The artist uses these hard-won insights to construct a new way of communicating –  a new visual language.

A St. Louis native, and graduate of both UCLA and CCA (California College for the Arts), Niederlander works out of her Eagle Rock, California studio. Her work has been exhibited internationally, including a group show of Los Angeles artists at the 2015 Venice Biennale.

KN: Have you always thought of yourself as an artist? When did you first start making/creating?RN: Yes, I have always thought of myself as an artist.  It is in the way I approach the world, and the way I communicate within it.  When I was seven years old I won a coloring contest and received a seven foot tall stocking filled with toys. I have always been a maker. I realized early that my way of seeing the world was actually different than many people.  That has been a good thing, and a hard thing as well.  Being a creative professional involves finding ways to communicate in the internal language one has.  Community is created through communication, and having spent my entire life sorting out the best ways to do such.

KN:  I discovered in an artist statement about your work that you speak of “interrogating the materials lovingly.” How does this thoughtful interrogation lead to an artistic breakthrough?

RN: I consider myself a materialist in the truest sense of the word.  I look at materials as a significant part of conveying whatever the specific message is for a given work.  Certain materials, like paper, give a very intentional read to a work, while steel, obviously, will lend itself to wildly different reads.  History, context, one’s particular experience with a material, all play a tremendous role in the connection made between an artist and their viewer.  I take that connection to heart in the initial stages of developing a project by working a material and putting it through its paces.  I’ve had projects that I think will work really well in a particular medium, only to discover through exploration that something else is significantly superior.

 

KN: Your newest series incorporates the use of salvaged wood pieces adopted from wood workers’ shop refuse piles. As part of the works, you interview the maker about their process, and explore how the intent of the work is imbued – even absorbed – into the cast-off material. Can you describe this series a bit more?

RN: The current series involves making pilgrimages to wood-workers shops, and interviewing them about their spiritual practice, after which I take their scraps and combine them to make new sculptural works.  I also have a degree in journalism, and have extensive experience with interviewing and human-interest stories.  My interviews are off the record, and completely about honoring the particular experiences of the wood workers.  Anyone involved with a particular medium, and I’ll go out on a limb here to give a special shout-out to those in the designated craft mediums, has a particular fondness of their medium which has a lover’s-type relationship to it. They have grown with it, and understand it in the way an old couple does.  As someone who varies their medium over my own decades as an artist, I wanted to find a specific path to exploring the ways these creative professionals might have a spiritual connection to their material.

I am deeply committed to the idea that we are all in community with each other, and to finding the connection that creates the ability to be an empathetic person and a part of any community.  By honoring these people and the soul/ghosts of their work, and then honoring their scraps/trash/discards, and then creating new communities through the assembling of cast-offs into new and exciting works, I am visually describing what is possible for each of us when we connect with another.  Each of the sculptures in the series is totally unique.  They are connected by the materials, and my manipulation, but part of the rubric is that I can not alter the wood. No cutting is allowed.  Thus each element becomes a part of an unknown puzzle that must be solved in my studio.  I see interacting with other people in the same way.  Each connection is a puzzle to work out.

Katie Nartonis

Katie Nartonis is an art historian who specializes in West Coast Art + Design. As writer, curator, designer and film-maker Nartonis endeavors to tell untold stories of the artists and makers whose work contributes to the fabric of the larger California art scene. She serves as Art + Design Editor for SoCal Magazine.

The “Neo Native: Toward New Mythologies” show at the Sam & Alfreda Maloof Foundation: An interview with curator and contributing artist Tony Abeyta

The “Neo Native: Toward New Mythologies” show at the Sam & Alfreda Maloof Foundation: An interview with curator and contributing artist Tony Abeyta

 

“We are exploring ways that traditional forms and practices, iconography and ancestral mythologies influence the expression of contemporary Native artists’ urbanity, modernity, technology and social priorities.”

 Tony Abeyta

Neo Native: Toward New Mythologies is a current show of over forty contemporary Native American artworks, now on view at the historic Sam and Alfreda Maloof Foundation for Arts and Crafts in Rancho Cucamonga (www.malooffoundation.org)

Ancestry Image 02 by Steven Paul Judd (Kiowa/Choctaw) (photo courtesy of Steven Paul Judd)

Ancestry Image by Steven Paul Judd (Kiowa/Choctaw) (Photo courtesy of Steven Paul Judd)

Racial Profiling by Craig George (Navajo) (photo: James Hart)

Gunfire Muted Light 03 by Monte Little (Navajo/Dine) (photo: Tom and Tony Bostick, courtesy of the Sam and Alfred Maloof Foundation)

Racial Profiling by Craig George (Navajo) (photo: James Hart)

After the Fall by Cannupa Hanska Luger (Arikara/Hidatsa/Mandan/Lakota)(Photo James Hart)

Wild Man of the Woods by Preston Singletary (photo: Preston Singletary Inc)

This dynamic show runs thru January 7, 2018 (gallery is open Thursdays and Saturdays, 1-4pm) and features the work of eleven North American tribal artists – representing a variety of indigenous tribes. Curated by the New Mexican (Navajo/Dine) painter, Tony Abeyta the show includes works of painting, glass, ceramics, photography, video and mixed media.

NeoNative explores the ways in which indigenous artists are thinking about their place in modern culture and the continuing challenge of preserving their traditions in the face of modernity. This theme seems particularly important in the current political climate, celebrating the views of all Americans, and honoring our indigenous populations.

Well-known makers such as contemporary glass artist Preston Singletary (Tlingit) who recreates traditional forms in contemporary glass share the space with up-and-coming artists such as Steven Paul Judd (Kiowa/Choctaw) whose mixed media works include altered early photographs of native peoples incongruously matched with modern “mythical creatures” such as the ubiquitous yellow Minions, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and a particularly powerful image of Star Wars TIE fighters buzzing over Plains Indian Teepees.

This exhibit is just the latest in a long running series of art and design shows at the Maloof Foundation’s Jacobs Education Gallery Center.

“Exhibitions are an important part of the Maloof’s ongoing education mission,” notes executive director Jim Rawitsch. “Last year’s Maloof Centennial exhibitions gave us a way to bridge Sam’s legacy to the future, and Neo Native adds to that forward journey, celebrating Sam’s passion for Native American art in surprising and contemporary ways and opens eyes, I think, about the range of what contemporary Native art can be.”

Tony Abeyta, the curator of NeoNative, was a close friend of Sam Maloof and considered him a father figure. Abeyta and Maloof had discussed the idea of a contemporary Native show years previously, but it took some time for this show to materialize. Maloof passed in 2009, before the show had a chance to take shape. In the Maloof Foundation newsletter Abeyta notes:

“In so many ways this exhibition grew organically from ourdialogue, carrying forward Sam’s progressive interest in Save & Exit indigenous art and artists.”

SoCal Magazine was fortunate to speak at length with Mr. Abeyta about the unique origins of the Neo Native show as well as his special relationship with his mentor and friend, the late California legend, Sam Maloof (1916-2009).

Katie Nartonis: The “Neo Native: Toward New Mythologies” show that you put together is top level – it’s so good.

Tony Abeyta: I know, I know (enthusiastically) I’m super proud of that, and I got to pick the work that went in!

A lot of the artists are friends, that community of artists is a circle of super progressive Native Americans that are engaged in full-time art careers. They are addressing modernity and also looking at the traditional connections between indigenous people. It is also about what is the progressive role of art and where are we going next.  It’s one of the eternal questions.  

 I think many of the artists that I curated in the show are all engaged in the same conversation. ‘Where did we come from and where are we taking all of this? How can we create change?’ I think that was sort of the criteria for any of these artists. There were 10 artists that didn’t make the cut on the show – we just didn’t have the space!

At some point I’d like to see this as a larger exhibition. You know, to merge it into a more comprehensive show, but we had to consider the economics. There are some really wonderful people who are not included in the show that I felt should have been.

KN: The show that you put together feels very rich, it doesn’t feel like you had to cut any corners.

TA: We got a nice grant from one of the local Indian tribes, the San Miguel tribe, and that was really important.  And the Maloof Foundation was supportive with money and the really super gallery space. I initially took a look at the space and determined we were at 11 artists. It took a while, just to talk to the artists and get an idea of what they were currently working on, as well as the ideas that they could create and engage in. I also wanted to look at how they would relate to the theme.

Curator Tony Abeyta and ceramicist Diego Romero (Cochiti Pueblo) at the NeoNative Show (Diego’s ceramic work in foreground) Photo courtesy of Tom and Tony Bostick, Courtesy of the Sam and Alfreda Maloof Foundation)

KN: Tell me about your relationship with Sam Maloof and the origins of the show?

TA: I met Sam right after my father Narciso Abeyta (Painter and silversmith 1918-1998) had died. Sam had collected some paintings of my fathers, but I had never heard of Sam Maloof.  Regionally, I had barely heard of Nakashima! (laughs)

And so, I was working on a show at LACMA West of my own paintings and I just called him and I said “Sam, my name is Tony and my Dad was Narciso Abeyta.” Sam remembered me from when I was a little kid, and he immediately invited me to visit him at his studio and home in Southern California.

The Sam Maloof home and studio (photo courtesy of the Sam and Alfreda Maloof Foundation)

TA: The next week I just showed up, and Sam and I just hit it off.  We talked a lot about art, and furniture and pottery and Native American Art. He was very paternal from the very beginning – In giving me advice and spiritual insight, and you know, artistic direction. So he came into my life when I probably needed somebody like that. I’d lost my Mom and my Father, and meeting Sam was just a blessing.

Sam and I would go to the Palm Springs Modernism Show and he would show me stuff and introduce me to everybody. I learned a lot from him by looking and watching him work, seeing how he handled people and his relationship with artists. He always gifted people with an immense amount of care, attention. He was clear about craftsmanship, and loving what you did and knowing how to talk about it. The relationship was incredibly “father/son” I just kinda came into his life at a good time.

When they moved the house and studio and built the gallery, Sam told me he wanted to curate a show of Native American Art. At that time, I had started getting really busy and Sam passed away before we had the chance to do it together. We left that idea hanging, but it was always on the table and something I always wanted to do. When the (Maloof) Foundation came to me and said, ‘we’d like to pick up that ball’ I just had it on the tip of my tongue, and I knew who I want to be in the show. So, I just said – let’s just do it!

A lot of these artists (included in NeoNative) are really moving and shaking at the top of their game. Because of that, they are opening other shows in other cities, they are lecturing, and so it was really tough to get the paintings from all over. The bulk of the work we got from the artists directly and it took us a good year to get it all shipped and to prepare the catalogue. I’m very proud of it.

 KN: It’s a beautiful show catalog, and I’m so grateful I could be there for the show opening. What a great crowd! It was good to see so many of the artists there in person.

TA: Yeah, a lot of them were there, and they had a super time. It’s all really a part of the tradition that Sam spent so much of his life doing which was cultivating creative people and inspiring them. So really, it’s what being an artist is authentically about. It’s about creating a community of like-minded creative people merged to show one another what they are capable of. You know, human experience is whatever we make from our culture.

 KN: Thanks so much Tony, for your time.

 TA: It was perfect timing, I needed a break from painting!

The exhibition, made possible with support from the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians and others, seeks to share the vision of artists whose work is informed by traditions within tribal cultures, but whose themes express a newfound contemporary narrative.

Show Information:

The Sam and Alfreda Maloof Foundation

Jacobs Education Gallery Center

5131 Carnelian Street, Rancho Cucamonga, CA 91701

All exhibits FREE to the public and is open on Thurs and Sat, 12-4 pm, or with custom tour.

 

Featured artists (and tribal affiliations) include: 

Christi Belcourt (Metis)

Gerald Clarke, Jr. (Cahuilla)

Craig George (Navajo – Diné)

Steven Paul Judd (Kiowa/Choctaw)

Monty Little (Diné)

Cannupa Hanska Luger (Arikara/Hidatsa/Mandan/Lakota)

Kent Monkman (Cree),

Cara Romero (Chemehuevi)

Diego Romero (Cochiti Pueblo)

Preston Singletary (Tlingit).

 

Katie Nartonis, Art & Design Editor for SoCal Magazine, is a writer, curator, documentary filmmaker and design specialist whose focus is the historical West Coast art and design scene.