YHBHS interview with OBJECTS USA

"Most people have gotten used to basic mid century modern, that's certainly where we all started. But for someone with visions of Pierre Koenig-style antiseptic interiors dancing in their head, our crazy hippie-modern fiber art and funk movement meltdowns can seem unsettling."

all images via Objects USA

The internet is a wondrous land full of nooks and crannies. It has the capability of connecting us in ways we never knew possible. Perhaps it's the modern campfire, a place to tell and share stories, and to find the stories of the past?

With OBJECTS USA, it's like peaking into a trippy time capsule. YHBHS could not be more thrilled to post this interview with the guys of OBJECTS USA. It's fellow travelers like them that make this voyage worth it. I could go on and on, but I'll leave the words to Ron Kerner, Steve Aldana and Dave Hampton. They explain it much better than I ever could.

Now back to the campfire for some old fashioned story telling.

- David John

San Diego potter, Jean Balmer

How/When/ and Why did you start OBJECTS USA?

Ron Kerner, Steve Aldana and Dave Hampton started OBJECTS USA in 2005 because we all interested in and collected the same thing - California Design from the 50s, 60s and 70s; lesser known modern designers and manufacturers; local/regional painters, sculptors and craft artists; the more obscure the better! We got along well and it seemed like we would be better off joining forces rather than competing as collectors and potential dealers. The three of us were all out looking and buying more than we could possibly keep, so selling was a natural kind of progression.

We named the website for the groundbreaking 1969 exhibition that toured a corporate collection of craft-as-art around the country and opened at the Smithsonian. The accompanying book that came out in 1970 captured a particular time and spirit that came out of 50's modernism, we dug it as much as the classic early stuff, but it was less familiar.

Most people have gotten used to basic mid century modern, that's certainly where we all started. But for someone with visions of Pierre Koenig-style antiseptic interiors dancing in their head, our crazy hippie-modern fiber art and funk movement meltdowns can seem unsettling. The images from our events page give an idea of the things we combine. Commerce is only part of it. We put as much effort into starting to document the artists and designers whose work we enjoyed -their stories and our local modernist history- as we did into the galleries of objects for sale.

We had our first weekend sales-exhibition in September 2006, because an art consultant friend (Alma Ronis) with an office/gallery offered to let us set up in her space for free. Our specialized interests made the prospect of operating a conventional store pretty dicey, so we chose an alternative approach: regular exhibitions that gave people a chance to hang out and see the objects in person, and a constant web presence.

We have also started bi-annual 'Mod Swaps,' where collectors have a chance to trade with each other in a parking lot - like a modern swap meet. This is also a free event that happens because friends (Jett Gallery, Klassik) allow us to use their parking lot. Our sales-exhibitions have become a place where artists from the 1960s get to come and enjoy the 're-discovery' of their work by a new generation.

the crew.....
Sculptors Noah Osteen, Richard Mills, Daryle Webb and Stephen Daly at the Siren Works cooperative foundry, San Jose, 1964. In the background is a 700-pound figurative sculpture in cast aluminum commissioned for the San Jose State campus.


I have become delighted to discover more and more art/design/crafts in the Southern California area thanks to your site. Can you talk about a few artists in Southern California that you admire?

DAVE: I'm really intrigued by communities of artists. As I learned about lesser known clusters of activity in places like San Diego, Long Beach, San Jose and Arizona, that became what I wanted to document. One sculptor is cool, but when that sculptor is part of a 1960s group who live sort of communally in an abandoned factory where they brew beer, operate an illegal bronze foundry and have children (I mean, literally, a kid was born there)... then you're on to something!

We at Objects USA covet strange little Southern California exhibition catalogs from the 50s and 60s. Many are from institutions that are long gone or have changed names and missions so many times they are hardly recognizable. Richard Allen Morris is a name that shows up in many of those catalogs. While most artists listed in the exhibitions have moved out of the area, some in an effort to make it big, and others are out of the art scene entirely. Richard is still painting in San Diego.

Dave and I both live in the San Diego neighborhood of Golden Hill, so does Richard. He lives a couple of blocks away from me. He doesn’t drive, so I see him walking around the neighborhood a few times a week. He often wears a Padres cap and always has a small duffle bag to carry the used books and frames that he picks up around town. While we’re setting up at our twice a year Objects USA shows, Richard always stops by. He is also there on opening night and the following two days of the show. Richard inspects every piece multiple times and has incredible insight on the art. A lot of time he just focuses on one tiny section of a piece. He also talks about some of the artists he knew. On one occasion he expressed how “brave” Fred (Holle) was for a particular line he put through the middle of a painting.

Richard has had major retrospectives and a lot of the other things that go along with being a successful artist, but those things, though well deserved, have nothing to do with why I admire him. There is something special about collecting art by someone who literally walks down the same street as you. I have five paintings by Richard Allen Morris that date from 1960 to 1971. They are all amazing.

It’s difficult for to choose which artist to talk about when I’m fan of so many. I think it’s fair to say that spending a little time digging around on our site will answer the question. We all offer what we admire and live with. There isn’t one piece of mine on our site that I haven’t lived with in my own home. Whenever we do a show, the walls and surfaces in my pad become vacant, but it always pleases me when someone else likes what I like and wants to live with it in their home as well. One artist that I always seem to gravitate toward is the local sculptor, Jack Boyd. It’s always exciting for me to find a piece of Jack’s work and I’ve never seen one I didn’t really like. All of it is so well done. He lived and worked in San Diego and sold his work through various galleries and shops throughout the country. Jack died in 1982, but his spirit lives on through the work of his son Ron Boyd. Having learned directly from his father, Ron has carried on the tradition of making amazing jewelry designs and sculpture, some of which we have offered in past ObjectsUSA exhibitions.

Barney Reid

Could you pick two or three objects from your store right now, and tell their story?

My pick for an object, although not for sale, is a pair of carved wood speakers made of laminated birch plywood that was carved into these little round shapes and the whole surface was textured with a gouge. They were made in 1972 by Larry Hunter, who ran the furniture design program at San Diego State during the late 60s and 1970s. I had seen the speakers in Creating Small Wood Objects As Functional Sculpture, by Dona Meilach, and in an old newspaper article. When I got to know Larry and had the chance to buy the speakers from him, I was overjoyed. He was surprised when I brought them up after so many years. They had been put away for a long time, and now I use them all the time. The speakers sound great and they remind me of Larry and San Diego's contribution to California Design.

Animal Speakers by Larry Hunter,
laminated and carved birch plywood, 1972.

Steve- Like Dave, my object isn’t for sale. That’s the problem with obsessive collectors; we keep most of our favorite things. It was 2004 and I was at the estate sale of Fey Marshall, a local artist. There was an unmarked ceramic rock form I was holding onto while I walked around the sale. For some reason I put it down before I checked out. After I left, all I could think about was that rock. This was pre-Objects USA and I barely knew Ron and Dave. I did know Dave was focused on San Diego artists, so when I ran into him that day at a local Mid Century furniture store I told him about the Fey Marshall sale. I wasn’t able to get that rock out of my head, so I headed over to the sale the next day, only to find Ron and Dave in front of me in line. Anyway, Ron bought the rock. It wasn’t until later that I found out that it was by Jean Balmer. At some point, years later, I was able to pry the Balmer rock away from Ron. It was probably during one of our complicated trading sessions. Jean Balmer has become one of my favorite artists. I’ve been able to build up a nice little collection of her ceramics.

Ron- Again, the object I am submitting is among one of my most prized pieces and isn’t offered for sale on our site. I never really know what is going to become a favorite of mine. Sometimes I think it makes sense based on the history of the piece, how I found it, or simply my initial reaction to a work, but I’ve also been proven wrong. I have acquired a number of pieces that have grown on me slowly over time to the point that I can’t seem to ever let them go. This copper sculpture by local San Diego artist Barney Reid is the type of work that is significant to me on all counts. The way I came about it was during a time when I just started to become interested in local art. There was an estate sale at the late Barney Reid’s home that was full of objects of all types by Barney and a number of other local artist’s from the 50’s and 60’s. I purchased about $800 worth of items, and at the time thought I was going way overboard with emotionally charged purchases. Of course, in hindsight, I wish I had bought all I could! Anyway, a local dealer purchased this particular piece the day before the sale and I bought it from him about a week later as an afterthought. Since that time, this sculpture has become one of those works of art that has not only steadily grown on me more and more over the years, but also signifies a turning point in my life that drives me today.

Any blogs you read regularly?

Modern San Diego- http://www.modernsandiego.com/
Edwin Himself- http://www.edwinhimself.com/blog/
MONDOBLOGO- http://mondo-blogo.blogspot.com/
Reference Library- http://referencelibrary.blogspot.com/ Things Organized Neatly- http://thingsorganizedneatly.tumblr.com/
YHBHS- ah, thanks guys!

How important is "the story of the object/maker" to you? One of the reasons I come to your site, is that you acquire as much information about the maker of the object. You make the effort to continue the tradition of these objects and crafts. Sometimes I feel so many designers, especially interior designers only look to acquire aesthetic beauty, rather than tell a story. Which I completely understand, but I need the connections ... Any thoughts?

Well, you've said it there; we don't have much in common with decorators. We collect way more than we could possibly decorate with, or look at, or sell, and often what makes us want it is the history or people that the object evokes. What we do is not really about the business. It would be interesting to work with a decorator and client who were interested in both how something looks in their pad and the story behind it. So far we haven’t run into that combination.

YHBHS interview with OBJECTS USA

thanks objects USA:)