In Memory

Brian Kazlov

Brian Kazlov

Brian Kazlov Artist

Published: July 11, 1991  The Milwaukee Journal

Services for Milwaukee-born painter Brian Kazlov will be July 20 in Florence, Ore.

Kazlov drowned after being swept out to sea while swimming off the coast of Bali on June 16. His body returned with the tide the following day and was cremated in traditional Balinese ceremonies June 21. He was 47. Kazlov had hoped to purchase land on Bali and build a second home there for himself and his wife.

Working on the Oregon coast and exhibiting from his studio in New York's SoHo district, Kazlov had established a national reputation as an artist. He had been strongly associated with the Pacific Northwest for 20 years.

In 1964 Kazlov helped found the New York Studio School, a no-credit, no-degree cooperative. He earned a bachelor's degree at Wesleyan University and his bachelor's and master's degrees in fine arts at Yale University.

From 1970 until his death he kept a studio residence in SoHo. After 1979 he divided his time between Manhattan and the Pacific Northwest, where he occupied studios in the vicinity of Florence, Ore.

Since 1980 Kazlov had been a guest lecturer at the University of Oregon, Reed College, Portland State University and the Pacific Northwest College of Art in Portland.

He was represented in many major national collections, including those of Sidney Lewis, the Chase Manhattan Bank, the Richmond Museum of Fine Arts, the La Jolla Museum, the Aldrich Museum, Mobil Oil Corp. and the Johnson Museum.

Since 1970 he had been associated with New York's OK Harris Gallery, where an exhibition of his 1991 paintings will be held as scheduled in mid-September.

Survivors include the artist's wife, Luthera Stone, of Yachats, Ore.; his daughter, Kyrie Kazlov, of New York; his mother, Trudi Kazlov, of Milwaukee; and his grandmother, Rose Friedman, of Milwaukee.

The family suggests memorials to the Siuslaw Public Library in Florence, Ore.


 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Artist's purpose survives his brief but useful days

"Art," the late Brian Kazlov used to tell friends in his wry, laconic way, "is kind of like industrial real estate. If you can make five sales a year, you can survive." It was fully 20 years ago this spring, in early May 1976, that he said this to me in the course of a studio visit, but it has stuck in my memory ever since.

Kazlov, you see, was something of a role model for aspiring artists of that period. At 33, he had been surviving in the New York art world since leaving his native Milwaukee in 1962.

He had functioned as a graduate student, teacher, painter, loft carpenter. He had made the transition to a SoHo space in lower Manhattan. He had pursued an independent course.

Now, as we prowled among his pictures in progress, he told me of his approach to color ("very subjective - not formal at all") and his motivation ("I (just) want it to happen . . .")

Without a trace of self-consciousness, he disclosed that he performed an Oriental ritual of purification before touching a brush to one of his swirlingly calligraphic creations.

"I feel separate from abstract expressionism and the push-pull sensibility," he declared ardently. "I'm not trying to do anything, yet the art is the residue of the action."

Truly, action - mental and physical, calculated and spontaneous, temporal and eternal - lay at the heart of his process. This action derived from Western and Eastern sources.

Scattered around us on the floor of his cluttered bi-level space were pieces of chipboard on which he was building images via a resist process that involved ink, varnish, dyed magna.

The night before, he told me, he had outlined the basic compositions in India ink. Now, with the design dry, he was about to give body and brilliancy to these curving, diagonal arcs.

First, he said, he would pour clear varnish onto parts of the surface. Next, he would apply successive coats of dyes and pigments, suspended in a water base, so the colors could emerge.

Finally, when it was all over, there would be a sense of frozen, liquefied time, layer upon layer, with muted colors gleaming through translucent surfaces, textures vying for primacy.

For all its complexity, Kazlov's process was, it seemed to me, quick and decisive. Much like the "heavyweights" of abstract expressionism, he worked quickly, easily, intuitively.

It all added up, as he described it, to a complex mixture of American optimism and Japanese mysticism - a unique approach that combined gestural thrusts with extreme subtlety of line.

It was easy to believe Kazlov's assertion that for him the principal pleasure of painting lay in the generative act.

He had, one concluded, always mixed movement with contemplation.

As we talked, we sipped Red Zinger Celestial Tea, poured from a pot thrown by his uncle, the Wisconsin ceramist Abe Cohn. Light streamed in from the windows of his studio.

It was in many ways an idyllic scene, compounded of determination and acceptance, energy and idealism, detritus and dreams. I still have a sheet of negatives shot during that visit.

When, 15 years later, I learned that Brian Kazlov had drowned after being swept out to sea while swimming off the coast of Bali, I couldn't help but reflect on that long-ago afternoon.

Somehow, it was comforting to think back on the calm self-assurance with which he had spoken of long-established Asian rituals, the confidence with which he had approached his inner essence.

Brian Kazlov was, if nothing else, the ultimate realist. He knew he would never be a Pollock or a Lichtenstein, nor did he wish to be. He was inherently content within himself.

"Art," he said to me quietly as I strolled out of his studio on that brilliant May day in 1976, "is not for everybody. I see myself as having a paragraph or two in the year 2,000."

Now, thanks to the organizers of a warmly felt, lovingly organized retrospective exhibit that opens this afternoon at Cardinal Stritch College, he will have more than a paragraph. And far more than a paragraph is what Brian Kazlov deserves.


A free public reception from 2 to 4 p.m. Sunday marks the premiere of "Brian Kazlov: His Paintings, His Life" at Cardinal Stritch College, 6801 N. Yates Road, Fox Point. The retrospective exhibit remains on view through March 29.

Published: March 1, 1996



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05/31/10 11:08 PM #1    

Pete Daggett

 Thank you to whoever posted these...

08/12/12 12:46 PM #2    

Michael Gordy

Brian was my best friend in high school and we were friends continually thereafter until his very untimely death. Even if we weren't in contact for a year or two at times, the first conversation we had once we regained contact seemed as if we'd spoken only the previous day. We seemed to read each others' minds. Being his friend reminded me that if I was crazy and couldn't abide the vast majoroity of what I experienced at WFB, I was not alone. There were at least two of us who were nuts. Upon escaping from that august institution of repressive class socialization and American acquisitive and militaristic 'values' we both, separately and together, found that there was at least a small possibility that we were not sick at all, just a bit less malleable by social forces than was acceptable to our 'superiors'. So as you relive your athletic exploits and wax nostalgic about the prom, spare a thought for this great artist who was among us for all-too-short a time.

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