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An Affection for Art

TIMES STAFF WRITER

About 120 of Gloria and Sonny Kamm’s children are at Cal State Northridge right now. At least it seems that way.

Gloria Kamm puts her arm around worn-out “Earl,” a statue by Marlene Miller, and gives him a gentle pat on the back. Sonny Kamm points to a few of the paintings on the walls and explains how “they live at my son’s house.” The couple hovers over tiny, delicate teapots. They beam with pride at their bold and often whimsical ceramics.

Though parts of the Kamms’ art collection have been displayed before in larger shows, “All Figural: Many Media,” at CSUN’s Art Dome through March 8, is the first exhibit drawn exclusively from the couple’s split-level home in Encino.

That’s where CSUN’s art gallery director Louise Lewis first saw the Kamms’ widely varied collection.

“It’s like going into a candy store. There’s so much,” said Lewis.

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For this show, Lewis and the Kamms selected works that represented the human figure in glass, ceramics, sculpture, multimedia and painting--thus, the show’s title. But clearly the Kamms’ preference is for three-dimensional pieces--mostly glass and ceramics--which dominate the exhibit.

The Kamms, who have been married 36 years and have three grown children, first started going to galleries in New York while Sonny was in law school.

Years later, they were among the founders of the Art Alliance for Contemporary Glass. Gloria Kamm also works with Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s docent council and serves on the Board of the Fellows of Contemporary Art, which mounts annual shows.

An integral part of the show is a display of 46 teapots, a small fraction of the 3,000 assembled over the years by Sonny Kamm, who is vice president general counsel for Capital Group Cos.

Artists approach the teapot not so much as a utensil, but as a palette, he explained. Sergei Isupov’s, for example, aren’t even functional. His “Cancelled Vacation Teapot” (1996) has a painted-on couple driving a car, with a bikini-clad woman strapped to the roof.

“I have a silly streak, as you can probably tell,” quipped Kamm.

Though comic, some of the pieces have a serious undertone, as in Scott Schoenherr’s “Eureka.” The ceramic sculpture, about 7 feet tall, features an African man atop a pedestal. The man is dressed in a business suit under his traditional robe, a briefcase in one hand, a Eureka vacuum cleaner in the other. The base is etched with symbols invoking tribalism and capitalism.

“This piece was in our entryway and fell. The top, which wasn’t attached, toppled and smashed into smithereens,” said Sonny Kamm.

About a dozen pieces on display--though visitors will be hard pressed to figure out which ones--suffered damage in the earthquake and have been restored. “We’re not the Getty, but we’ve done everything we could under the circumstances,” Sonny Kamm said.

Anything for the children.

BE THERE

“All Figural: Many Media” at CSUN Art Dome, 18111 Nordhoff St., Northridge, through March 8. (818) 677-2156. Hours Tues.-Fri, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Mon. and Sat., noon-4 p.m.


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