Edward Den Lau, whose Space gallery in Los Angeles was a center for art shows as well as performances, poetry readings and musical events, has died. He was 80.
Lau died of cancer April 13 at his home in Silver Lake, said Jeri Coates, the gallery’s former assistant director.
From the time Lau opened the gallery in 1975, he exhibited an eclectic assortment of artists. A number of them were Asian-born, including watercolorist Masami Teraoka and sculptor Kazuo Kadonaga, both natives of Japan.
At the same time, Lau was the host for an early performance art work by Rachel Rosenthal, a pioneer of feminist art in the 1970s, and exhibited the art assemblages of Llyn Foulkes.
“The gallery had a reputation for being idiosyncratic,” Coates said Wednesday. For the most part, she said, “the sensibility at the gallery related to nature.”
Lau was an avid gardener who planted ginger, bamboo and other tropical plants in his backyard.
“Most of the art he showed used nature as a theme or was made of wood, paper, clay or other natural materials,” Coates said.
His gallery was far from the art scene in West Hollywood that was attracting national attention at the time he got started. Lau chose a building on Santa Monica Boulevard near Vine Street.
In an unusual layout, visitors entered through a lounge area that invited leisurely conversations. Lau was usually in the gallery and available to visitors as well as artists.
“Ed was not the art merchant; he was the art mentor,” said Josine Ianco Starrels, director of the Municipal Art Gallery at Barnsdall Art Park through most of the 1980s. “He didn’t participate in the celebrity art game. His shows were never trendy.”
Born in Honolulu on Aug. 29, 1927, Lau attended the University of Hawaii but did not graduate. He then went into the furniture business.
After relocating to Los Angeles in the late 1950s, he studied landscape design and worked as a landscape designer for 15 years before he opened his gallery.
He closed the gallery in 1995 but continued to curate exhibits for other galleries and museums. He also exhibited his own art assemblages at El Camino College near Torrance and elsewhere.
Lau is survived by a brother, George Lau of Ventura; a sister, Edith Kashinoki of Honolulu; and numerous nieces and nephews.