LAMA to Partner with Emerson Woelffer Estate and Otis College of Art and Design

April 28, 2017

Los Angeles Modern Auctions (LAMA) and the Estate of Emerson Woelffer are pleased to announce an on-going partnership for the estate and legacy of artist Emerson Woelffer. This partnership will include the management and sale of the artist’s estate in future LAMA auctions and private treaties to benefit the Scholarship Fund of Otis College of Art and Design.

Los Angeles Modern Auctions (LAMA)

Emerson Woelffer, Born To The Day, 1950
May 21, 2017 Modern Art & Design Auction

Emerson Woelffer (1914-2003) taught at Otis College of Art and Design for nearly twenty years, and remained active with the college until his death in 2003. The sale of works by the artist will directly benefit the cause Woelffer dedicated his life to: arts education. Woelffer was a professor and teacher to some of the most influential contemporary artists who emerged from Southern California. Artists such as Ed Ruscha, Larry Bell, and Joe Goode all studied under Woelffer in the early years of their practices.

Woelffer was also a contemporary and friend with artists such as Marcel Duchamp, Man Ray, Jackson Pollock, Alfonso Ossario, and John Baldessari. “I had Man Ray lecture to the students…The place was packed,” stated Woelffer in a 1999 interview. It was the goal of Emerson Woelffer to have students be “way-out,” to push the boundaries and form their own practices. In introducing his students not only to the oeuvres of famous artists, but also to the artists themselves, Woelffer created an environment ideal for young artists.

Los Angeles Modern Auctions (LAMA)

Emerson Woelffer, Untitled, 1993
May 21, 2017 Modern Art & Design Auction

The estate of Woelffer mimics the same evolution as the artist’s life. Early works feature a very traditional, painterly style influenced by his time of classical study at the Art Institute of Chicago. Works from the time surrounding Woelffer’s period at Black Mountain College can be seen in context with the practices of Cy Twombly, Elaine de Kooning, and Deborah Sussman. From there the artist moved to the Yucatan in Mexico, where his compositions appear to draw from the traditional, local art of the region. But, it was during his years practicing in Los Angeles that Woelffer truly synthesized his years of traveling and education to his unique style: compositions of abstract expressionism, infused with remnants of each earlier experience.

Woelffer’s work and practice are uniquely ‘L.A.’ Los Angeles was Woelffer’s home for nearly forty years, and it was here that he pursued his own artistic expression and pushed his students to go beyond what was happening in New York at the time. “I think the environment had something to do with it…[I] figure here’s LA and let them express themselves. That’s what it was.” It is in the special laboratory that is Los Angeles that Woelffer thrived, and it is particularly appropriate that his work stay in the city and be represented by Los Angeles Modern Auctions.

Los Angeles Modern Auctions (LAMA)

Emerson Woelffer, Untitled, 1973
May 21, 2017 Modern Art & Design Auction

The Scholarship Fund of Otis College of Art and Design provides vital scholarship funding to many Otis College students who are promising young artists and designers who would be unable to complete their education without this support. Established in 1918, Otis College offers undergraduate and graduate degrees in a wide variety of visual and applied arts, media, and design. Core programs in liberal arts, business practices, and community-driven projects support the College’s mission to prepare diverse students to enrich our world through their creativity, skill, and vision. As Los Angeles’ first professional art school, visionary alumni and faculty include MacArthur and Guggenheim grant recipients, Oscar awardees, and design stars at Apple, Anthropologie, Pixar, Mattel, and more. The renowned Creative Action program has been recognized by the Carnegie Foundation for Community Engagement, and the Otis Report on the Creative Economy is a powerful advocacy tool for creative industries. The College serves the Greater Los Angeles Area through compelling public programming, as well as year-round Continuing Education courses for all ages. More information is available at

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