In Los Angeles, the year began tragically with the apparent suicide of Mike Kelley. The artist died in January at 57. Known for his ground-breaking work in installations and performance, he remained a rebel even as he achieved international fame.
Dorothea Tanning, a leading Surrealist painter of the 1930s whose life led her far from her birthplace in the small town of Galesburg, Ill. died in February at her home in Manhattan. She was 101.
Married for 30 years to the Surrealist painter and sculptor Max Ernst, Ms. Tanning became well known in her own right for her vivid renderings of dream imagery. Much later in life, after the age of 80, she gained a different kind of attention when she began to concentrate on writing, producing a novel, an autobiography and poems that appeared in The New Yorker, The Yale Review and The Paris Review.
Kenneth Price, a renowned ceramist died in February at the age of 77, just seven months before a major retrospective of his works opened at the Los Angeles Museum of Art.
The most high-profile death was that of Thomas Kinkade, the self-anointed “Painter of Light” who died in April at 58 of an accidental overdose of alcohol and Valium. Although dismissed by serious art critics, Kinkade gained a worldwide following for his sentimental paintings.
Elizabeth Catlett, one of the most important African-American artists of the last century, died in April at age 96. A longtime resident of Mexico, she infused American and Latin American influences into her work which encompassed bold graphic images and semi-abstract sculpture.
Maurice Sendak was widely considered the most important children’s book artist of the 20th century, His works recognized children’s nighttime terrors, the monster that lurks under the bed and the darker recesses of the human psyche. He died on May 8, 2012, at the age of 83.
LeRoy Neiman, a colorful painter of sports and Olympic events, died in June at age 91. He often sketched or painted on live television, making him one of the most widely recognized artists of the last century. His flamboyant, boldly colored expressionists works appeared in many publications.
Karl Benjamin, the abstract painter who lived in Claremont, passed away in July at 86. You can read an insightful interview, with images of his work at: geoform.net/artists/karl-benjamin/
Robert Hughes, an Australian-born art critic and writer passed away at in August at the age of 74. He was described by the New York Times as the “most famous art critic in the world.”
Evelyn Ackerman, the L.A. artist and designer who was long associated with the California Modernist movement, died in November at age 88. Her works were inspired by folk art. A tribute at the LA Times: http://www.latimes.com/features/home/la-lh-evelyn-ackerman-20121204,0,6514619.story
Will Barnet, a printmaker and painter known for elegantly stylized portraits and classically composed visions of beautiful women and children, died in November at his home in Manhattan. He was 101. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Will_Barnet