The apple fell just far enough from the tree for Laura Korman, daughter of actor Harvey Korman, who forges her own path as director of Bergamot Station’s TAG Gallery

By Michael Aushenker

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Once shrinking from the shadow of her father’s fame, TAG Gallery Director Laura Korman has come to embrace her family’s creative legacy after coming into success in the art world all on her own.

On Saturday, TAG Gallery at Bergamot Station presents its latest group show, featuring the works of sculptor Don Adler and painters Brigitte Schobert and Betty Sheinbaum.  Behind the scenes, it’s another small victory for Korman, who started at TAG from the bottom and now leads the 40-artist cooperative.

Korman, 28, grew up in West Los Angeles and got a masters degree in childhood education and special education at New York University. Intent on becoming an animator, she gravitated toward TAG, where she initially came on as an intern.

In February 2012, then-TAG Director Michael Goldstrom took a six-week leave of absence and Korman was temporarily thrust in charge. TAG’s membership found Korman’s interim work so good that they voted her in as the gallery’s permanent director that April.

“I was at the right place at the right time. As director, I’ve been a curator, promotion, sales. It’s more hands-on [than similar jobs at other galleries],” she said.

TAG [an acronym for The Artists’ Gallery] has been around for 20 years. Each artist pays $2,500 annual dues, but it’s not a pay-to-play model. Membership is selective and depends on how many vacancies open on the roster (there were ten in 2012 but none last year, leaving about 100 artists on a wait list).

At least 30 of TAG’s artists hail from L.A.’s Westside, including Santa Monica, Pacific Palisades, Venice and Mar Vista.  Artists who make it into the TAG fold get a show in one of three rooms downstairs and can participate in the loft show upstairs, a perpetual group show representing all 40 creators.

“It’s perfect for emerging artists,” Korman said of the TAG model, which allows members to work at their own tempos.

As of late, Korman has been on a roll. Earlier this month, ten members of the cooperative exhibited work at the prestigious Palm Springs Fine Art Fair, a much-buzzed-about annual fine arts happening presided over by the likes of art critic Peter Frank. And then there are the regular group shows, such as this weekend’s, when three TAG members exhibit their work on a rotation.

Schobert’s series “Reflections” features a new body of work on paper and canvas inspired by her travels to the Mediterranean, India, Indonesia and Mexico. In a group of works dubbed “Romance the Stone,” Adler displays his latest quasi-abstract works in stone. Sheinbaum’s exhibit, “Relax and Play,” features “acrylic portrait studies of people at leisure,” according to her artist statement for TAG.

Last summer’s “California Open,” an annual TAG event inviting artists from all over the state to take part in an exhibition, yielded hundreds of applicants, was juried by KCRW “Art Talk” host Edward Goldman and proved successful enough to invite a follow-up this year, from Aug 13 to 29. (The application process begins in April.)

“They have to have ‘it’,” Korman said of what makes a “California Open” artist or TAG member.

The phrase also quotes her father, actor Harvey Korman, who would say the same about fellow entertainment industry people.

Being Harvey Korman’s youngest daughter has added a layer of complexity to Laura Korman’s career.

Perhaps best remembered as Tim Conway’s foil on the “The Carol Burnett Show” or as villain Hedley Lamarr in Mel Brooks’ “Blazing Saddles,” Harvey Korman also weaved his way into the pop culture fabric of the 1960s, ‘70s and ‘80s with comedic appearances on popular programs — including “Route 66,” “The Munsters” and “The Flintstones — as the voice of the Great Gazoo, Fred and Barney’s hovering alien pal in the 1965-66 season.

Harvey Korman, who died in May 2008 from complications of an abdominal aneurysm, received six Emmy nominations for his work on “The Carol Burnett Show,” winning four. Beyond “Blazing Saddles,” he had roles in three other Brooks comedies: “High Anxiety,” “History of the World, Part I,” and “Dracula: Dead and Loving It.”

Born in 1985, “I had no idea ‘who he was’ when he was inducted in the TV Hall of Fame,” Korman, who attended Crossroads Elementary, said of her father.

By the time she attended Archer School for Girls in Brentwood, Korman became uncomfortable with her father’s fame and downplayed her relation to the star.

“I didn’t want to be known [only] as ‘his daughter,’’ she said.

But Korman said she had a change of heart after college, feeling more secure about her own career path. She became intent on celebrating her father’s legacy after his death.

As his daughter tells it, Harvey Korman was a passionate and somewhat complex artist who was always very critical of his work.

“That follows with being so smart, because you know too much,” she said.

Growing up, Korman spent a lot of time with her father, who had, for the most part, retired from acting in the 1990s and 2000s, making frequent trips together to Santa Monica beach.

“He would take me to piano and art classes and help me with homework. He was a really good tutor and he knew every word in the dictionary,” she said.

“He loved doing voices,” she said of her father, who later in life voiced the Dicta-bird in the 1994 live-action film version of “The Flintstones” and played Colonel Slaghoople, Wilma’s father, in the 2000 sequel, “The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas.”

In his later years, Korman also lamented the dearth of variety shows outside of “Saturday Night Live,” spurring him to join Conway on the road in 2005 to reprise some of their 1960s and ‘70s routines.

Korman frequently accompanied her father to the Santa Monica Playhouse, where he performed in productions of Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” and, his favorite, “Macbeth.”

Theater, she said, “was his first love.”

Could it be her father’s love of the stage that makes Korman delight in moderating monthly art talks at TAG featuring exhibiting artists?

“I pretend I’m James Lipton,” she said.

The TAG exhibit featuring Don Adler, Brigitte Schobert and Betty Sheinbaum launches with an opening reception from 5 to 8 p.m. Saturday and continues through March 22 at TAG Gallery, Bergamot Station, 2525 Michigan Ave., D3, Santa Monica. Korman moderates this month’s art talk at 3 p.m. on March 15. Call (310) 829-9556 or visit taggallery.net.

michael(at)argonautnews.com

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