The Frank Lloyd Gallery is pleased to announce the opening of Translucence, a group exhibition featuring the work of Larry Bell, Robert Irwin, Craig Kauffman, Helen Pashgian and DeWain Valentine. Presenting a selection of historical pieces and recent works by these artists, Translucence explores their subtly atmospheric qualities and emphasis on perceptual phenomena.
Much has been written about the innovative materials used by artists working in Southern California beginning in the 1960s. However, a narrow focus on the semi-industrial processes used to produce these artworks overlooks the effects they were intended to achieve. Stephanie Hanor, in her essay "The Material of Immateriality," instead argues that the so-called Light and Space artists were "using materials as a means to an end, rather than as an end in themselves."1
This exhibit focuses on transparency and translucence. The works on display may have been technically challenging to produce, but they are not merely examples of virtuoso craftsmanship in demanding mediums. To quote Philip Leider's turn on Marshall McLuhan's famous phrase, "the medium is not the message."3 Rather, the medium serves as a vehicle to develop the message – of nonphysicality, perceptual ambiguity, and the subject/object relationship.
Larry Bell emerged in Los Angeles in the mid-1960s, and is often included in major exhibitions of Minimal Art. Throughout his career, his work has focused on the complexities of intangible perceptual phenomena. For the exhibition catalogue of A New Aesthetic at the Washington Gallery of Modern Art in 1967, Barbara Rose wrote that she didn't know of "any visual experiences that are analogous to the evanescent sensations of examining a Bell. It is perhaps like trying to describe the taste of water, which has a very real but ultimately elusive taste."3 Examples of his signature form, the glass cube, will be presented alongside work from his most recent series, the "Light Knots." Bell achieves complex visual effects through his use of thin film deposition – resulting in objects that absorb, transmit, and reflect light, thus calling into question the nature of the physical and visual spaces they inhabit.
Robert Irwin is well known for his investigations into human perception and sensory experience. Those efforts were described by Lawrence Weschler in 1982 as attempts to capture "the incidental, the transitory, the peripheral – that aspect of our experience that is both there and not there, the object and not the object of our sensations, perceived but seldom attended to."4 The 9-foot acrylic column on display in this exhibition illustrates this tension, acting out a sophisticated interplay between object and environment, as it disappears into the space it inhabits. Though the column is machined to a dazzling degree of optical purity, its presence can be nearly imperceptible to the viewer. It dissolves traditional boundaries between physical objects and their environments. It is an artwork that is not intended to be looked at, but rather experienced through the indirect perception of its effects on its environment.
In his statement for A New Aesthetic, Craig Kauffman took a firm position regarding his chosen materials, writing that: "I didn't start out with the idea of an industrial aesthetic. I believe the artist's strength lies not primarily in his intellect, but in his sensibility turned into intelligence. I began working in plastic with an idea of form it is true, but my principal impetus was a passion for a kind of color, a kind of light, a sensual response to material."5 Sensuous color characterizes Kauffman's practice, and plastic allowed him to expand on and enhance this sensibility. Translucence features both historical and contemporary examples of his work in acrylic plastic. Suspended from the ceiling, Kauffman's Untitled Loop from 1969 radiates luminous color, casting reflections on the surrounding walls. His more recent wall reliefs pulse with layers of iridescent paint, applied in thin layers to achieve a glowing, atmospheric quality.
Helen Pashgian summed up her position on material process for the Getty's video archives, saying in 2010 that the materials associated with the 1960s "were all being used for a very simple end, which dealt with perception. Light, and space, and perception."6 Her work, like that of many of her contemporaries, used the new possibilities offered by industrial mediums to manipulate and explore visual and physical phenomena. Her practice constitutes an investigation into the interaction between light, color, and three-dimensional form. Like her historical spheres, Pashgian's recent pieces explore the perceptual relationship between color and structure, blurring the borders between these principles. As the viewer moves around her work, colors and shapes advance and recede within each piece, creating an effect of instability. Qualities that are traditionally considered to be inherent to an artwork are thus called into question.
DeWain Valentine's work deals with the intersection of physical mass and color. The translucency of his materials is critical to the visual effects he realizes, allowing the color and structure of his sculptures to appear as one. His monumental sculptures, rendered in cast resin, achieve the perception of pure color, merging with its environment. Produced on a human scale, the works establish themselves as an integral element of their setting, rather than isolated objects. These sculptures reflect and distort the light and environmental conditions of their surroundings, causing them to "drift into and out of the viewer's perceptual field."7
1 Stephanie Hanor, "The Material of Immaterialty," in Phenomenal: California Light, Space, Surface, ed. Robin Clark (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2011), 124.
2 Philip Leider, "Robert Irwin," in Robert Irwin, Kenneth Price, exh. cat. (Los Angeles: Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1966).
3 Barbara Rose, A New Aesthetic, exh. cat. (Washington D.C.: Washington Gallery of Modern Art, 1967), 13.
4 Lawrence Weschler, Seeing is Forgetting the Name of the Thing One Sees, (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1982), 113.
5 Craig Kauffman, artist statement in Rose, A New Aesthetic, 51.
6 Helen Pashgian, "Helen Pashgian Speaks About Her Work," Getty Archives video, 3:20, April 2010, http://www.getty.edu/pacificstandardtime/explore-the-era/archives/v21/
7 Donna Conwell and Glenn Phillips, "Duration Piece: Rethinking Sculpture in Los Angeles," in Pacific Standard Time, ed. by Rebecca Peabody et al. (Los Angeles: The Getty Research Institute and the J. Paul Getty Museum, 2011), 194.