Light and Space Homecoming

Hap Tivey, Helios I, 2021. Except as noted, all LACMA collection
Much of LACMA's holdings of L.A. Light and Space art have been touring for the past few years. The traveling exhibition has now landed on the ground floor of BCAM. "Light, Space, Surface: Selections From LACMA's Collection" is a reduced presentation omitting some key pieces and artists, such as a Robert Irwin disk painting and anything by James Turrell or Doug Wheeler. The result is less a capsule history than a tasting menu with surprises. One is Hap Tivey, who has been working since the late 1960s but is not nearly so well known as some of his colleagues. Tivey's Helios I, dated 2021, adapts LEDs to produce a prismatic presence.

Larry Bell, Cube, 1966, and (on wall) Billy Al Bengston, Tom, 1968

In 1966 L.A. Times critic William Wilson invented the term "Finish Fetish" to describe a So. Cal. brand of "cool" minimalism featuring polished, plastic surfaces. Those surfaces, compared to the gloss of surfboards and custom cars, were in Wilson's estimation metaphors for "contemporary emotional attitudes." 

The artists generally disliked "Finish Fetish," but it caught on. A decade later, curator Melinda Wortz devised the term "Light and Space" for L.A. artists trading in perceptual effects. There is a good deal of overlap between Finish Fetish and Light and Space, and the BCAM show includes the full Venn diagram. 
Fred Eversley, untitled, 1972, a recent acquisition. On the wall is Hap Tivey's Helios I
Mary Corse, White Light Painting (Grid Series), 1986

Billy Al Bengston, Tom, 1968

Judy Chicago, Pastel Domes #1, 1968 (table refabricated 2012)

Finish Fetish contained multitudes: the hyper masculinity of the Ferus Cool School and the semi-abstract feminism of early Judy Chicago. After taking her MFA, Chicago enrolled in auto body school to learn an alternative painterly tradition. She was the only woman in a class of about 250. Pastel Domes #1 subverts minimalist geometry as iridescent lady lumps. 

Roland Reiss, Red Edge, 1968
Roland Reiss' Castle of Perseverance steals one gallery of the Hammer's show of its contemporary collection (leading some to ask, "who is Roland Reiss?") Here's another piece of the puzzle. Reiss made latex molds of the plastic ceiling panels used to diffuse fluorescent lighting (think of your last teeth cleaning). He then painted the latex in improvised colors. Suffice to say that Reiss is as much an outlier here as he is at the Hammer.

Craig Kauffman, untitled, 1969
The show provides evidence that Light and Space is not dead, with several 21st-century pieces being standouts. The untitled Pashgian is a walk-in installation drawing on elements of Primavera (2021). You can look at it for some time before figuring out what you're seeing.
Helen Pashgian, untitled, 2023. Lent by the artist


I know nothing about this school and art. But it all looks very cool.

Popular Posts