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"Phenomenal"
at Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, La Jolla and San Diego, California
Recommendation by Judith Christensen


Douglas Wheeler, "Untitled," 1969, acrylic on canvas with neon tubing

Continuing through January 22, 2012

In the 1967 movie “The Graduate,” Mr. McGuire had “Just one word” of advice for Ben: “Plastics.” The timing of the film and the impact of that technology on our home-grown art culture sets a context here. No need to point Southern California artists, including John McCracken, Craig Kauffman, Helen Pashgian and DeWain Valentine, among others, in that direction. Utilizing newly developed industrial technologies as well as surfboard surfacing techniques, they were already casting forms, coating surfaces and vacuum-forming shapes with acrylic, Plexiglas, and polyester resin in the mid-to-late sixties. How these materials interact with light to produce translucence, luster, or luminosity is one of the highlights of “Phenomenal: California Light, Space, Surface.”

The lacquer and polyester resin on the surface of McCracken’s “Blue Block in Three Parts” (1966) allows for a smooth, high-sheen finish that results in exceptional reflective properties. For the most part, the shapes are minimal — wedges, balls, slabs, and boxes — yet seductive in their subtle use of color, as in Peter Alexander’s tall, thin, elegant “Orange Wedge” (1970) and Pashgian’s “Untitled” (1968-69) spheres. Three of these cast polyester resin orbs sit in a single row, refracting and reflecting light and movement. In the lobby, Spencer Finch’s giant, yellow, scrim-covered lens, “Rome, Pantheon, Noon, June 14, 2011” contrasts with Robert Venturi’s fanciful fins suspended over viewers’ heads. The Venturi provides an apt entry into the exhibit of works that focus on light, color, form, and surface.

Published courtesy of ArtSceneCal ©2011

Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, MCASD La Jolla

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