Pacific Standard Time: Light and Space

Untitled, by Douglas Wheeler, 1969. Acrylic on canvas with neon tubing

More on Pacific Standard Time, currently on view in Los Angeles:

The Southern California artists who congregated together into a loosely defined group called Light and Space in the late 1960s have gone on to be some of my favorites. The list is an extraordinary one that includes Robert Irwin, Larry Bell, Bruce Nauman, James Turrell, Doug Wheeler, Dewain Valentine and, less well known but a friend of mine, Susan Kaiser Vogel.

The Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego features many of these artists in their PST show, Phenomenal: California Light, Space, Surface. From the Phenomenal site:

Whether by directing the flow of natural light, embedding artificial light within objects or architecture, or by playing with light through the use of transparent, translucent or reflective materials, these artists each made the visitor’s experience of light and other sensory phenomena under specific conditions the focus of their work. Key examples of this approach include immersive environments by Bruce Nauman and Eric Orr, each of which produce different and extreme retinal responses; the disorienting and otherworldly glow of a Doug Wheeler light environment; a richly hued and spatially perplexing light piece from James Turrell’s Wedgework series, and the subtle sculpting of space with natural light by Robert Irwin.

In addition to artworks which literally claim the entire space of the room, Phenomenal also features a number of sculptures and paintings that function as prisms or mirrors to activate the space surrounding them. The properties of glass are explored in Larry Bell’s coated glass cubes and in monochromatic paintings by Mary Corse which are embedded with tiny glass microbeads.

Particularly hard to photograph, these works are extraordinary—deliciously ethereal, timeless, provocative. And for anyone interested in reading more about this movement, I recommend the show catalog as well as the book The Art of Light and Space by Jan Butterfield and Jim McHugh.

Stuck Red and Stuck Blue, by James Turrell, 1970. Collection Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego

Untitled, by Craig Kauffman, 1968. Collection Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego

Note: Another piece by Craig Kaufman concomitantly on view at the Getty’s Crosscurrents exhibit can be seen here.

Untitled (Space + Electric Light), by Mary Corse, 1968. Plexiglass, neon, high frequency energy. Collection Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego

Note: Another piece by Mary Corse concomitantly on view at the Getty’s Crosscurrents exhibit can be seen here.

#54 July/August 2nd Level Density, by Ron Cooper, 1968. Polyester resin, Fiberglas, and pigment. Collection Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego

6 Replies to “Pacific Standard Time: Light and Space”

  1. Ok, I’m jealous you got to see the exhibition. I will have to get the show’s catalogue. Marvelous work!

  2. These are stunning. They’re so simple, yet remarkably beautiful. I wish I was close enough to go see it in person.

  3. I remember my first exposure to Turrell’s work in a large exhibition at the Whitney; it was a revelation. I’d never experienced light and space and color used in that way. I later heard him give a lecture on the Roden crater; he’s a great artist. Wish I could see this show to get to know more of the other Light and Space artists.

  4. There is so much that excited my eye and mind in this whole extravaganza. Wish I had a month to just hang out in LA.

  5. these transport me into another dimension. I feel a duel existence that stretches my essence. Magical!

  6. Edward Nygren says:

    My wife and I had a great time in Los Angeles and San Diego seeing many of the terrific shows that are part of Pacific Standard Time. Hats off to the Getty for making it possible. Phenomenal was one of the best. Spectacular! Mind bending! One of the great museum shows of this or any year.

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