Friday, February 3, 2012

A Quickie on Californian Minimalism

Dear Reader,

My new roomate, Hiroki, a liaison at the Lehmann Maupin Gallery in Chelsea, invited me to the opening of Mary Corse' gallery last Thursday night. She's a minimalist artist from California, with a studio in Los Angeles, and has been fine-tuning her technique for roughly 50 years. Being from California, I could appreciate why the color white (which is dominant in her work) is so key to the culture- white for the light, breezy, sunny weather; the coastal scene, white chaise lounges, Californian modernism, clean white hotel linen sheets in Malibu, white dresses can be worn in any season. I feel, generally, it's quite a coastal thing, and I do miss Calfornia for being that way.

One of her pieces "Untitled" (White Inner Band, Beveled), was made in 2008 using glass microspheres on acrylic on canvas (size, 96x144 inches). It is so simple that upon viewing it from far away, one could laugh that this piece of "art" is worth .5 million dollars; yet upon viewing it at different angles, at different lighting, and different mood, one can uncover subtle layers of information about the high level of craft(wo)manship and complexity of thought that was placed into it. If I was a buyer, it would be for this "design", and uniqueness that would move me enough to purchase the piece. To be honest, I really would, if I had the money that is. I'm a big fan of minimalism, and I'm very much in love with similar artists like the British photographer, Michael Kenna, and the architect Kazuyo Sejima. They both use white, subtle changes of tint/value, and high contrast with dark colors to reveal truths, or mere glimses of them to hold the eye and interest of, say, a fellow artist or creative individual.

In Michael Kenna's work in Hokkaido, in some instances he photographed the rural landscape in a white snow storm, exposing the lense long enough to bring in just a tiny hint of shadow to reveal the silhouette of a tree or horizon line as it's masked by the blizzard. The result, when developed and printed, is a seemingly white sheet of paper, with the silhouette of the landscape in a creamy eggshell color. This is how he represents a landscape- using the idea of "White" to communicate every sense of the space. In Kazuyo Sejima's work, particularly the Gifu Housing Project, I'm in love with the (almost) Le Corbusier way of tea-room modular stacking; it lends an efficient, rational way of seeing architecture, but just about every unit is entirely different. Some of these units have double heights, single, and are not too narrow- allowing direct and ambient light to shine through every facade. In elevation, she uses light/white wire mesh and grating to create a series of sliding panels (like dynamic layers). In a distance, it's like the white facade (especially the north) has a ghostly, ethereal transparency.

Back to Mary Corse, that night, after spending nearly an hour examining her work, there seemed to be this unusual, ethereal (yet again), temporal dynamic quality to them. I can't quite put a name to her work, other than the experience of the pieces change depending on viewing angle, lighting, and mood of the day. Like Kenna and Sejima's work, they seem to reveal more and more after you look at them for some length of time; yet it would appear like they made little to no effort in making them. It's very easy for me to become obsessed with work like Corse's, Kenna's and Sejimas, and probably because to achieve a complex solution in a simple, efficient way is something I strive for every day. Mies' adage "Less is More", strikes home in this case. It makes me wonder if I'll ever achieve this state of mind and method in design. I will continue to keep them in a Favorites List. In the meantime, here's a link to Corse's work at the Lehmann Maupin Gallery:

Less is More,
Lesley Ann

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