What Makes a Minimalist Sculpture Good?
Neither Appearance Nor Illusion: Property from the Collection of Santiago Barberi Gonzalez
From the Catalogue
“I do try to make things that look like they come from somewhere else – from a UFO or a futuristic environment or another dimension. That things exist in more than one dimension at one time is something that’s more than a fascination for me, it’s relevant to the human world.” – John McCracken, 1997
Black Pyramid is a mysterious and otherworldly example of McCracken’s West Coast Minimalism and is indicative of his life-long interest in the extraterrestrial. There is no structure wrapped up with quite as much mystery as the pyramid – from Egypt to Mexico and Southeast Asia, it has captured the human imagination for centuries, and few other pieces from McCracken’s oeuvre implicate this fascination quite like the present work. The piece is striking in its seamless perfection, its slightly rounded edges and vertices create the effect of being without a beginning or end, and its polished, onyx black resin gives the effect of unlimited depth. It is, in effect, a pyramidal black hole, leading perhaps to the other dimensions McCracken was so drawn to.
Robert Iwrin, Craig Kauffman and James Turrell are amongst other notable West Coast Minimalists, and McCracken saw his beginnings as a professional artist with his first solo exhibition at Nicholas Wilder Gallery on La Cienega Boulevard in 1965. West Coast Minimalism, also referred to as the Light and Space Movement, was primarily concerned with how light and form could affect the perception of the viewer and is said to have been inspired by Los Angeles’ particular radiance and color palette, lending the movement a certain Californian aesthetic. McCracken’s artistry is based almost entirely on these notions of light and form, to the extent that he painstakingly crafted objects and mixed pigments himself, in contrast to other well-known Minimalists. His iconic planks are often likened to a polished surfboard or the smooth finish of Kustom Kulture cars, both undeniably unique aspects of California culture. His work has been exhibited at a number of Los Angeles institutions, including the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Getty Center, LA Louver, the Laguna Art Museum and the Orange County Museum of Art. Black Pyramid combines the Californian with the inter-dimensional to form a work that perfectly typifies McCracken’s oeuvre.
—Courtesy of Sotheby's
Signature: signed and dated 75 on the underside
New York, David Zwirner Gallery, Primary Atmospheres: Works from California 1960-1970, January - February 2010, pp. 59-60, illustrated in color
New York, David Zwirner Gallery, John McCracken: Works from 1963-2011, September - October 2013, pl. 32, illustrated in color
Mark Moore Gallery, Santa Monica
Private Collection, California
David Zwirner Gallery, New York
Acquired from the above by the previous owner
Working with what he called “planks,” John McCracken created Minimalist sculptures that bridge the material world with the metaphysical. By leaning the planks against the wall, McCracken’s intention was to connect the spheres of two-dimensional painting and three-dimensional sculpture. His method involved a laborious process of painting, sanding, and polishing the polyester resin on each plywood board to achieve a flawless patina that looks machine-made, bringing to mind the 1960s West Coast “Finish Fetish Art” aesthetic. The most dramatic effect of his glossy surfaces is the way they become as reflective as mirrors and oftentimes seem to disappear altogether, such as in his 1985 work Akitanai. “My tendency,” McCracken once said, “is to reduce or develop everything to 'single things'—things which refer to nothing outside [themselves] but which at the same time possibly refer, or relate, to everything.”
American , 1934-2011, Berkeley, California