September 22, 2011 - Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago - Phenomenal: California Light, Space, Surface
September 22, 2011

Phenomenal: California Light, Space, Surface

James Turrell, “Wedgework V,” 1975.
Fluorescent light, dimensions variable.*

Phenomenal: California Light, Space, Surface

MCASD La Jolla
700 Prospect Street
La Jolla, CA 92037-4291

MCASD Downtown
1001 & 1100 Kettner Blvd.
San Diego, CA 92101

Symposium, November 5, 11 AM
Phenomenal catalogue contributors Michael Auping, Stephanie Hanor, Adrian Kohn, and Dawna Schuld will join MCASD Curator Robin Clark, Tom Learner from the Getty Conservation Institute and Andrew Perchuk from the Getty Research Institute for a discussion of the discoveries growing from their research for Phenomenal and related Pacific Standard Time exhibitions.

Featured Artists
Peter Alexander
Larry Bell
Ron Cooper
Mary Corse
Robert Irwin
Craig Kauffman
John McCracken
Bruce Nauman
Eric Orr
Helen Pashgian
James Turrell
De Wain Valentine
Doug Wheeler

The Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego is pleased to announce its most ambitious exhibition to date, Phenomenal: California Light, Space, Surface. This exhibition is on view at the Museum’s La Jolla and downtown San Diego locations from September 25, 2011 through January 22, 2012.

In the 1960s and 70s, light became a primary medium for a loosely-affiliated group of artists working in Los Angeles. 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 perception itself the subject of their work. Key examples of this approach include immersive environments by Bruce Nauman and Eric Orr, each of which each produce extreme retinal responses; the otherworldly glow of a Doug Wheeler light environment; a 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, the exhibition features a number of pieces that function as prisms or mirrors to activate their surrounding space. The properties of glass are explored in Larry Bell’s glass cubes and in paintings by Mary Corse which are embedded with tiny glass microbeads. The luminous and prismatic effects of cast or vacuum-formed resins and plastics are demonstrated with exceptional works by Peter Alexander, Ron Cooper, Robert Irwin, Craig Kauffman, Helen Pashgian and De Wain Valentine. Lush pigmentation and supreme reflectivity combine in John McCracken’s lacquered sculptures to create bold objects which paradoxically melt into their environment by acting as mirrors.

Combining key works from the Museum’s collection with major loans from prominent public and private collections, the exhibition includes immersive light installations together with rare, ephemeral, and site-conditioned works, some seen for the first time in decades.

Phenomenal is accompanied by a lavishly illustrated 250-page scholarly catalogue co-published by MCASD and University of California Press. The first critical reader on this topic, the Phenomenal book is a key addition to literature on art made in Los Angeles during the vibrant decades of the 1960s and 70s. The book is edited by Robin Clark.

Phenomenal: California Light, Space, Surface is part of Pacific Standard Time: Art in L.A. 1945–1980. This unprecedented collaboration, initiated by the Getty, brings together more than sixty cultural institutions from across Southern California for six months beginning October 2011 to tell the story of the birth of the Los Angeles art scene and how it became a major new force in the art world. Pacific Standard Time is an initiative of the Getty. The presenting sponsor is Bank of America.

Phenomenal is organized by the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego and has been made possible thanks to a major grant from the Getty Foundation. The project has also received generous grants from the Henry Luce Foundation for American Art and the Farrell Family Foundation. Additional support for the project comes from Faye Hunter Russell, Brent Woods and Laurie Mitchell, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Press Contact:
Leah Masterson;

*Image above:
Courtesy of Abstract Select Ltd., UK.
Image © James Turrell.
Photo: Philipp Scholz Rittermann.

Phenomenal: California Light, Space, Surface
Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago
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