Los Angeles County Museum of Art
5905 Wilshire Blvd.,
Los Angeles, CA 90036
Article by Cathy Breslaw
Some art slaps you in the face with its boldness, shocking content or sheer massive size. Not so for the work of Mary Corse whose first solo museum exhibition A Survey of Light is on view at Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Art viewers who typically pull out their phone cameras to capture images or themselves with the art need not waste their time in this activity. Corse’s art is about the direct ‘experience’ and cameras will only get in the way.
Corse has dedicated over 5 decades in her art practice to the focused study of light as both subject and material, as well as delving into the physical and metaphysical properties of light as energy and perception. In the 1960’s Corse’s technical experimentations of shaped monochrome canvases like Untitled (Octogonal Blue) 1964 and sculpture of acrylic on wood and plexiglass Untitled (Two Triangular Columns) 1965, are examples of her early work that reflect the influence of minimalism going on during in those years. Her work is also associated with the West Coast Light and Space Movement.
Also during the 1960’s, Corse engineered her first light box paintings, as painted white canvases transitioned into radiant fluorescent light. She later developed a series of argon light boxes that were wireless and suspended from the ceiling using Tesla coils and high frequency generators that can transmit an electromagnetic field through a wall. And, in order to create these works, Corse took physics classes and had to pass a proficiency test to acquire certain capacitors and wires for these pieces.
Corse’s White Light series came from her discovery of the tiny glass microspheres embedded in road paint which she continues to use to create these light responsive works. Reflecting and refracting light, these tiny beads allow the viewer to notice and experience changes in the surface light of these paintings while moving across in front of them, and viewing them from varying angles and distances. Subtle grid patterns and vertical/horizontal bands form the underlying composition within which the viewer notices changing patterns of shimmering light and the feeling of energy emanating from them.
Corse has pushed light’s formal and perceptual possibilities, while working in increasingly larger sized canvases, and sometimes incorporating black. There appears to be an inner glow and luminosity to these white monochrome paintings as well as an intriguing interactive quality as viewers participate in the experience by moving around the large and airy spaces of the gallery rooms. There are no singular vantage points from which to observe these paintings, making it an active, highly subjective and fun experience of discovery.