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  • Brenda Harrop

Immersion in Light and Space Aesthetics

Updated: Aug 10


The experiences of the Light and Space movement require active participation of the viewer and an awareness of their own perception. Interest in allowing perception to expand and grow beyond habitual experience flourished in a loosely affiliated group of Los Angeles artists during the early 1960s as well as a shared interest in light and new materials.


De Wain Valentine (1936-2022) was a leader of the Light and Space movement with his innovative use of industrial plastics and resins. Valentine's achievement of fabricating colossal sculptures through single-pour casting allowed him to create the massive "Diamond Column" in 1978 which exudes a mysterious oceanic luminosity ~ at one glance opaque and at another glance translucent, yet another glance absorbed within hues of undulating bluish-green and bronze colors ~ as the viewer moves around it. Light is reflected and refracted from the perfectly sleek, minimal form. This preoccupation with pristine, highly polished surfaces that were often painstakingly created became defined as "Finish Fetish".


The importance of a pristine surface is exemplified in "Untitled" from 1980 by Larry Bell (born 1939). Bell's inventive use of vacuum-coating technology provided a way of achieving a reflective surface on glass before assembling the glass panels into an austere cube. The micron thin metallic film coats the surface of the glass and modifies the way the light is transmitted, absorbed and reflected. Over the years, Bell has worked with three main metals: aluminum, nickel-chrome alloy and silicon monoxide. Within his life long exploration to capture and refract light, Bell's visionary body of work continues to alter the perception of the viewer; thus, the experience of the world is given new dimension.


Image: Installation view, Inaugural Collection Installation, April 9-July 17, 2022, MCASD: De Wain Valentine, Diamond Column, 1978, polyester resin; Larry Bell, Little Blank Riding Hood, 1962, acrylic on shaped canvas; Larry Bell, untitled, 1980, coated glass with chrome frame.

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