45 in Focus:
Let There Be Light
The first in a series of group presentations related to our anniversary exhibition, this viewing room brings together a collection of works that engage with light both as a material and as an integral environmental element. This dichotomy between inherent and atmospheric light mirrors the duality of light itself, existing both as matter and energy. Some, such as Sandra Mendelsohn Rubin, Patrick Martinez, and Matthew Brandt, consider the domestic, reflecting the natural omnipresence of light in our everyday lives. Others, including Gisela Colón, Liza Lou, and Dave McDermott, take a more ethereal approach, exploring light’s otherworldly possibilities.
Heather Gwen Martin’s lyrical abstractions are carefully attuned to the changing course of natural light. Completed in a studio loft in downtown Los Angeles, the artist approaches her linen canvases with a careful eye, completing all of the delicate linework by hand. The changing light from the studio’s large west facing windows brings a fresh experience every hour, as Martin’s pristine colors react to the changing light of day. The interplay of bright hues in Voyage generates its own kind of light, taking advantage of visual phenomena to interrogate the viewer’s understanding of light and color.
Patrick Martinez evokes Los Angeles’ urban landscape with American Memorial 2. The artist layers stucco, plaster, spray paint, house paint, and other materials on thick surfaces that are then excavated with a power washer, creating a lived-in surface that reflects the multiplicity of lives lived and lost within a community. The neon element nods to common commercial signage, while the ceramic roses come from street memorials, meant both as an act of mourning and of celebration. With this American Memorial, Martinez celebrates the particular landscape of his upbringing in Los Angeles, and perhaps mourns the American moment in which we find ourselves.
Gisela Colón’s ethereal sculptures are in constant dialogue with their environment, capturing, reflecting, and embodying light in an ever-changing dance of subtle tones. Merging space-age technology with critical theory, these works are not only activated by light but use light itself as a material. Their organic, fluid forms and unfixed tones exist in direct dialogue with the rigidity of Minimalism. "The pods capture light inside," says Colón. "They reflect, refract and emit light from within. They embody light. Light is the ultimate material."
Hyper Ellipsoid (Gold Citrine), 2020
90 x 42 x 12 in.
(228.6 x 106.7 x 30.5 cm)
Rebecca Campbell’s practice often draws upon her own family and cultural history, mining old photographs and passed-down stories for her paintings. Inside Out captures a lone figure in the desert, their open gaze and casual stance as if they have been surprised by the camera that produced this old snapshot. Campbell abstracts the scene, infusing the whole with the dusty pallid glow of a desert dusk. The opposite of Campbell’s hot gold, Sandra Mendelsohn Rubin offers cool blue illumination. The artist’s precision comes from careful, lengthy study. Nearly abstract, this painting of a humble water cooler radiates a cool afternoon glow, a raking light caught in its rounded surface. She captures the interplay between container, water, and light with a grace that belies the intricacy of her practice.
Light is the essential catalyst for photography; it is the medium by which the image is captured. Matthew Brandt’s experimental approach to photography introduces unusual and surprising materials to the process, hearkening back to the scientific experiments that characterized the early years of the medium. The artist considers photography in a sculptural sense, looking for a fusion between subject and material. Dining Room 8870 accomplishes this goal with a chandelier of photo-fused glass in place of dangling crystals. The tiny images, lit from behind, produce a glowing picture of a dining room in the round.
Liza Lou’s delicate surfaces catch the light with tens of thousands of tiny glass beads woven together to create a subtle, undulating surface. The effect is a gentle glow that fades into blue as it traverses the work, much like the fading light of the titular afternoon. Lou’s poetic abstractions span painting and sculpture, elevating her chosen medium -- the glass bead -- firmly into the realm of high art.
Dave McDermott combines classicism and surrealist abstraction in The Loom of Language. The title comes from a 1985 textbook that is both a history of language and and guide to learning multiple languages through a recognition of repeating patterns. Here, McDermott offers the primitive symbols of early writing while simultaneously manifesting their illuminating power as reflective gold leaf. Tony Marsh also calls on primal forces in his Crucible series, in which he evokes the sublime processes of a turbulent planet -- the pure color of gemstones, the cracked surface of burnt wood, the pockmarked pumice of volcanic rock. The latter is relevant here; Marsh’s deep, matte material calls to mind the explosive fire of eruption even as it eats up all reflected light.