Last night, I attended the opening for Helen Pashgian’s Columns and Wall Sculptures show at Ace Gallery. There has been much written on this artist and a lot to appreciate. I’ll leave Google and Wikipedia to inform you about her.
When lighted from above, Pashgian’s columns emanated a soft glow that not only brought them to life, but also revealed the simple genius of the construction. Considering that they look like large frosty glass vases that you could get from DWR or even Ikea, I found the floor and ceiling layout to be effective in setting the mood that many night clubs and after-hours lounges aspire to. Indeed, the crowd found the ambience perfect for imbibing in free booze and engaging in conversation.
Upon reflection, standing in that room was both calming and inspirational. Even if it was just for a moment, I did find myself focused on the colors and forgetting about reality. Perhaps, that is the reason for these sculptures’ existance, to stir the imagination and transport one to a mental place of peace, or maybe I just suffer from inattentive ADHD.
Anyways, the opening was okay. My main complaint is that the line to get alcohol was a bit too long.
Copy + Paste from Ace Gallery:
While meticulously constructed, the artwork of Helen Pashgian shows no trace of the artist’s hand at work; instead, it concentrates on the final impression. The artist’s intimate, small in scale works are enigmatic studies of light and color. Her larger pieces are inexplicable; they seem supernaturally constructed and perfect Stonehenges of bent light. While using light and color as exploratory materials, Pashgian has created ethereal works from industrial materials for her exhibition at Ace Gallery Beverly Hills. As stated by James Turrell, “Helen Pashgian is a pioneer of the Los Angeles ‘Light and Space’ movement… [She] had the ironic stance of working in such a light drenched arena while maintaining the position of being an underground artist… [Her] efforts are now known.”1 Pashgian, amid other artists working in Los Angeles in the late sixties such as Turrell, Robert Irwin, Mary Corse, DeWain Valentine, Doug Wheeler, Larry Bell, and Peter Alexander, has investigated the properties of light in solid form for close to fifty years. Pashgian’s work may vary greatly in scale, yet regardless of size, her sculptures remain pristine and mysterious.
Pashgian has recently created a series of eight-foot tall freestanding columns that take the form of vertical double-ellipses. Every column acts as conjoined twins, which elliptically fall in and out of each other into infinity. There is no end nor beginning, rather an envelopment of space and all that inhabit it. By making these sculptures large-scale, Pashgian has created a multitude of angles with which to play with light. The columns are not just pure, self-supporting, luminescent color, but rather Pashgian has placed varying elements into the columns that change as viewers engage them from different approaches. The elements inside, whether they are a flat bar, metallic cylinder, or untraceable color, might appear to be an armature, but as each differs, no solid conclusions can be drawn. Baffling as the construction is, Pashgian has created tactile color with inner light sources emanating from the sculptures.
Similar to her columns, the wall pieces have varying elements contained within; however, unlike her columns, Pashgian’s wall works float. There is no clear way that they are fashioned to the wall. The enclosed elements not only appear to be shadows but cast shadows from within the pieces. As Kathleen Stuart Howe put it, “These interior elements at one moment capture a burst of light, then, as one moves around the sculptures, become solid forms that seem to push against the diaphanous surface… only to subside and dissolve into a ghostly presence.”2
In juxtaposition to her larger works, Pashgian’s small, twelve-inch squares are filled with intriguing contradictions: each contains a sense of movement yet each is at a standstill, each is small in size yet implies grandiosity, each is predominately black yet colors come forth, and each is flat yet sculptural in nature. She takes what could be from a viewfinder, and frames it with a square, making for an intimate dynamic experience. There is a strong sense of movement within these smaller works – a blurring effect, trails of light following larger sources – but at the same time there is an uncanny stillness, as if she has trapped light in a frame. Light may be as old as time, yet Pashgian has found a way to reinvent how we look at it, taking a relatively small space and rendering it vast and expansive. In slight relief, she has layered her boxes, condensing luminance and giving the impression of three-dimensions. Even though focused lighting may enhance the pieces, she has found a way to make colors glow in a natural light.
Pashgian does not reveal how her works come to fruition; instead, she leaves the viewer with what is there. Be they matte or so shiny that they glow, there is an obsession with texture and craft so strong and perfect that it is apparent that the artist has planned every inch of every piece.
1 Turrell, James. Foreword. Helen Pashgian: Working in Light. Claremont, CA: Pomona College Museum of Art, 2010. Print. 5.
2 Howe, Kathleen Stewart. Helen Pashgian: Working in Light. Claremont, CA: Pomona College Museum of Art, 2010. Print. 10.