a tale of a few cities

John McCracken dies at 76

Posted in Art, minimalism, RIP, Sculpture by petercombe on April 10, 2011

John McCrackenThink pink, 1967

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John McCracken, an artist whose fusion of painting with geometric sculpture in the mid-1960s came to embody an aesthetic distinctive to postwar Los Angeles, died Friday in New York. He was 76.

One among a group of artists whose work was variously described as representing the L.A. Cool School, thanks to its rejection of emotionally expressive gestures; Finish Fetish, in recognition of its pristine color and high-tech surfaces; and Minimalism, because of its reliance on simple geometric forms, McCracken in fact made singular painted sculptures that value a clarity of perception infused with spiritual connotations. The difficulty in naming his practice or easily linking it to a school attests to the success of his artistic ambition.

McCracken was bedeviled by Stanley Kubrick‘s famously obscure science-fiction epic, “2001: A Space Odyssey,” with its iconic image of an ancient monolith floating in outer space. The 1968 blockbuster was released two years after the artist made his first plank.

“At the time, some people thought I had designed the monolith or that it had been derived from my work,” he told art critic Frances Colpitt of the coincidence in a 1998 interview.

McCracken was born Dec. 9, 1934, in Berkeley and studied at the California College of Arts and Crafts. After his first solo show at L.A.’s adventurous Nicholas Wilder Gallery in 1965, he moved south. He taught for many years at schools in Los Angeles and Santa Barbara before moving to Santa Fe. His work is in most major American museum collections, including those of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, L.A.’s Museum of Contemporary Art and New York’s Museum of Modern Art. His last solo show was at David Zwirner Gallery in New York in September.

Christopher Knight, Los Angeles Times

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