John McCracken

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John McCracken
Untitled slab painting, resin and fiberglass sculpture by John McCracken, 1981, Smithsonian American Art Museum.jpg
Birth name John Harvey McCracken
Born (1934-12-09)December 9, 1934
Berkeley, California
Died April 8, 2011(2011-04-08) (aged 76)
New York City
Nationality American
Field Sculpture
Movement Minimalism
'23', oil on canvas painting by John McCracken, 1964, Smithsonian American Art Museum

John Harvey McCracken (December 9, 1934 – April 8, 2011)[1] was a contemporary artist who lived and worked in Los Angeles, Santa Fe, New Mexico, and New York.

Education/teaching[edit]

After graduating from high school, McCracken served in the Navy for four years before enrolling in the California College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland, earning a B.F.A. in 1962 and completing most of the work for an M.F.A. During these years he studied with Gordon Onslow Ford and Tony DeLap.

Taught
1965–66: University of California, Irvine
1966–68: University of California, Los Angeles
1968–69: School of Visual Arts, New York
1971–72: Hunter College, New York
1972–73: University of Nevada, Reno
1973–75: University of Nevada, Las Vegas
1975–76: University of California, Irvine
1975–85: College of Creative Studies, University of California, Santa Barbara

Work[edit]

Internationally recognized John McCracken commenced developing his earliest sculptural work while in grad school at California College of Arts and Crafts along with Minimalists John Slorp and Peter Schnore, and painters Tom Nuzum, Vincent Perez, and Terry StJohn, 1964, 1965. Equally well known Dennis Oppenheim, enrolled in the M.F.A. program at nearby Stanford, was a frequent visitor to this more vibrant graduate program. While experimenting with increasingly three-dimensional canvases, McCracken began to produce art objects made with industrial techniques and materials, plywood, sprayed lacquer, pigmented resin, creating the ever more minimalistic works featuring highly-reflective, smooth surfaces. He applied techniques akin to those used in surfboard construction—popular in Southern California. Later McCracken was part of the Light and Space movement that includes James Turrell, Peter Alexander, Larry Bell, Robert Irwin and others. In interviews, however, he usually cited his greatest influences as the hard edge works of the Abstract Expressionist Barnett Newman and Minimalists like Donald Judd, Dan Flavin and Carl Andre.[2]

Early objects created by John McCracken were derived from company logos such as the Chevron corporation logo. His sculptures deal with the interrelationships existing between the material world and design.[3]

In 1966, McCracken generated his signature sculptural form: the plank, a narrow, monochromatic, rectangular board format that leans at an angle against the wall (the site of painting) while simultaneously entering into the three-dimensional realm and physical space of the viewer. He conceived the plank idea in a period when artists across the stylistic spectrum were combining aspects of painting and sculpture in their work and many were experimenting with sleek, impersonal surfaces. As the artist noted, "I see the plank as existing between two worlds, the floor representing the physical world of standing objects, trees, cars, buildings, [and] human bodies, ... and the wall representing the world of the imagination, illusionist painting space, [and] human mental space." [4] The sculptures consist of plywood forms coated with fiberglass and layers of polyester resin. While the polished resin surface recalls the aesthetic of 1960s southern California surfboard and Kustom Kar cultures, the title was drawn from advertising slogans in fashion magazines.[5] In addition to the planks, the artist also creates wall pieces and free-standing sculptures in varying geometrical shapes and sizes, ranging from smaller forms on pedestals to large-scale, outdoor structures in the shape of pyramids, ziggurats, tetrahedrons and occasionally crystals. He worked in highly polished stainless steel and bronze and occasionally made work that in effect sliced the planks into thin, repeating elements that leaned against the wall in rows.

In McCracken's work, color was also used as "material." Bold solid colors with their highly polished finish reflect the unique California light or mirror the observer in a way that takes the work into another dimension. His palette included bubble-gum pink, lemon yellow, deep sapphire and ebony, usually applied as a monochrome. Sometimes an application of multiple colors marbleizes or runs down the sculpture's surface, like a molten lava flow.[6] McCracken typically makes each resin or lacquer work by hand rather than using industrial fabrication. Each is handmade by McCracken himself, who carefully paints them.[7] The monochrome surfaces are sanded and polished many times to such a degree of reflectiveness that they seem translucent. He also made objects of softly stained wood or, in recent years, highly polished bronze and reflective stainless steel.[8] In 2010, for example, he created various sculptures that are polished to produce such a high degree of reflectivity that they simultaneously activate their surroundings and seem entirely camouflaged.

In 1971-72 he made a rarely seen series of paintings based on Hindu and Buddhist mandalas, first shown at Castello di Rivoli in 2011. "John McCracken: Sketchbook" was published in 2008 by Santa Fe-based Radius Books.

During the 1970s and early '80s, a period when he devoted his time to teaching at the University of Nevada in Reno and Las Vegas and at the University of California, Santa Barbara, McCracken received relatively little critical attention. A 1985 move to Los Angeles with his wife, artist Gail Barringer, revived his career in terms of newly conceived bodies of work, gallery and museum exhibitions, and recognition by a younger generation of artists, dealers, and curators.[9] McCracken had lived in Santa Fe since 1994.

Exhibitions[edit]

McCracken was included in every important exhibition of Minimalist sculpture in both the United States and Europe, starting with “Primary Structures” at the Jewish Museum in 1966 and with "American Sculpture of the Sixties" at the Los Angeles County Museum (1967).[10]

A major museum retrospective of McCracken's work is hosted by the Castello di Rivoli - Museo d'Arte Contemporanea, Turin in the spring of 2011. Other recent solo exhibitions include David Zwirner, New York (1997, 2004, 2006, 2008, 2010), Inverleith House at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (2009), Zwirner & Wirth, New York (2000 and 2005), Hauser & Wirth, Zurich (1999 and 2005), and the Stedelijk Museum voor Actuele Kunst (S.M.A.K.), Ghent (2004).

Over the past decade, McCracken's work has been shown internationally in group shows at prominent art galleries and museums including National Museum of Art, Architecture, and Design, Oslo (2010), Kunsthalle Bielefeld, Bielefeld, Germany (2009), P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center, Long Island City, New York (2009), Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Santa Barbara, California (2009), Hamburger Bahnhof Museum fur Gegenwart - Berlin (2005 and 2009), Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice (2009), Musee d'art contemporain de Bordeaux, Bordeaux, France (2007 and 2008), Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, Australia (2008), Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (2004 and 2008), Moderna Museet, Stockholm (2008), documenta 12, Kassel, Germany (2007), Krannert Art Museum, Urbana, Illinois (2007), Oakland Museum of Art, Oakland, California (2007), Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York (2004 and 2007), Los Angeles County Museum of Art (2007), Orange County Museum of Art, Newport Beach, California (2006), ZKM | Center for Art and Media Karlsruhe, Germany (2005 and 2006), Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris (2006), Las Vegas Art Museum, Nevada (2006), Albright-Knox Gallery, Buffalo, New York (2005), Cantonal Museum of Fine Arts, Lausanne, Switzerland (2005), Tate Liverpool, Liverpool, England (2005), Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt, Germany (2005), Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (2005), Vancouver Art Gallery, Canada (2004), Contemporary Art Museum Houston, Texas (2004), Norton Museum of Art, West Palm Beach, Florida (2003), Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Connecticut (2001), and Cleveland Center for Contemporary Art, Ohio (2000). He was honored at Documenta 12 in Kassel in 2007, in which a small survey of his art was woven throughout the larger show.

At Auction[edit]

McCracken had his first exhibition at the Nicholas Wilder Gallery in Los Angeles in 1965 and his first in New York at the Robert Elkon Gallery in 1966. He then trailed off, with his next show at Sonnabend Gallery in 1992 and then a 1997 outing at the gallery of David Zwirner, who still represents the artist.

His top-ten prices at auction all exceed $200,000, including his high auction mark for an eight-foot-tall Black Plank from 1972, in polyester resin, fiberglass, and plywood, that sold for £180,000 ($358,637) at Phillips de Pury & Company London in June 2007. More recently, Flash (2002), a fire-engine-red plank piece in the same media, sold for $290,500 at Christie's New York in November 2010 against an estimate of $120–180,000.[11]

Works in permanent collections[edit]

United States[edit]

California

Hawaii

Louisiana

  • Plank, 1980, K & B Corporation, New Orleans, Louisiana

New York

Rhode Island

Washington, D.C.

Wisconsin

  • You Won't Know Which One Until You've Been to All of Them, 1967, Milwaukee Art Museum, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Illinois

International[edit]

Canada Ontario

France

  • Wing (Aile), 1999, French National Art Collection (FNAC)

Bibliography[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Smith, Roberta (April 10, 2011). "John McCracken, Sculptor of Geometric Forms, Dies at 76". The New York Times. 
  2. ^ Roberta Smith (April 10, 2011) John McCracken, Sculptor of Geometric Forms, Dies at 76 New York Times.
  3. ^ John McCracken Documenta 12.
  4. ^ John McCracken, cited in Thomas Kellein, "Interview with John McCracken, August 1995," in John McCracken published by Kunsthalle Basel, 1995, pp. 21-39, p. 32.
  5. ^ John McCracken: The Absolutely Naked Fragrance (1967) MoMA Collection.
  6. ^ Christopher Knight (April 10, 2011), John McCracken dies at 76; contemporary artist made geometric sculptures Los Angeles Times.
  7. ^ http://www.hauserwirth.com/exhibitions/56/paul-mccarthy-john-mccracken/view/
  8. ^ Christopher Knight (April 10, 2011), John McCracken dies at 76; contemporary artist made geometric sculptures Los Angeles Times.
  9. ^ Frances Coliptt (April 1, 1998), Between Two Worlds: John McCrackenArt in America Magazine.
  10. ^ Roberta Smith (April 10, 2011) John McCracken, Sculptor of Geometric Forms, Dies at 76 New York Times.
  11. ^ Judd Tully (April 12, 2011), Coast and Beyond Cool: An Appreciation of John McCracken ARTINFO.

External links[edit]