Particle physics art

Mary Corse at Pace Palo Alto


Palo Alto – Pace is pleased to present an exhibition of new works by Mary Corse in Palo Alto. Marking the artist’s first presentation in the gallery’s Palo Alto space, the exhibition will feature three large paintings and four electric light boxes of varying sizes in conversation with each other. Throughout her innovative practice, Corsica has challenged viewers’ perceptions and created paintings of light, and her debut in Pace’s Palo Alto space will resonate with the gallery’s location in Silicon Valley. The presentation will run from November 4, 2021 to January 29, 2022.

During her six-decade career, Corsica, based in Los Angeles and born in Berkeley, California, has explored the nuances of light, space and perception. The artist is widely known for his dynamic, subtly gestural and precisely geometric paintings and his inventive light boxes. The light boxes allowed the artist to explore new frontiers by illuminating his works. The result of Corsican experiments with electricity, plexiglass, glass microspheres and traditional painting techniques is a singular language of light and abstraction, which is fully visible in Pace’s Palo Alto presentation.

Pace’s exhibition at Palo Alto includes three large-scale paintings, two independent light boxes located on plinths, and two suspended light boxes installed against the gallery walls. Suspended from the ceiling using monofilaments, these works are powered by Tesla coils that wirelessly transfer electromagnetic fields through walls and allow light boxes to hover in the exhibition space. Likewise, Corsica’s use of microspheres in her paintings gives the viewer the impression that the canvases are lit from within as they refract light from different angles depending on the viewer’s position. The Inner Band and Multiband paintings in Pace’s exhibition change shape as viewers move around them, with vertical bands disappearing and reappearing from different points of view.

Corsica described her iconic argon light boxes as “light paintings” and she first created such works in the mid-1960s. It was during this period that Corsica began to study physics, a company that has deeply influenced its artistic production. Corsican light boxes have long complemented his painting practice, which the artist described as “a conversation with abstraction”. She said the light boxes were part of her efforts to “put light in painting,” a goal that also informed her of her return to painting in subsequent years.

“At that time, I was really looking for an objective truth, an objective reality,” said Corsica in an interview with Apollo Review on the occasion of his first solo museum investigation, Mary Corse: An investigation in light, which opened at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York in 2018 and visited the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. “I wanted to make an object that was his, that was all alone. This search for objective truth embodied in light boxes moves for Corsica in her studies of quantum physics and returns to painting in the late 1960s, deliberately introducing the subjective brushstroke.

In a 2017 interview with art historian Alex Bacon, Corsica said: “Works of different scales have a different relationship with the body. I like to see different setups and sizes and see how they feel … With my work, which changes as you walk around, what a person sees on one side is different than what a other person sees the other. Art is not on the wall, it is in the viewer’s perception.

In 2021, Corsica was the subject of a major solo exhibition at the Long Museum in Shanghai. The presentation will travel to the Amorepacific Museum of Art in Seoul in early November. A focused presentation of Corsica’s work is currently in the long term at the Dia Beacon in New York. Mary Corse: An investigation in light, The artist’s first solo investigation into a museum was shown at the Whitney Museum of America n Art in New York City and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 2018 and 2019, respectively. Corsica was also included in the major presentation Pacific Standard Time: Cross Currents in LA, Painting and Sculpture, 1950 – 1970 at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles in 2011. The artist’s work is in the permanent collections of the San José Museum of Art; the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; the San Diego Museum of Contemporary Art; the Seattle Art Museum; the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; the Long Museum, Shanghai; and other establishments.

Mary Corse (born 1945 in Berkeley, California) pursued a sustained investigation of abstraction, materiality and perception through subtly gestural and precisely geometric paintings produced during a career spanning six decades. After being acclaimed in the early 1960s for works ranging from shaped canvas paintings to argon light boxes, Mary Corse devoted the following decades to establishing a unique painting practice and a highly refined vocabulary with strokes normally considered to be irreconcilable: gestural brushstrokes reminiscent of early influences such as Willem de Kooning and Hans Hofmann; precise geometric compositions, most often comprising the vertical band; and a palette strictly reduced to white, black and primary colors. Yet these characteristics take on an exceptional quality thanks to Corsica’s innovative handling of materials that capture and refract light, ensuring that our perceptions of her paintings change as lighting changes or as we move through space. Corsica makes one feel the abstraction inherent in human perception instead of just seeing it.