Mary Corse (b. 1945, Berkeley, California) investigates materiality, abstraction, and perception through the subtly gestural and precisely geometric paintings that she has made over her fifty-year career. Earning a BFA in 1968 from Chouinard Art Institute, Los Angeles, Corse developed her initial work during the emergence of the Light and Space movement in Southern California. Throughout the 1960s, she experimented with unconventional media and supports, producing shaped canvases, works with plexiglass, and illuminated boxes. In 1968, Corse discovered glass microspheres, an industrial material used in street signs and dividing lines on highways. Combining these tiny refractive beads with acrylic paint, she creates paintings that appear to radiate light from within and produce shifts in appearance contingent on their surroundings and the viewer’s position. Corse’s art emphasizes the abstract nature of human perception, expanding beyond the visual to include subtleties of feeling and awareness.
Corse’s work has been included in historically significant group exhibitions, including Pacific Standard Time: Crosscurrents in L.A., Painting and Sculpture, 1950-1970at The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles (2011);and Phenomenal: California Light and Space at the Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego (2011). In 2018, the Whitney Museum of American Art organized the solo exhibition A Survey in Light. Her work is held in numerous public collections worldwide, including Fondation Beyeler, Basel; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles; The Menil Collection, Houston; The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; and Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, among others.
Hong Kong—Pace is honored to present the first exhibition in Asia dedicated to renowned artist Mary Corse. Over the last five decades, Corse’s practice has investigated perception, properties of light and ideas of abstraction—all through an innovative approach to the medium of painting, in which light serves as both the subject and object of art. For Corse’s first exhibition in Asia, Pace will exhibit a selection of eight new paintings by the artist, which continue her use of glass microspheres and a limited palette of white, black, and red acrylic paint to create simple geometric configurations, giving structure to the luminescent internal space of her works. The exhibition will be on view at Pace’s gallery in the H Queen’s building March 26 – May 11, 2019, with an opening reception in the presence of the artist on Monday, March 25, from 6 – 8 pm.
Corse’s paintings embody rather than merely represent light, and explore subjective experience in innovative ways. Her works open themselves up to their environment, refracting light, and invite a perceptual encounter that is grounded in vision and movement. The new paintings on view in this exhibition are a continuation of Corse’s White Light paintings, which she began in 1968 and has evolved over the last 50 years. She started to create the paintings after noticing how the white lines on the side of the Pacific Coast Highway lit up when struck by headlights—a phenomenon caused by glass microspheres imbedded in the paint, as well as by her physical movement, with the experience of the highway illumination being tied to her perception of light seen while in motion. Translating this discovery to her own practice, Corse combined tiny glass microspheres with acrylic paint and harnessed the refraction of light, creating the appearance of a radiating light that shifts based on the viewer’s position and movement around the painting.
Since this initial discovery, Corse has relentlessly advanced the boundaries of the White Light paintings, introducing primary hues and the color black within a geometric vocabulary of forms to explore new compositional and perceptual possibilities. The exhibition at Pace includes Corse’s latest innovations in this series, featuring white multi- and inner- band paintings in a range of scales and shapes—from an 8’ x 8’ square to a 6.5’ x 10’ rectangle— as well as paintings incorporating black and red bands of various widths and configurations.
Coinciding with the show at H Queen’s, Pace will exhibit three works from Corse’s Black Earth series as part of the Kabinett sector at its booth at Art Basel Hong Kong. The presentation will include works created during the series’ origins in 1978. The Black Earth series evolved from the Black Light series, which Corse began in the 1970s as a continuation of the White Light series. The Black Light works refract light in the same manner as the White Light paintings, but with a black glittering surface. Evoking the depth and appearance of the cosmos, the Black Light series would become, according to Corse, a “transition between the white light consciousness and the heavy, earth-grounded” Black Earth works that followed.
Captivated by the idea of using the Earth as the grounding for her work itself, Corse began the Black Earth series by overlapping plaster impressions of a large flat rock in the hills near her home in Topanga Canyon, west of Los Angeles. Once the plaster molds were made, they were transferred to clay, then transformed in a kiln into high-fire tiles with a glossy black glaze. The tiles are exhibited in various configurations flipping the natural orientation of the rocks from ground to wall. Significantly for Corse, she considers the Black Earth works paintings—with her actions in laying the plaster over the rocks not unlike that of laying paint down on canvas. Also resonant between the two series is the invitation of the viewers’ movement to activate them. With the Black Earth works, one is faced with a glassy, deep black surface that prompts a kinetic response, inviting the viewer to move around the painting to see the varied surface texture and changing reflections. As Corse explains, “your perception creates the painting” and in so doing also creates a unique inner experience for each viewer.