Mary Corse: A Survey in Light

8 June–25 November 2018

Exhibition Overview

Mary Corse, Untitled (Space + Electric Light), 1968

Mary Corse’s first solo museum survey is a long overdue examination of this singular artist’s career. Initially trained as an abstract painter, Corse (b. 1945, Berkeley, CA) emerged in the mid-1960s as one of the few women associated with the West Coast Light and Space movement. She shared with her contemporaries a deep fascination with perception and with the possibility that light itself could serve as both a subject and material of art. Yet while others largely migrated away from painting into sculptural and environmental projects, Corse approached the question of light through painting. This focused exhibition highlights critical moments of experimentation as Corse engaged with tropes of modernist painting, from the monochrome to the grid, while charting her own course through studies in quantum physics and complex investigations into a range of “painting” materials, from fluorescent light and plexiglass to metallic flakes, glass microspheres, and clay. The survey will bring together for the first time Corse’s key bodies of work—including her early shaped canvases, freestanding sculptures, and light encasements that she engineered in the mid-1960s, in her early twenties, as well as her breakthrough White Light paintings, begun in 1968, and the Black Earth series that she initiated after moving in 1970 from downtown Los Angeles to Topanga Canyon, where she lives and works today.

(Photo: Mary Corse, Untitled (Space + Electric Light), 1968. Argon light, plexiglass, and high-frequency generator, 45 1/4 x 45 1/4 x 4 3/4 in. (114.9 x 114.9 x 12.1 cm). Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego; museum purchase with funds from the Annenberg Foundation. Photograph by Philipp Scholz Rittermann)

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