Thursday, November 17, 2011
"Gray Column" is a hefty sculpture made by the Colorado-born artist De Wain Valentine in the mid-1970s. It is shortly to go on display at the Getty Center in Los Angeles and will doubtless evoke some memories, not because anyone has seen it before - it has never been shown in public - but for its striking resemblance to the black monolith in Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey. If the Getty produces a soundtrack of waltzes to accompany the display, the association will be complete and we will be whisked back to a time that dreamt vividly of a future that has yet to happen.
But there is a more prosaic point to the show than to promote temporal dislocation. The display of"Gray Column" is presented by the Getty's conservation institute and the work will be surrounded by exhibits that narrate the story of its making and maintenance. Valentine's achievement was as much an act of technical bravura as imagination. The 3500lb sculpture, 12 feet high and 8 feet wide, is made entirely out of a single pour of polyester resin, using a new technique devised by the artist and a local manufacturing firm.
The result is a smooth, highly polished work that tapers at the top to become translucent, a hypnotic visual effect. In common with other artists of the time working on the west coast, Valentine was fascinated by the finish that was being achieved in the aerospace and car industries. Even surfboards - what could be more Californian? - attracted artists for the sheen of their surface as much as for their symbolic power, speeding metaphors for the free-flowing lifestyle of LA beach culture.
"Gray Column" is part of Pacific Standard Time, a series of exhibitions opening next month on the birth of the LA art scene. Valentine in many ways was a typical player on the scene: innovative, unafraid of pushing boundaries, exalting in scientific advances of the time..."
- from "A perfect realization" by Peter Aspden published in the Arts section of the Financial Times September 4th 2011.
bottom photo 'Gray Column"
top photo 'Diamond Column"
both polyester resin sculptures by De Wain Valentine