6 August - 11 October 2009
On 1 January, 1966 the Californian artist John McCracken wrote:
"I think of color as being the structural material I use to build the forms I am interested in. The fact that in another sense I use plywood, fibreglass and lacquer as structural materials is of less importance. I have found that a certain range of mainly primary and secondary colours and a certain combination of color intensity and transparency and surface finish provide me with the expressive means I want, at least for the present."
Forty three years later, this statement still rings true as we welcome you to this exhibition of fourteen sculptures (dating from 1966 to 2006)- and seventeen pages of drawings from early sketchbooks kept between 1964 and 1968, which continue to define John McCracken's art; as distinctive today as it was then.
Born in Berkeley, California in 1943, McCracken rose to prominence as an artist in the 1960's and was included in the groundbreaking exhibition ‘Primary Structures' held at the Jewish Museum, New York in 1966. The exhibition marked a turning point in 20th Century sculpture, featuring many artists who are now synonomous with the term ‘Minimalism', including Carl Andre, Dan Flavin and Donald Judd. Unlike other artists working under this banner McCracken's work has always been distinguished both through its emphasis on colour and the use of handmade, rather than industrial processes, (McCracken mixes pigments and lacquer by hand before pouring over wooden structures covered in fibreglass and repeatedly polishing by hand to achieve a smooth highly reflective surface).
Reminiscent of the custom paint finishes on cars of the period in his native California, this saturated, reflective colour is allied to the use of simple forms- blocks, slabs, columns and planks. McCracken made his first sculpture in the form of a plank in 1966; gaining him international recognition, it has since been described as the perfect resolution between painting and sculpture. Of the significance of these different forms, which often have human proportions, McCracken has said "The plank is ‘out' of the world' (or on the edge of it), the column or block-form more ‘in' the world." In this way, McCracken calls attention to the space occupied by both the viewer and the object "the floor representing the physical world of standing objects, trees, cars, buildings, human bodies... and the wall representing the world of the imagination, illusionistic painting space, human mental space and all that."
The reflective qualities of McCracken's sculptures determine that the viewer is also made aware of the environment surrounding the work (markedly true at Inverleith House with its natural light and views of the garden). Whilst McCracken has also made works in other materials, notably in highly polished stainless steel, it is his use of colour which distinguishes his art: he has stated; "I did think of my sculptures as being made of colour. Which to me is interesting, because colour is abstract: it's a quality. So my sculptures were in a way abstract at the outset, that is slightly in another dimension."
Talking of the 1960's, McCracken has stated: "Some of the thoughts of that time went way beyond culture as it was, and produced dazzling visions of possible and probable futures. And it was simply a creative time, when artists were making things that were like hitting loud bells. There was quite a bit of good energy going on. I went kind of full tilt with my ideas. I was purely inventing as much as I was thinking, but I was mainly trying to make things which had a strong existence. They had to be interesting, beautiful and have the right scale and bearing, and have obvious, convincing being. The quality of being was the most important thing. If that were achieved, then the sculpture, the work, would be able to speak for itself." One of the sketchbook drawings consists of a list of titles - and in relation to the process of naming his works McCracken recently stated: "...I just go for words and meanings that I like. Many of them have to do, at least somewhat, with light, movement, sometimes sounds, sometimes elusive phenomena, and galactic things. Ans I almost never give a piece a title - or think one up for it - until it's completely finished..."
John McCracken has kindly recorded a short interview to accompany the exhibition, in which he talks about making art - his influences, intentions and the processes involved. This can be viewed in the lower gallery. A transcript of the film is available from the front desk.
* McCracken's two sculptures in the exhibition were called 'Northumberland' and 'Manchu', - both names listed on page 34 of his sketchbook drawing from 1965 (No.16 in the exhibition).
List of works in the exhibition.
1. SNAP, 2006, 238.8 x 48.3 x 30.5 cm
2. ACE, 2006, 233.7 x 47.5 x 31.8 cm
3. HOTSHOT, 2006. 233.7 x 43.2 x 30.5 cm
4. RING, 2006, 233.7 x 48.3 x 29.2 cm
5. LUSTER, 2006, 238.8 x 50.8 x 30.5 cm
6. STARDUST, 2006, 238.8 x 48.3 x 35.6 cm
7. GUARDIAN, 1995, 114.8 x 121.9 x 40.6 cm
8. EMISSARY, 2002, 234 x 43 x 10 cm
9. RAY, 2002, 239 x 56 x 33 cm
10. VISITOR, 2002, 234 x 43 x 10 cm
11. MARA, 2005, 239 x 56 x 33 cm
12. ARC, 2005, 239 x 52.5 x 34.5 cm
13. SPACEWAY, 1991, 19.1 x 269.2 x 34.3 cm
14. UNTITLED (Green Box), 1966, 31.1 x 18.4 x 27.9 cm
All sculptures are made from Resin, Fibreglass and Plywood. Works numbered 7, 9, 11, 12 & 13 are courtesy of the Hauser & Wirth Collection, Zurich; all other works courtesy of private collections.
15-31. Sketchbook drawings (1964- 1968), 11 x 14 ins. Signed dated and numbered in chronological sequence. Courtesy of John McCracken.
John McCracken biography
Selected Solo Exhibitions
John McCracken, David Zwirner, New York (2008): John McCracken, David Zwirner, New York (2006): John McCracken: Early Sculpture, Zwirner & Wirth, New York (2005): John McCracken, Paul McCarthy, Hauser & Wirth Zurich, Zurich (2005): John McCracken, S.M.A.K., Ghent, Belgium (2004): John McCracken: New Sculpture, David Zwirner, New York (2004): Lisson Gallery, London, England (2002): Lisson Gallery, London England (2001): John McCracken Recontres 4, Galerie Almine Rech, Paris, France (2000): Galerie Hauser & Wirth, Zurich, Switzerland (1999): John McCracken: Sculpture, David Zwirner, New York (1997): Lisson Gallery, London, England (1997): Galerie Froment & Putman, Paris (1996): Kunsthalle Basel, Basel, Switzerland (1995): Sonnabend Gallery, New York (1992): Heroic Stance: The Sculpture of John McCracken 1985-6, Newport Harbor Art Museum, Newport Beach, California (1987): Megham Williams Gallery, Los Angeles California (1980): University of California, Santa Barbara, California (1976): Sonnabend Gallery, New York, (1970): John McCracken, Galerie Illeana Sonnabend, Paris (1969): Robert Elkon Gallery, New York (1965): Nicholas Wilder Gallery, Los Angeles, California (1965).
Selected Group Exhibitions
6 Works, 6 Rooms, David Zirner, New York (2009): Anish Kapoor, John McCracken, David Rabinowitch, Rachel Whiteread, Fredericks & Freiser, New York (2009): If Everybody Had An Ocean: Brian Wilson: An Art Exhibition, Tate St. Ives, Cornwall (2007): FASTER! BIGGER! BETTER!, ZKM I Centre for Art and Media, Karlsruhe, Germany (2006): Summer of Love: Art of the Psychedelic Era, Tate Liverpool, England (2005): Single Forms (Sometimes Repeated): Art from 1951 to the present, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York (2004): Painting Zero Degree, Cranbrook Museum of Art, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan (2000): The American Century: Art and Culture 1900-2000 (part 2), Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (1968): Fifth Paris Biennale, Museum of Modern Art, Paris (1967): Primary Structures, Jewish Museum, New York (1966), Arts of San Francisco, San Francisco Museum of Art, San Francisco, California (1965).
Inverleith House is deeply grateful to John McCracken for his generosity throughout the making of this exhibition and Hanna Schouwink, David Zwirner and staff of the David Zwirner gallery, New York for their encouragement and support (Ben Berlow, Stephanie Daniel, Kelly Reynolds, Courtney Truett & Jessica Witkin). We also wish to thank the lenders and especially: Florian Berkhold, Laura Bechter and Martin Langer of the Hauser & wirth Collection, Switzerland; and Nicholas Logsdall, Patricia Pratas and Harriet Miller of the Lisson Gallery, London.