One fine afternoon in the mid-1960's, while waiting for tacos at a Mexican restaurant, Robert Irwin met Jack Brogan, a chance encounter that changed the course of art history. Irwin, in his headlong pursuit of perceptual challenges in his art, asked Brogan to help him with some technical issues. In no time at all, Brogan was helping him and most of his artist friends fabricate sculptures made of acrylic or polyester resin. Now Peter Alexander, John McCracken, Helen Pashgian and Irwin himself all have work in a show dedicated to Brogan as a master fabricator, You Don't Know Jack: From the Collection of the Foremost Ultimate Artist Enabler, at Katherine Cone Gallery in Culver City through June 2.
John McCracken: Red/Black, 1977
Plywood, fiberglass, polyester resin; 16 3/8 x 18 x 12 inches
Not that he only worked in plastics. Brogan helped architect Frank Gehry produce his first cardboard furniture, called Easy Edges, and the show includes a bent cardboard chair, sturdy table and the prototype for a pair of cardboard stereo speakers that were never produced. It also includes Larry Bell's recent glass cube coated in a reflective blue finish and a maquette for an Erector-set like bridge by Chris Burden.
Robert Irwin: Untitled Prism, 1974
Acrylic optically polished; 9 feet high
Brogan, now 77, is more collaborator than studio assistant. The show includes Irwin's 1974 Prism, a thin, angular column of clear acrylic that captures and reflects light. Without Brogan's technical expertise in laminating and then polishing the material, Irwin could not have produced the eight-foot-tall piece.
Brogan, who still speaks with a native Tennessean's southern accent, studied engineering but was working in wood as a cabinet-maker when his life was transformed by these artists. Design Concepts, established in Venice in 1965, contributed to the evolution of the so-called L.A. Look and much, much more.
He said, "Basically, I introduced artists to new materials and technology to help them realize their concepts."
This is the first of a three-part exhibition and all the works were drawn from Brogan's own collection, evidence of a remarkable commitment to artists and their ideas. A knowledgeable catalog essay by Peter Frank is available.
Banner image: (L) Helen Pashgian: Untitled (wall piece), 1969; Polyester; 13 x 13"; Only 5 in existence, one owned by Orange County Museum
(C-bottom) Frank Gehry, Jack Brogan, and Robert Irwin: Easy Edges Cardboard Furniture; Table, production piece, 1970; Corrugated Cardboard and fiberboard; 26 ¼ x 13 7/8 inches
(C-top) Chris Burden: Indo-China Bridge, 2002-03; Stainless steel; Edition 2/12; 14 7/8 x 45 x 8 1/2 inches
(R) Helen Pashgian: Untitled (wall piece), 1969; Polyester; 14 x 14 inches; Only 5 in existence, one owned by Orange County Museum