The year-long retrospective of James Turrell has come to an end at LACMA but not the presentation of sculpture composed of light and space. Helen Pashgian, a life long friend of Turrell, has created an impressive installation of twelve glowing acrylic columns on view through June 29.
Organized by LACMA curator Carol Eliel, the show gives overdue recognition to a Southern California artist who made molded resin sculptures in the 1960's with peers like Peter Alexander and DeWain Valentine but who found her work overlooked by art historians and critics as time passed. Her friend Turrell is said to have observed that she had three strikes against her: being a woman, being attractive, and being well-born.
Pashgian can take solace in the fact that time can right old wrongs. LACMA constructed a long crepuscular gallery in which the artist has worked dramatic magic with molded acrylic sculptures made specifically for this installation, her first solo show at a museum.
Each double column is aligned in a single row, a compressed enfillade, through which a viewer can meander, getting different experiences from changing perspectives Each pale column is lit from above so that the edges appear to quiver in the darkened space. Sometimes the columns appear to float. A timer varies the quality of light from strong to soft and the columns are changed with the shift. Though the exteriors of the columns are identical, each is unique by way of the oddly shaped and colored bits that float within them.
Some are angled or rounded and can be seen fairly clearly while others only hint at their presence. One object can be seen in the column only as a single spot of blue where a pointed edge rests against the milky interior surface. Aquarium life comes to mind in the quietude and glimpses of contained elements. The sense of mystery provokes enjoyable lingering. This show may have been a long time coming but Pashgian proves it was worth the wait.
Pashgian will discuss her work with LACMA Director Michael Govan in the Bing Theater on April 28 at 7:30pm. For more information, go to LACMA.org.
Banner image: Helen Pashgian, Untitled, 2012-2013; © Helen Pashgian; Photo © 2014 Museum Associates/LACMA