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White Gray Black

John McCracken (American, 1934–2011)

About this artist

Source: Oxford University Press

American painter and sculptor. He studied at the California College of Arts and Crafts, Oakland, CA, from 1957 to 1965. Associated with a form of West Coast Minimalism oriented more towards light and colour than the work of their New York counterparts, his greatest concern was with visual experience as a spiritual and cognitive process. Having begun as a painter, he moved towards a more object-based aesthetic, making rigorously abstract works that lie between coloured sculpture and painting; they take the form of basic gestalt objects, such as cubes or rectangles. One of his earliest works, Blue Post and Lintel (1965; see 1995 exh. cat. p. 7), used a basic building block of architectural form. Presented as perfectly finished objects, his characteristic works are monochromatic with extremely polished surfaces that seem at the same time to deny their own objecthood, almost becoming abstract visual ideas. His signature works are his ‘planks’, rectangular objects resting on the floor and leaning against a wall, such as Black Plank or Yellow Plank (both 1968; see 1995 exh. cat., pp. 47–8). Striking in their monolithic simplicity, they make explicit the blurring between the terms of painting and sculpture that his practice entails. The forms used in his art later became more complex as a result of his dependence on computers in planning the construction of the work. M 87 (1988), for example, is a freestanding work with many complex surfaces. McCracken also made works with completely mirrored surfaces that dissolve their materiality even further, such as Teton (1989; see 1995 exh. cat. p. 30). Although his work became increasingly sophisticated in its physical form, McCracken insisted that his art continued to deal with the basic correlation between beauty and spirituality.

Francis Summers
From Grove Art Online

© 2009 Oxford University Press


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