Charlotte Jackson Fine Art is pleased to present an exhibition of new works by Helen Pashgian, on view December 3, 2021 – January 3, 2022.
An Opening Reception will be held on Friday, December 3, 5 -7 PM.
The gallery is located in the Railyard Arts District at 554 South Guadalupe Street.
Inside the spacious, open gallery of are five white plinths, each topped with a single seven-inch spherical sculpture by founding member of the Light and Space movement, Helen Pashgian. Conceptually it is hard to imagine how a mere 900 volume-inches of sculpture could possibly hold their own in such as vast space. And yet they do.
Inside the spacious, open gallery are five white plinths, each topped with a single seven-inch spherical sculpture by founding member of the Light and Space movement, Helen Pashgian. Conceptually it is hard to imagine how a mere 900 volume-inches of sculpture could possibly hold their own in such as vast space. And yet they do.
Each sphere is brilliant. An incandescent beacon of color and light. Banded and infused with color, or shadowed strangely with internal shapes and occlusions that shift and change as the viewer moves around the sphere, and as the light in the gallery shifts and changes with the day – the sculptures draw and hold the gaze.
Pashgian sits firmly among the founding members of the California Light and Space movement, though she may not always have been given as much recognition as her position, and work, warranted. Having graduated from Pomona College in 1956, Pashgian went on to study at Columbia and get her MA at Boston University. She then went on to begin a PhD in Art History at Harvard with an eye toward work in academia or a museum. It was during this time, while teaching an applied art class at a local high school, that two things converged for Pashgian. First, she found herself missing the quality of the light and open spaces of California and second, while teaching, she stumbled upon transparent ceramic glazes and became fascinated with how they interacted with the light. This happy coincidence prompted her to quit her PhD, move back to California, and begin making art herself.
Like other artists in the Light and Space movement, Pashgian quickly moved from painting to experimenting with the wealth of new industrial materials (polyester resins, fiberglass, plastics, epoxy, coated glass) that were a byproduct of the booming post-war aerospace industry in southern California. However, Pashgian has noted that unlike other art movements, members of the Light and Space group were not so much a close-knit conclave but rather a loose group working independently with these new materials, exploring light and coming to choices and discoveries on their own. The Light and Space artists were less plotting out a movement than tapping into a zeitgeist.
Pashgian has said that ultimately it was her experiences as a child, growing up in California, that were most influential on her interest in light. She recalls vividly being taken to the ocean as a child, wandering around tide pools. The impact of the strange and otherworldly luminescence of the creatures she saw there, of the way a cresting wave can hold both light and color, are very clear to see in her sculptures.
Pashgian further developed her cutting-edge techniques in working with materials like polyester resin during a residency at Cal Tech between 1970-71. There she found herself sometimes pushing the limits of these new materials just as much, or more, than the resident materials scientists. Interestingly, Pashgian’s circle seems to have been made up as much by scientists as by artists. Pashgian talks about having dinners and gatherings bringing together such divergent people as her friend, Nobel prize-winning Physicist Richard Feynman, and the noted Italian art collector and patron of twentieth century Minimalism, Panza di Buomo.
Standing in the presence of one of Pashgian’s works, however, one tends to put aside their history, her history, and even the fascinating subject of their fabrication. Instead, these are works that quickly become fully absorbing as one studies them, moving around them, viewing them from angle after angle. Small paradoxes, the sculptures in this exhibition seem to be almost a concentration of color and matter – as if the color had somehow been bled from all the paintings ever hung in this gallery, and compressed down into these five spheres. And yet, for all that intensity, the pieces remain radiantly translucent and luminous. Even to the point that, with some of the pieces, there are impossible shapes and spaces of perfect clarity somehow embedded and kept pure within the color. How these strange clear windows are created and held within the spheres is a mystery.
So many elements come together in these objects: Shape – the way a sphere traps and relays light. Color – the everything-and-nothingness of its resonance. Light – its amazing ability to be both wave and particle. All trapped bound within these shining orbs, like worlds for us to peer into.