During a recent trip to LA, I was invited to visit artist Anthony Pearson at his studio. The space was bright and serene: a sunny laboratory for exploring elusive colors, etched lines, and organic forms. And although Pearson began as a photographer, his current media of plaster, hydrocal, and oak still demonstrate the artist’s predominant concern with light and how it refracts off surfaces.
In fact, Pearson has been exploring this avenue through his art for years, and his recent shows at Marianne Boesky Gallery in New York and David Kordansky Gallery in LA served to underscore the artist’s “extreme sensitivity” to his chosen materials. According to one press release, “these works simultaneously embody qualities of sculpture and painting and use subtle relief to employ both seemingly infinite detail and a broad spaciousness.” Yet it is the way that the art interacts with the light in a given space that makes them truly arresting.
California light is legion in art — the 1960s Light and Space Movement centered in LA being a prime example — and looking at Anthony’s work, any art advisor can see why. His images come alive in this light. As it illuminates subtle color shifts and rakes across etched and poured surfaces, the light creates shadows that define and heighten subtle compositions and variations in color.
Pearson’s exquisitely carved oak frames contain sculptural panels, adding a refined, craft-based element to the work. This refinement carries over into the way he explores the endless possibilities of non-colors, imbuing each one with its own particular depth, weight, and mutability.
Once Pearson completes a composition, it sits with other finished works on a long ledge. Anthony lives with the artworks, contemplating their relationship to one another. Only when a piece holds its own does he deem it “finished.” The gray monochrome composition (below, left) is typical of his latest direction, in which a large orb seems to twist the plaster into pleats. While it’s tempting to think that white lines are radiating from the circular form, it is merely an illusion created by the light.
Anthony Pearson (b. 1969) lives and works in Los Angeles. He received his MFA from UCLA in 1999. His work has been the subject of solo exhibitions at the Contemporary Art Museum, St. Louis (2012), and Midway Contemporary Art, Minneapolis (2008). Forthcoming exhibitions include Shane Campbell Gallery, Chicago (2016), and David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles (2017). Pearson’s work is in the public collections of the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; and the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis.