Helen Pashgian: Light Invisible to Debut at LACMA

  • LOS ANGELES, California
  • /
  • January 24, 2014

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Helen Pashgian, Untitled (detail of work in process in the artist’s studio), 2012–13, © Helen Pashgian, photo by Josh Morton

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) presents Helen Pashgian: Light Invisible, the first solo presentation of the Los Angeles–based Light and Space artist at a major museum. The exhibition (March 30–June 29, 2014) debuts a new large-scale work comprised of 12 two-part columns framed out of molded acrylic, made specifically for LACMA’s presentation. As viewers walk past, around, and between these columnar forms, the sculpture creates an immersive viewing experience that invites meditations on the nature of materials and light.

“Helen Pashgian’s work is concerned with how light interacts with various materials in different forms and how the viewer perceives this light. She often experiments with new technologies and techniques to push the boundaries of what these materials are able to do,” remarks Carol S. Eliel, LACMA’s curator of Modern Art and curator of the exhibition.

Following the presentation at LACMA, Helen Pashgian: Light Invisible travels to the Frist Center for the Visual Arts in Nashville (September 26, 2014–January 4, 2015).

To create the columns that constitute Pashgian’s sculptural installation for LACMA, the artist heated large sheets of acrylic until they became soft, almost like fabric. She then wrapped each softened sheet around a wooden mold and allowed it to harden again. Each of the 12 columnar elements in the exhibition is made of two such molded forms, which are further enhanced by the artist.

Pashgian says, “I think of the columns as ‘presences’ in space—presences that do not reveal everything at once. One must move around to observe changes: coming and going, appearing and receding, visible and invisible—a phenomenon of constant movement. It is difficult to attempt adequate words to describe this work. It is about a language utterly unlike any other. It touches on this mysterious part beyond which the eye cannot go but beyond which the eye struggles to go.”

"Helen Pashgian has been a significant presence in the Southern California art scene for many decades," says Michael Govan, LACMA CEO and Wallis Annenberg Director. "It gives me great pleasure to see this exhibition come to fruition and to present Pashgian's innovative and evocative sculptures to a wide audience."

A book featuring a contextual essay by Carol S. Eliel, a photo essay detailing the fabrication process, and an interview between Eliel and Pashgian, will accompany the exhibition.

A pioneer of Southern California’s Light and Space movement, Helen Pashgian (born Pasadena, 1934) was one of a group of Los Angeles–area artists in the late 1960s who recognized that new materials being used both by local industries (aerospace and others) and the local leisure culture (for surfboards and custom cars) could also be used by artists—materials including fiberglass, polyester resin, plastics, and coated glass. In the past few years, Pashgian has created a number of individual columnar sculptures out of shaped sheet acrylic in various colors, including white. Despite their evident simplicity, the sculptures reveal their internal forms only on close inspection. The columnar sculptures seem to hover above the floor as they focus, reflect, and refract light.

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