John Mason: Massive Work
As I wrote in a previous post, cultural maturity has come to Los Angeles. One indication is that The Getty Research Institute has funded research by many museums, leading to a series of exhibits in 2011 to 2012. I am beginning to receive inquiries from several researchers.
Today an art historian came to the gallery. Her questions were directed to me. She asked when I started the gallery, and why. In conversation, I gave several reasons for starting this gallery, and recalled that one primary motivation was to present the large scale sculpture of John Mason. I felt that the younger audience had probably never seen the awesome monumental sculpture Mason built in the early 1960s. It was Mason who told me, after all, that to do the job right I would need a larger space.
One of the most powerful shows that this gallery ever produced was an exhibition of John Mason’s works, including the massive X-Wall, 1965. Our web-archived record of this exhibit includes installation photographs and several texts by prominent critics and curators (Suzanne Foley, Barbara Haskell, and John Coplans). As we begin to receive inquiries about the history of Los Angeles art and the place of ceramic sculpture in the development of the art of the 1960s, I feel proud to have presented this show in 2000—nine years ago.
Another exhibit of Mason’s work included a major installation from the 1970s. The work titled Grand Rapids was completed in 1973 as an installation for the Sculpture Off The Pedestal exhibition at Grand Rapids, Michigan. It was included in the Mason survey exhibition in 1974 at the Pasadena Museum of Modern Art and again in 1976 in the 200 Years of American Sculpture exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art. Here is a statement about the piece by noted critic Rosalind Krauss:
“It has been said that in adopting firebrick as his new medium, Mason was bringing his formation as a ceramist forward-if only symbolically-into the recent work, for firebrick is what is used in the building of kilns. Mason himself denies this, stating simply that when ceramics ceased to be appropriate to the sculpture he wanted to make, he stopped using it and turned to the most efficient material that would “work.” The beauty of firebrick as an aggregative unit is its absolute regularity of shape and, as an aesthetic material, its diffusion of light. But beyond this question of whether or not firebrick retains any associations with the medium of ceramics, is the undeniable connection of this material to building, and hence, to the architectural. It becomes a medium, that is, in which it is possible to think the sculptural in relation to architecture without any conflict.”
—Rosalind Krauss, John Mason: Installations from the Hudson River Series, The Hudson River Museum, Yonkers, New York, 1978 p.13.