The first gallery I walked into at SFMOMA was unexpectedly appropriate: Light, Space & Quality Air, part of an exhibit on post-war California art.
cc My last newsletter, on the smoggy flavours of Los Angeles.
The blurb read: "In 1943 air in the Los Angeles basin was so acrid that scientists initially mistook the noxious haze for a Japanese chemical attack. Not until a decade later were the fumes formally recognised as photochemical smog. LA residents complained that it stung their eyes, but the smog did have one optical virtue: sunsets so lurid that they catalyzed artists' experiments with color, light and perception. By the 1960s, artists such as those represented here had begun translating this spectral palette to canvas, inaugurating air pollution's generous, if unwitting, contribution to Southern California's cultural production. Simultaneously they began exploring the new pigments, plastics & resins emerging from the region's booming aerospace and engineering industry. Larry Bell coated glass cubes with molecular metal to enhance light refraction, while John McCracken abandoned oil paints for automotive lacquer and high-gloss resin to produce "planks" of colour, here a soft, lustrous blue." The fascination/horror of the modern sublime.
This work is 'Blue Burning' by Norman Zamitt, 1982. "From afar this monumental colour field evokes the seamless gradations of LA's evening skies. But a closer look reveals the painting's organising structure: a stack of horizontal bands calibrated so precisely they resemble geometric abstractions," made with a custom-built spray machine (I envisage something robotic, as if from auto manufacturing) to ensure perfectly straight, unerring edges.
Today the work gains additional context for being weaponised Instagram selfie-bait, echoing the poppy coloured walls and murals that dot Los Angeles. Kitsch on the outside, military-industrial toxicity on the inside. I like that.
#normanzammitt #SFMoMA #pollutionispretty
#pollutionispretty #normanzammitt #sfmoma