Review: Mary Corse shifts light, space at Ace Gallery


Mary Corse has been making versions of the same painting since the 1960s: large canvases, divided into discrete geometric units, with a pale, shimmery surface. The examples on view at Ace Gallery, all created last year, are no exception. Still, it’s a bit unfair to say that they are uniformly silvery white. Corse’s paintings are not uniformly anything; they shift continuously in infinitesimal gradations as the viewer moves about the room. This is due to the glass microspheres the artist embeds in her paint, which capture the light in different ways depending on the angle of viewing. Sometimes they look like brushed aluminum, sometimes like watered silk. Perfect, vertical stripes of varying widths appear and disappear in almost cinematic washes of white and gray.

Associated with the Light and Space movement that emphasized the mechanics and marvels of perception, Corse’s work turns attention away from the painting and toward the viewer. We are made acutely aware of our own position, our height, our distance from the surface. As in all good Light and Space art, we experience ourselves seeing.

This is an empowering, centering thing, but the question remains, why keep making these paintings? At the moment it may be because they sell — Corse’s work has found favor in the market of late, although that hasn’t always been the case. The less cynical answer is that Corse is after something that can never quite be captured: the vagaries of perception itself.



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-- Sharon Mizota

Ace Gallery Los Angeles, 5514 Wilshire Blvd., 2nd floor, (323) 935-3388, through May 31. Closed Sundays and Mondays.