Hip to Be Square

A new exhibition celebrates the cool movement that saw geometry inspire high art



John McLaughlin, Untitled (1963), lithograph, Tamarind Lithography Workshop, Los Angeles, collection of Palm Springs Art Museum, gift of Mr. and Mrs. Benjamin B. Smith

Palm Springs Art Museum

Simple shapes; optical illusions; and the bright, colorful legacy of modernism — that is, geometric abstraction — look as fresh as ever in an exhibition of paintings, drawings, and prints opening July 16 at Palm Springs Art Museum.

Drawn from the museum’s permanent collection, the works in “Blast From the Past: 60s and 70s Geometric Abstractions” span several movements, including Minimalism, Op Art, and Hard Edge, as well as geographical boundaries beyond the United States, particularly Europe and Latin America.

Often influenced by Cubist collages by Picasso and Braque and largely reacting to emotionally charged Abstract Expressionism, artists working in a geometric vocabulary sought the essences of materials and forms in an effort to reveal universal truths. The works have definite structure, built with color and reflecting precision in organization and execution. The artists were interested in space and order.

Some works, such as the Ellsworth Kelly lithograph “Green/Black” (1972) and the Piero Dorazio oil “Colorando” (1967), take a relatively lyrical approach to forms and colors, while others, such as Jesus Rafael Soto’s 1969 wood-and-metal wall relief “Cuatro Modulaciones” (“Four Modulations”) and graphics by a range of artists from Josef Albers to Omar Rayo, prove more faithful to the grid.

Soto, a Venezuelan, was among the most influential figures in Programmed Art, better known as Op Art, represented in this exhibition by Victor Vasarely, Yaacov Agam, Arthur Secunda, and others. Op Art, which plays in the sphere of perception, shimmers with the optical effects of patterns and adjacent colors. They appear to move rhythmically and even float off the surface.

California Hard Edge and Minimalism are well represented by a classic stripe painting by Karl Benjamin, a wonderfully balanced oil-on-resin board work by Fletcher Benton, and a sublime untitled lithograph by John McLaughlin.

Benjamin, McLaughlin, Lorser Feitelson, and Frederick Hammersley pioneered Hard Edge painting, a term coined in 1959 by the art historian and critic Jules Langsner, who brought the artists together for the seminal Los Angeles County Museum of Art exhibition “Four Abstract Classicists.” An example of Feitelson’s work appears in “Blast From the Past,” as does a work by his wife, Helen Lundeberg, whose geometry took its cues from the landscape.

Ultimately, viewers will marvel at how artists from disparate parts of the world — most unaware of the others — propelled geometric abstraction to great heights. Exhibitions like “Blast From the Past” ensure the exploration continues with contemporary artists, such as Tim Bavington and Patrick Wilson.

“Blast From the Past: 60s and 70s Geometric Abstractions” continues through Dec. 23. Visit www.psmuseum.org

Comments to this website are moderated by staff. While all comments are welcome, we encourage all to be polite and please do not use this system for advertising or business promotions. Any complaint towards a business or service should be directed directly to that business and not posted here. If anyone has a complaint that a comment is defamatory, please contact me at tmay@palmspringslife.com and I will take appropriate action promptly. Thank You

Add your comment:
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags

Related Articles

McCallum Theatre Schedules 'Imaginative' Slate of Acts

The Underwater Bubble Show is just one of the remarkable acts planned for McCallum Theatre’s 2016-17 season.

Ambassadors Serve Warm Welcome at Dining Out For Life

JoAnn Morford couldn't think of a better way to spend her time than volunteering, especially as a dining ambassador at Dining Out For Life on April 28.

Village People Sure to Ignite Palm Springs Event

Village People will likely have people out of their seats and onto the dance floor during the AIDS Assistance Program's "Evening Under the Stars" gala on April 30.

Highway 62 Revisited

Clive Wright's house, perched in the rocky hills above Joshua Tree National Park, doubles as his music production business, Desert Sky Studios.

Palm Springs Resorts Host Coachella Pool Parties

Palm Springs resorts will be back in action for Coachella Weekend 2 with a host of poolside music events.
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Promotions + Contests

Palm Springs Life's Women in Business

Palm Springs Life's Women in Business

Celebrate the Coachella Valley’s most dynamic women in business at the May 12 luncheon featuring keynote speaker Laura Schwab, President, Aston Martin The Americas. The luncheon takes place at The Ritz-Carlton, Rancho Mirage.
Fashionista Friends

Fashionista Friends

Experience the glitz and glamour of Fashion Week El Paseo 2016.
Food + Wine Festival Grand Experience

Food + Wine Festival Grand Experience

Enter for a Chance to Win a Food + Wine Festival Palm Desert 2016 Grand Experience
Cartoon Caption Contest

Cartoon Caption Contest

Each month, we provide a vintage 1950’s cartoon illustrated by Alice Rovinsky. You are invited to submit a caption or vote for your favorite caption.