John McLaughlin

1898–1976

Biography

John Dwyer McLaughlin (May 21, 1898 – March 22, 1976) was a highly pivotal and significant American abstract painter. Based primarily in California, he was a pioneer in minimalism and hard-edge painting. Long considered in California as one of the most significant artists of the postwar, McLaughlin painted a focused body of geometric works that are completely devoid of any connection to everyday experience and objects, inspired by the Japanese notion of the void. He aimed to create paintings devoid of any object hood including but not limited to a gestures, representations, figuration, and so on. This led him to the rectangle. Leveraging a technique of layering rectangular bars on adjacent planes, McLaughlin creates works that provoke introspection and, consequently, a greater understanding of one’s relationship to nature. Christopher Knight affirms "McLaughlin is among the most profound avant-garde painters to work in the United States in the aftermath of the cataclysm that was World War II. He’s also Southern California’s first momentous postwar artist. Born in the closing years of the 19th century, he laid the foundation for the environmentally scaled wonders of 1960s Light and Space art, which ranks as Los Angeles’ most original contribution to high culture at the end of the 20th century...McLaughlin began to paint just as its gestural extravagances and emotionally fraught chromatics began to coalesce into the New York School. In the wake of the Holocaust and Hiroshima, those artists stared straight into the void...[McLaughlin's] void is not an abyss of social and spiritual terror in which interior narratives of worldly experience can be told, as it was for Jackson Pollock or Mark Rothko. Instead, his is the negative space that allows consciousness to blossom and manifest itself. Their art is about inviting us into their deep perception, while his is about inviting us into our own. McLaughlin’s void is ma, the poetic space and interval between things that animate Japanese art".

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