Galerie Thomas Zander is pleased to announce an exhibition of works by Ed Ruscha, John McLaughlin, and Lewis Baltz coinciding with the opening of the new project space SECOND FLOOR. In the main gallery space as well as in the newly opened upstairs floor, selected works of three outstanding artists are on view, whose work has been a seminal contribution to the art of the US-American West Coast. To a great extent through their artistic development and impulses, Southern California gained significance as an art center since the 1960s and 70s and was able to gradually step out of New York’s shadow. John McLaughlin, Ed Ruscha, and Lewis Baltz have each developed their own, new ways of thinking about art and represent an ongoing influence on contemporary artists.

The American painter, photographer, graphic artist, and filmmaker Ed(ward) Ruscha (1937 Omaha, NE) is arguably one of the most unconventional contemporary artists. American everyday life of the 1950s/60s was an inspiration for his artistic path: the mass-mediated culture, the myth of the highway, and Hollywood. His work has been discussed in different contexts such as Conceptual Art, Minimal Art, and Pop Art. Yet all these labels proved inadequate in capturing its idiosyncratic quality. He is, like Baltz and McLaughlin, an individualist, whose development is founded in part on the spirit and creative freedom within the Californian art scene at the time. His series Apartment Houses, presented in this exhibition, shows photographs of residential streets in Los Angeles, which Ed Ruscha casually took with his camera in the mid-1960s as though he was looking for film locations. They are topographic images, which reveal a certain attitude to life and which moreover have exerted a major influence on conceptual photography in the following decades. 

John McLaughlin (1898 Sharon, MA – 1976 Los Angeles, CA) is regarded as one of the most important American artists of the mid-twentieth century, although his work was widely acknowledged only towards the end of his career and received more attention especially during the past few years. McLaughlin is the most prominent of the “Hard Edge” painters of the late 1950s, who formed a counter movement to the emotionally charged Color Field painting of Abstract Expressionism. His images are characterized by strictly geometric compositions of few color sections. McLaughlin holds a singular position among this group of artists in that his artistic vision is grounded in Zen Buddhist philosophy. In his abstract paintings with their “neutral structure” (John McLaughlin) this influence becomes visible in the void, which viewers may fill with their individual experience of the present moment.

Lewis Baltz (1945 Newport, CA) is one of the most renowned artists of the New Topographics movement, which was a groundbreaking step for conceptual photography. As early as the mid-1960s, Baltz turned towards a reduced aesthetic invoking a minimalist style while also referencing painting, sculpture, and Land Art. Common aspects can be found in formal aesthetic composition and in the choice of subject matter, which in Baltz’s work inevitably involves critical reflection. His early series, such as The Prototype Works on view, break with the established tradition of photography and make references to Modernism. Baltz’s photographic works document places, which lie outside the canon of perception and can be understood as epiphenomena of industrial civilization: wastelands, industrial parks, warehouses. They focus on vernacular structural forms and their correspondences with avant-garde art. Lewis Baltz’s work explores the possibilities of representation and positions photography in the context of contemporary art.

An accompanying catalogue will be published by Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther König, Cologne.

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