The works of pioneering Light and Space artist Peter Alexander transcend their industrial materials and continue to delight and entrance, inviting viewers to lose themselves in seemingly endless color and space.
Artist Peter Alexander has long been associated with Southern California's Light and Space movement. He rose to prominence in the 1960s alongside artists such as Donald Judd and Larry Bell, exploring the fundamentals of color and form unto themselves to produce sculptures of lasting substance that have a composed, joyful presence. Alexander's cast resin and urethane boxes, bars and wedges were spectacularly dense in color, pristine in their surfaces and enthralling to behold. Much of his sense of light and space was inspired by surfing and the colors and qualities of the ocean, sky and shore.
I'm a romantic. I believe in the value of things. I believe that objects can be made that can have an extraordinary effect on me and others.
I started surfing when I was thirteen. The context that this has on me is sort of inseparable. You periodically prepare your board, or glaze it. And I remember in the bottom of the Dixie cup, this clear material. I was doing a project and I thought, I bet this could probably be done in polyester, resin. So I started casting it into little boxes. I made these little rooms, places to go. The idea was that the surface had to be absolute without a mark on it so that it would not impede your going into.
Peter Alexander: The Color of Light
Peter Alexander discusses his work with The Getty Conservation Institute. Learn more about his processes, materials and vision.
I deal with that other-earthly quality. One of the reasons I use the resin is beause it acts like water. It's a clear liquid that you can make any form out of....they hover in the room and provide an extraordinary quality of color.
Auction Results Peter Alexander
Peter Alexander 1939–2020
Peter Alexander was born in Los Angeles and initially studied architecture with Louis Kahn at University of Pennsylvania prior to earning a BFA and MFA in art at UCLA where he studied with Richard Diebenkorn. It was during his time at UCLA in the mid-1960s that he stumbled across what would become one of his signature media: resin. A Californian through and through, Alexander loved surfing. While waxing his surfboard, he noticed how the resin dried up in the Dixie cup and was transfixed by its artistic potential.
Alexander worked consistently with resin until the early 1970s and, alongside Robert Irwin, Larry Bell, and others, helped bring the Light and Space movement to the world’s attention. He became one of the key figures of the movement and focused primarily on color, light and their intersection. His translucent, sleek, and luminous resin sculptures were unique to Minimalism in that they were aesthetically more approachable than other mediums. Alexander was forced to stop working in resin in 1972 due to its toxicity and instead shifted to painting and drawing, using found materials such as taffeta, velvet, and rhinestones to continue his exploration of light. He would later return to sculpture around the turn of the century, employing urethane and then acrylic, both less toxic than resin and more effective at displaying color.
Alexander's work was exhibited widely during his lifetime and experienced a resurgence of interest in the 21st century after being featured in Los Angeles 1955–1985 at the Centre Pompidou in Paris in 2006 and the 2011 exhibition Crosscurrents in L.A. Painting and Sculpture, 1950–1970 at the Getty Museum. His creations can be found in many important private and public collections, including Broad Foundation, Los Angeles, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.
I did the wedges because I was on a plane coming into LA, looking down into the ocean, noticing how it changes color before it hits the sand and I thought "wow," that would be beautiful, that would be perfect. So I did these objects that disappeared, like the water does when it meets the continent. It becomes part of whatever environment it's in and if it becomes part of it, then you can become part of it.