John McCracken b. 1934, Berkeley, California; d. 2011, New York
Polyester resin on fiberglass and plywood
96 1/4 x 22 1/4 x 3 3/16 inches (244.5 x 56.5 x 8.1 cm)
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York Gift, Robert Elkon, 1970
Vivid, monochrome planks became a signature of John McCracken’s work in the mid-1960s. These neutral forms are often leaned against a wall and occupy a position between painting and sculpture. Although they appear to be industrially manufactured, McCracken’s pristine surfaces are created through a time-intensive and handmade technique in which fiberglass is applied to plywood, onto which the artist adds layers of polyester mixed with resin and pigment. The result, as evidenced in Blue Plank (1969), is a glossy, lustrous finish evocative of the surface sheen of surfboards and custom cars, both uniquely Californian aesthetic forms of the 1960s. Speaking about the enigmatic quality of his planks, the artist noted, “I felt that if something was beautiful, one could enjoy looking at it and therefore stand to apprehend the form in a full way—intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually.”¹ His eclectic abiding interests—from UFOs to ancient Egypt, from cosmology to architecture—haunt his simplified forms, which oscillate between the playful and the sublime.
1. John McCracken, interview by Matthew Higgs, Early Sculpture/John McCracken, exh. cat. (New York: Zwirner and Wirth, 2005), p. 10.