Helen Pashgian (b. 1934, Pasadena, CA; lives and works in Pasadena, CA) is a pioneer and pre-eminent member of the 1960s Light and Space movement in Southern California. Over the course of her career, Pashgian has produced a significant series of sculptures comprised of vibrantly colored columns, discs, and spheres that often feature an isolated element appearing suspended, embedded, or encased within. Using an innovative application of industrial epoxies, plastics, and resins, Pashgian’s works are characterized by their semi-translucent surfaces that appear to filter and somehow contain illumination. Pashgian thinks of her works as “presences” in space, which do not reveal everything at once. One must move around her sculptures to observe changes: coming and going, appearing and receding, visible and invisible—a phenomenon of constant movement. This touches on the mysterious, the place beyond which the eye cannot go. Trained as an art historian with a focus on the Dutch Golden Age of the 17th century, Pashigan’s reverence for Johannes Vermeer, the painter of light, has been fundamental to her longstanding interest in the effects and perception of light. While she has gravitated towards experimenting with non-traditional materials, her primary concern has always been to maintain light as the object and subject of her work. For Pashgian, light is not simply a metaphor, symbol, or allegory; light itself is both the medium and the message.
Pashgian received her B.A. from Pomona College, Claremont, CA in 1956 and M.A. from Boston University, Boston, MA in 1958. She also attended Columbia University, New York, NY from 1956 to 1957. Solo exhibitions of her work have been organized at Santa Fe, Santa Fe, NM (2021); Lehmann Maupin, New York (2021); Benton Museum at Pomona College, Claremont, CA (2021); Lehmann Maupin, Seoul, and Hong Kong (2019); Vito Schnabel Projects, St. Moritz, Switzerland (2019); Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles (2014); Pomona College Museum of Art, Claremont, CA (2010); and Palm Springs Art Museum, Palm Springs, CA (2007). Select group exhibitions featuring her work include Luminaries of Light and Space, Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), Los Angeles, CA (2022); Dissolve, UCI Institute and Museum of California Art, Irvine, CA (2022); Light Space Surface: Works from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Addison Gallery of American Art, Phillips Academy, Andover, MA (2021), Frist Art Museum, Nashville, TN (2022); Copenhagen Contemporary, Copenhagen, Denmark (2021); Beyond the Light of East & West, The Korean Cultural Center, Los Angeles, CA (2021); Crystals in Art: Ancient to Today, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, AK (2019); Radiant Light and Expanded Space, Pearl Lam, Hong Kong, China (2019); Space Shifters, Hayward Gallery, London, UK (2018); Water & Light, Ochi Gallery and Emily Friedman Fine Art, Ketchum, ID (2018); Made in California, Mana Wynwood, Miami, FL (2015); California Dreamin’: Thirty Years of Collecting, Palm Springs Art Museum, Palm Springs, CA (2014); Beyond Brancusi: The Space of Sculpture, Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena, CA (2013); Pacific Standard Time: Crosscurrents in L.A. Painting and Sculpture, 1950-1970, J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles (2011), travelled to Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, CA (2011) and Martin Gropius Bau, Berlin, Germany (2012); Translucence: Southern California Art From the 1960s and 1970s, Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena, CA (2006); and The Senses: Selections from the Permanent Collection, Pomona College Museum of Art, Claremont, CA (2006).
The artist’s work is in numerous public and private collections internationally, including the Andrew Dickson White Museum, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY; Laguna Beach Museum of Art, Laguna Beach, CA; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, CA; Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego, CA; Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena, CA; Orange County Museum of Art, Newport Beach, CA; Palm Springs Art Museum, Palm Springs, CA; Pomona College Museum of Art, Claremont, CA; Portland Art Museum, Portland, OR; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, CA; Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Santa Barbara, CA; and UCI Institute and Museum for California Art, Irvine, CA.