Mary Corse (b. 1945, Berkeley, CA; lives and works in Los Angeles) is associated with the 1960s Light & Space Movement of southern California, and is primarily known for her minimalist, monochromatic paintings, which explore the relationship between materiality and perception. Since the mid-1960s, Corse has developed an innovative technique that involves mixing acrylic paint with microspheres—tiny glass beads commonly used in the white lines of lane dividers on highways—and painting vertical bands onto the canvas. These fields have an illuminating effect, so that as viewers move in front of the painting, oscillating bands of varying color and texture are exposed, darkening and brightening before their eyes. Although Corse’s paintings are minimal in their composition, the artist’s hand is clearly and deliberately present in the brushwork on the surface of the paintings. The shifting light across the canvas can either expose the brushworks and texture of the microspheres, or flatten it so that the canvas appears as a more uniform monochromatic surface. Over the past 10 years, Corse has introduced primary colors into her work, exploring how human perception of color is a highly individual and subjective experience. Corse is interested in the various ways the brain responds when incoming light frequencies react to different cells in the eye. For Corse, it is the interaction between the painting and the viewer that truly “activates” the work.
Corse received her BFA from the University of California in 1963, and her MFA from the Chouinard Art Institute in 1968. This summer, Corse will open an exhibition at Dia:Beacon, Beacon, NY and her first museum survey at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, traveling to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Select group exhibitions featuring her work include Light and Space, Seattle Art Museum, Seattle, WA, (2015); Reductive Minimalism: Women Artists in Dialogue, 1960–2012, University of Michigan Museum of Art, Ann Arbor (2014); Venice in Venice, a collateral exhibition curated by NYEHAUS in association with the J. Paul Getty Museum at the 54th Venice Biennale (2011); Pacific Standard Time: Crosscurrents in L.A. Painting and Sculpture, 1950-1970, J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles (2011); What’s New, Pussycat?, Torrance Art Museum, Torrance, CA (2011); and Phenomenal: California Light and Space, Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego (2011). Corse’s work is in numerous international public and private collection, including the Blanton Museum of Art, The University of Texas Austin; Fondation Beyeler, Basel, Switzerland; Frederick R. Weisman Art Foundation Collection, Los Angeles; the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Menil Collection, Houston, TX; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego, CA; Norton Museum of Art, West Palm Beach, FL; Orange County Museum of Art at Newport Beach, CA; Seattle Art Museum; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; and Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.
In 2016, Corse was commissioned by the U.S. General Services Administration to create a work for the new Los Angeles federal courthouse building. Corse is the recipient of the Cartier Foundation Award (1993); the National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship (1975); the Theodoran Award, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (1971); and the New Talent Award, Los Angeles County Museum of Art (1967).
Portrait: Joao Canziani