John McCracken: Radical Minimalism Meets Traditional Craft

THE DAILY PIC: At David Zwirner's McCracken show, an industrial look speaks of the handmade.

THE DAILY PIC (#1762): This is a very tight close-up on one of the wall-sculptures by the late John McCracken, the pioneering California minimalist. Works from his last decades are now being featured in a solo at David Zwirner gallery in New York. (See below for a complete view of a similar piece.)

The reason I’m showing such a tiny fraction of the entire sculpture is to give a sense of how hand-finished it actually is—much more like fine Japanese lacquerware than like the cruelly industrial objects that are usually brought up when McCracken is talked about. Forms aren’t reflected in this piece the way they might be in machine-polished metal, but with the soft distortions you get in fine furniture that has seen endless French polishing.

And if that’s true of these very late pieces, done with decent funding in a high-tech studio, it’s much more true of McCracken’s landmark first sculptures—one of which I had the good luck to live with for most of my childhood. I remember the slight ripples in its surfaces, and even the way they revealed tiny bumps from the finishing nails that held together the wooden surfaces under the paint.

McCracken’s pieces can be read as the ultimate refinement of craft—its final sublimation—rather than as its disavowal. (Photos by Lucy Hogg.)

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