In 2012, Art in L.A. was launched as part of the GCI's Modern and Contemporary Art Research Initiative. Art in L.A. explores the innovative materials and fabrication processes used by Los Angelesbased artists from the 1960s onward and studies the implications these materials and processes have for the conservation of their work. While the project focuses on local artists, the concerns and questions that arise through this project are relevant to the conservation of modern and contemporary art in general.
As part of this project, the GCI is producing a series of short video interviews of some of the artists under study, in which they explain and demonstrate their materials and working processes and discuss their thoughts on the conservation of their work. Artists are chosen so that a range of materials and opinions regarding conservation are included, and these interviews will constitute a series of case studies that will contribute to discussion within the field on how to incorporate an artist's thoughts and needs into a conservation strategy.
The first of these videos, Seeing through Glass (available on the GCI YouTube channel), focuses on the art of Larry Bell. Although Bell works in a range of media, he is best known for his use of glass and an industrial process called vacuum deposition of thin films. The process deposits, under vacuum, a micron-thin layer of metal or other material that modifies the way glass panels absorb, reflect, and transmit light, to stunning effect. Bell was filmed in his studio in Taos, New Mexico, discussing and demonstrating his working process and sharing his thoughts on the conservation of his work. For Bell, "There is a patina that comes to everything with age. I don't try and fight that patina. I like it."
The second video in the series (available summer 2013) will feature Helen Pashgian. Long overlooked, Pashgian is now recognized as an important artist from the 1960s to the present day and as a significant contributor to the Light and Space movement. In the 1960s and 1970s, she used cast polyester resin to create translucent sculptures, delicately colored and often intimate in scale. Worried about the toxicity of polyester resin, she eventually switched to cast epoxy resin and sheet acrylic. The video includes footage of her re-creation of a large, translucent polyester disc stolen from an exhibition in the 1970s. Pashgian has been firm in her opinions about conservation, with a low tolerance for any sign of damage, insisting, "If there is a scratch on the surface, that's all you see."
This series of videos complements the ongoing technical study of materials used by Los Angeles artists, for which analytical techniques have been developed. It also builds on the in-depth study of De Wain Valentine's polyester work of the 1960s and 1970s, which resulted in the GCI exhibition From Start to Finish: De Wain Valentine's Gray Column. The project included a publication and a thirty-minute video exploring Valentine's development of a new polyester resin to realize his monumental sculptures, as well as the conservation implications of this endeavor.