Peter’s Picks: Peter Alexander

February 13, 2020

As you may have noticed over the years, LAMA has a special place in its heart for the artists of the Light and Space movement. While I could of course credit this to a sentimental appreciation for their ethereal materializations of the city we call home, it’s perhaps more relevant to point to this collective’s decisive impact on the history of art.

Channeling the natural environment and tech-driven culture of Southern California in the 1960s and 1970s, Light and Space artists revolutionized the message of New York Minimalism. While minimalist sculpture stressed the art object itself, Light and Space works prioritized the viewer and their experience. In large part, the movement drew attention away from the arts activity of San Francisco and crowned Los Angeles as the new art capital of the West Coast. Among the many artists who helped define this period, Peter Alexander interpreted his environment through sculpture, painting, drawing, and print. We are honored to present two emblematic works by Alexander in our February 16, 2020 Modern Art & Design Auction.

Though he began his artistic career in architecture, Alexander was redirected by the influence of Larry Bell. Comparing Bell’s art to his own work as an architect, he identified a common system of right angles and flat surfaces but was seduced by the more individualized and contained nature of visual art. Blending his architectural consciousness with his affection for the ocean and surfing, Alexander described his early cubes and wedges, such as Untitled (1968), as “watery rooms that [he] would like to swim around in.” Through his use of resin (a common component in surfboards and perhaps the most popular material amongst Light and Space practitioners), the artist found that he could give the impression of “solidifying” water. He infused this “water” with shape and color, creating chambers of impressionistic light that evoked the opalescent atmosphere of Los Angeles. 

In the early 1970s Alexander turned to the two-dimensional plane and began experimenting with more literal representations of the scenes that surrounded him. Moving through a variety of styles, he captured everything from the darkest depths of the ocean to the bright lights of Las Vegas. As part of his Waterfruit series, Mango (2004), features high-contrast tones in a hard-to-locate abstraction. This vivid composition seems to return to Alexander’s earliest inquiries into the mirroring effects of California’s sea and sky. While formally very different, Untitled and Mango can be read as bookend variations on an important throughline of Alexander’s career.

Lot Information:

Lot 30
Peter Alexander
Polyester resin
12.5″ x 8.75″ x 8.75″; (32 x 22 x 22 cm)

Provenance: Private Collection, Los Angeles, California (acquired directly from the artist, c. 1970)

Estimate: $30,000-$50,000
February 16, 2020 Modern Art & Design Auction

Lot 31
Peter Alexander
Acrylic on wood panel in two parts
Left panel signed and dated; each panel titled
Panels each: 48″ x 53″; Overall: 48″ x 106″; (Panels: 122 x 135 cm)

Estimate: $18,000-$25,000
February 16, 2020 Modern Art & Design Auction

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