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American painter Mary Corse (b. 1945) is widely recognized as a leading figure in the California Light and Space movement. Along with artists like James Turrell, Peter Alexander, and Craig Kauffman, Corse creates arresting works that examine the perceptual nature of experience. She pursued this inquiry by incorporating advanced industrial materials, such as fluorescent light and acrylic glass in her painting and sculpture. However, like many other female artists from this time, Corse worked in isolation from the male–dominated art scene and it is only in recent years that her work has received widespread acclaim.

Born in Berkeley, California, Corse was committed to abstraction from an early age. At the age of 12, Corse took art classes where she was introduced to the work of Abstract Expressionists like Hans Hofmann and Willem de Kooning. She went on to receive a BFA from the University of California, Santa Barbara in 1963 and later graduated with an MFA from Chouinard Art Institute in 1968. During this time, she came to reject the gestural approach of Abstract Expressionism, instead drawing influence from the abstract paintings and color theories of European artists like Wassily Kandinsky and Josef Albers. As her work grew increasingly minimal, she began making her now famous white paintings in 1964, inserting metal flakes to produce textured, reflective surfaces.

It was in 1968 that Corse began her innovative practice of embedding glass microspheres into the surfaces of her paintings, which can be seen in the glowing white canvas of Untitled (from White Light Inner Band Series) (1999). These prismatic glass beads are used to enhance highway signs due to their reflective qualities; immersed in white paint, they create a shimmering, incandescent effect. This creates an interactive moment, where the positioning of the viewer impacts their perception of the painting—from one stance the painting appears to consist of planes of flat color, while from another perspective the same surface becomes animated by a glittering surface. In an interview, Corse described this encounter as follows, “Your perception, your subjectivity, your position, you are involved. It brings the viewer into the painting. The art’s not really on the wall, it’s in your perception.” To that end, the painting “creates an experience that makes us understand reality in a deeper way.”

With the painting’s simple geometric composition, featuring five thick vertical stripes, there are hints of Corse’s minimalist precursors, such as John McLaughlin and Agnes Martin. Like McLaughlin, Corse’s emphasis on pure form, pared–back to its most refined elements, invites Zen–like contemplation. However, Corse’s work is set apart by her ethereal treatment of color and light. Exquisitely finished, this pearlescent composition is a fine example of Corse’s celebrated white paintings.

“ In Conversation: Mary Corse with Alex Bacon.” Interview by Alex Bacon. The Brooklyn Rail: Critical Perspectives on Arts, Politics, and Culture . The Brooklyn Rail, 3 June 2015. Web. 20 Mar. 2017. “Mary Corse.” Collection Online . Guggenheim, n.d. Web. 20 Mar. 2017.