February 25, 2018


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Lot 174: Vasa Mihich

Lot 174: Vasa Mihich


Acrylic lacquer on wood
Signed and dated to underside
42" x 22" x 9.625"; (107 x 56 x 24 cm)
LAMA would like to thank the Vasa Studio for their assistance in cataloguing this work
Exhibited: "Contemporary American Painting and Sculpture 1967," Krannert Art Museum, Champaign, March 5-April 9, 1967; "Vasa," Herbert Palmer Gallery, Los Angeles, May 1967
Illustrated: Contemporary American Painting and Sculpture 1967. Krannert Art Museum exh. cat. 1967. #106.
Estimate: $5,000 - $7,000
Inventory Id: 27173

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Born in the former Yugoslavia, long-time Los Angeles-based artist Vasa arrived in the United States just in time to help significantly shape what would become known as the Light and Space movement, which found its nascence in 1960s California. "I came to the United States because of Abstract Expressionism," he notes in a recent monograph. "Instead, I found Minimalism, and more." That "more" would lead to a long career focused on an elaborate investigation into the phenomenology of light, optics, color, volume, scale, and, ultimately, perception.

Before he started producing prismatic, laminated cast acrylic sculptures, Vasa was busy establishing the foundations for these later works in the creation of polychromatic, non-representational geometric abstractions in acrylic lacquer on wood. One such example is his remarkable 1966 work, Contact, a highly reduced, bare-boned ode to pure form and bold swathes of hard-edged color. There is a clear link between such earlier pieces in wood with the later works. Vasa’s minimalist works in wood were crucial stepping-stones in the conceptual and technical processes that ultimately lead to the production of the reflective and refractive acrylic sculptures of his later practice. Already dissatisfied with traditional materials and techniques, Vasa first used acrylic lacquer because, as he explained in 1966, "I am working with mechanically applied industrial finishes, because no classical medium can give me the fine surface." Often pairing two opposing colors, as in the case of Contact, in these earlier works there is a discernable effort to put the principles of color theory to the test, while enlisting form as a primary component of the experiment. Vasa continues this experiment to this day in his sleek laminated cast acrylic sculptures and his dizzying technicolor-stained geometric grid paintings that have dominated his later career.

The pursuit to understand the interactions and interdependence between perceptible phenomena such as color, form, light, and scale equally spilled over into the content of the courses on color theory that Vasa taught in his capacity as a professor at the University of California, Los Angeles in the Department of Design and Media Arts. Vasa insists that his work has always been "only about itself," but his oeuvre taken as a whole seems to continually seek to make sense of, and re-examine, the distinct respects in which perceptual phenomena both affect and are affected by those who view and experience them.

Singer, Jill. "At 83, Vasa — and His Famed Acrylic Sculptures — Are Still On Top of the LA Art World." Sight Unseen, 9 Jan. 2017.
Mihich, Vasa Velizar. Vasa Studio. Vasa Studio, 2007.