March 1, 2015


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Lot 49: De Wain Valentine

Lot 49: De Wain Valentine

Blue Slab

Cast polyester resin
72.5" x 23.5" x 6.5"
Together with copy of receipt from the artist
Provenance: Private Collection, Los Angeles, California (acquired directly from the artist, 1970)
Estimate: $30,000 - $50,000
Price Realized: $175,000
Inventory Id: 17948

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The plastic sculptures of American Minimalist and California Light and Space artist De Wain Valentine (b. 1936) are notable not only for their luminous appearance, but also for the ground-breaking techniques used in their fabrication. In the 1960s and '70s, Valentine teamed with industrial plastics companies to formulate the material capabilities that he required for his poured and cast resin sculptures. According to fellow Light and Space artist Helen Pashgian, "He was a real innovator, willing to take risks with a new material. Most of these resins [then-available] were designed to be poured in very thin layers. That's why De Wain had to develop his own resin." Working with Hastings Plastics in Santa Monica, Valentine successfully created a new formula in 1966, which was commercially available under the registered trademark "Valentine MasKast Resin" by 1970. MasKast Resin had the capacity to be poured into molds, and resulted in sculptures far beyond the 50-pound limit that had been in place. Prior to the creation of Valentine MasKast, molded resin sculptures weighing more than 50 pounds had a tendency to crack when curing. Using his new resin, Valentine was able to create sculptures that ranged from hundreds to thousands of pounds in weight. After unmolding the sculptures, every inch of the surfaces had to be sanded and polished. Looking back, Valentine says, "I'm glad I did it when I was young. I thought I was going to live forever and could do anything."

Born, raised, and educated in Colorado, Valentine grew up with an appreciation for materials and industrial processes. He spent time with his uncles scavenging for copper and iron ore, and worked in a boat shop, where he first cultivated an interest in plastics. Lured by the fledgling but burgeoning 1960s Los Angeles art scene, Valentine moved to the city in 1965. He quickly established his presence—he procured a studio next to Larry Bell in Venice, and secured a teaching position at UCLA in plastics technology.

Speaking of his motivations and inspiration, Valentine swoons: "In Colorado, I had a love affair with the sky and the clouds and the mountains. You didn't see the air in Colorado. It was just crystal. When I moved to California, the smog became a substance. The quality of the light had a body to it that was just thrilling."

Blue Slab (1970) and Top (1969) are prime examples of the possibilities of Valentine's ability to make tangible the phenomena observed in the California sea, sky, and sun in cast plastic sculptures. Both pieces were acquired directly from the artist and come from the original owner. Top is comprised of polished, smooth curves. The slender points of the top are almost translucent, refracting and reflecting light, while the body approaches opacity and seems to absorb light. Blue Slab, in deep cerulean-colored resin, demonstrates the influence of the California landscape and coastline upon Valentine's work. With its sleek, elongated wedge form, the piece is an important precursor to Valentine's 1975 sculpture, Gray Column (1975–76), which was shown at the Getty Museum _as part of Pacific Standard Time: Art in LA 1945–1980 in 2011–2012. Other examples of Valentine's work can be found in institutions across the nation, including the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego; and the Laguna Art Museum.

"From Start to Finish: De Wain Valentine's Grey Column." Pacific Standard Time: Art in LA 1945–1980. The J. Paul Getty Museum. Web. 17 Nov. 2014. Kennedy, Randy. "Reputation and Monolith, Both Stand Tall." The New York Times. 18 Sept. 2011: AR74. Web. 17 Nov. 2014.