California born John McCracken was a minimalist sculptor known for his boldly colored, sleek, and monolithic ‘planks,’ blocks and columns that stood between the realms of sculpture and painting. He infused the austere, industrial rigor of Minimalism with a bright, vibrant insouciance and a spirituality that reflected his West Coast sensibility.
Having served in the Unites States Navy for four years, McCracken, who was born in Berkeley, California in 1934, developed his early sculptural work while studying at the California College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Influenced by the abstraction of Barnett Newman, and the pioneering Minimalism of Donald Judd, Carl Andre, and Dan Flavin, McCracken began to create objects made with industrial materials. These materials included plywood and, most importantly, lacquer, which created the pristine, highly reflective and smooth surfaces for which he was to become known.
By 1966, he developed his now signature form: a narrow, rectangular, brightly colored plank that leans casually upon the wall. Its position straddles the boundaries of painting and sculpture – uniting the wall and the illusionistic realm of art, with the real, physical space of sculpture and of the viewer. McCracken later became part of the Light and Space movement, along with Robert Irwin, Larry Bell, James Turrell, and others.
From the 1960s onward, McCracken exhibited frequently in the United States and abroad, and his early work was included in groundbreaking exhibitions such as ‘Primary Structures’ at the Jewish Museum, New York (1966), and ‘American Sculpture of the Sixties’ at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (1967). His work can be found in international public collections, including the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; the Art Institute of Chicago; Art Gallery of Ontario; Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels, and Castello di Rivoli, Turin.
John McCracken died in 2011 in New York City.