John McLaughlin

Hard Edge Classicist

January 7 – February 13, 2010

Catalogue available

Greenberg Van Doren is pleased to present an exhibition of fourteen paintings by the late California artist, John McLaughlin (1898-1976). Though not seen in depth in New York since the 1980s, McLaughlin's work was recently featured in the Guggenheim's 2009 exhibition, The Third Mind: American Artists Contemplate Asia 1860-1989, and on the west coast his work was included in Birth of the Cool: California Art, Design, and Culture at Midcentury (2007-2009) at the Orange County Museum of Art. Presently, he is included in the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art's exhibition of The First Thirty Years.

John McLaughlin was a New Englander by birth (Sharon, MA) and education (Andover, MA), but he ultimately lived and worked in Dana Point, California where he built a house and studio. He came to painting late in life in his forties and was self-taught though not without an aesthetic education. His abiding interests in 15th-century Japanese brush painting, Russian Constructivism, most particularly Kazimir Malevich, and Piet Mondrian informed his work. McLaughlin lived in Japan from 1935-38 where he learned Japanese, and prior to devoting himself full time to painting in the 1940s, he also was a dealer in Japanese prints.

Susan Larson who was the curator of McLaughlin's retrospective exhibition in 1996 at the Laguna Beach Art Museum, writes insightfully as follows:
'A remarkable synthesis of subtle concepts and disparate cultural traditions informs the work of John McLaughlin. It was his special gift to be able to achieve a state of magnificent quietude out if the purposeful juxtaposition of opposing visual elements paced so that they engage and eventually steady the mind. It is not surprising that his art has been lavishly praised, denounced as obtuse and hermetic, dismissed as artistically nihilistic, written off as latter-day geometric abstraction, and that it has gained legendary stature among artists devoted to abstract painting. Within his generation of reductive painters, his vision still seems fresh, challenging, not time-bound but full of unsolved propositions and unusual visual experiences. It is difficult to link him to other painters of his era, except superficially, through historical coincidence. None of them shared McLaughlin's unique thought process and none dared depart as completely from the dynamic asymmetrical compositions proposed by earlier Modernist abstraction.'