“Plank” Sculptor John McCracken Dies in New York

John McCracken was a minimalist with a sense of humor. Possibly a decade ago, In 2000, on seeing  “Sculpture 1987-1999” by John McCracken at James Kelly Contemporary I (and I was not alone) had the instant sense of coming in on the last scene in the Stanley Kubrick film 2001. The black monolith of the space-age movie was such an instant tactile association with McCrackens inscrutable polished black sculpture that reportedly people asked the artist if he had designed it for Kubrick – as McCrackens first black plank was produced in 1966, Kubricks 2001 in 1968.

James Kelly Contemporary was kind enough to provide the images below from this installation which was definitely one of those brilliant art moments of a high-summer season, when coming into a gallery light with objects whose glossiness defies any attempt to describe surface; you merely have to submit to the experience of it. The sculptures were an aha! moment for me, their absorption of all reflection into the objects refusal to answer an art experience beyond reproach. (Reminding me of the story – true or not, who cares? – that once Proust became agitated at seeing View of Delft, by the womens refusal to speak.)

all images courtesy James Kelly Contemporary. Installation shots by Herb Lotz (2000).

Christopher Knight who along with Roberta Smith reported the artists death  in the national newspapers, said that the 2001 film scene bedeviled the artist. His planks derived, despite the mathematical words the minimalists always find glued to their skin, from the stance of a tall, thin man leaning against a wall. That the insouciance of posture in a straight-line kind of way could lead a man to make art like this; he was one of a kind.  McCracken lived in Santa Fe and in New York, where he died April 8. He was 76.

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