Mary Corse. The Light and Space Painter

Mary Corse in her Topanga Canyon studio, ca. 2018.
Woman sitting on stool in a painting studio in front of large blank canvases
Mary Corse in her Topanga Canyon studio, ca. 2018. Photo courtesy of João Canziani.

Mary Corse’s experiments in the phenomena of light and space emerged from her study of abstract and action painting. While the predominately male Light and Space artists who worked around her in Los Angeles shifted away from painting, embracing light as a medium itself, Corse’s contemporaneous work always linked back to painting.1 Since the late 1960s, Corse has produced a dynamic body of work that questions what a painting can articulate about the threshold of two and three dimensions and the infinite. “I want the paintings to have form and an absence of form at the same time, which is what human beings also have. We have both the outside, a three-dimensional world, and an inner world. My work is trying to express that.”2 Whether using electric or harnessing refracted atmospheric light, Corse softens the perception of the hard edges of the canvas—light dissolves painting’s form, suggesting a kind of infinite space.3

  1. Robin Clark, Phenomenal: California Light, Space, Surface (Berkeley: University of California Press; and San Diego: Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, 2011), 55. ↩︎

  2. Mary Corse, in “Mary Corse,” interview by Julia Brown and Jacqueline Crist, in Summer 1985 (Los Angeles: The Museum of Contemporary Art, 1985), n.p. ↩︎

  3. Mary Corse, in “Mary Corse Oral History,” interview with Rani Singh, Getty Research Institute, filmed in 2011 at Corse’s studio in Topanga Canyon, California, video, 1:02:12 hours, available at ↩︎