John McCracken Chieftain, 1992
American
1934-2011

John McCracken

Primarily known as a Minimalist artists, American-born John McCracken is one of the most successful artists to emerge from the West Coast in recent years. Born in 1934, John McCracken has enjoyed a long and fruitful artistic life, garnering the acclaim of his peers, the respect of critics and many sales and shows along the way.

 

John McCracken was not just another Minimalist artist. He is widely regarded as one of the founding members of the Minimalist movement on the West Coast. Indeed, this American-born artists was instrumental in the creation of the Los Angeles aesthetic movement in the world of sculpture.

 

It was John McCracken and his unique monochromatic forms that took the West Coast world of sculpture by storm, and the influence of his creations continues to this day. You could say the West Coast lifestyle was in John McCracken's blood - he was born in Berkeley, California, and he often said that his earliest memories were of bright colors and beautiful flowers.

 

By the time John McCracken was a young man, he had already studied the classical art world extensively, and his favorite influences included Rembrandt and other old masters.

 

When he was just 23 years old, John McCracken attended the College of Arts and Crafts in nearby Oakland, California. During his time in art school, McCracken studied with Tony Delap, and his interest in the production of fine artwork continued to grow.

 

Art school also helped John McCracken learn the unique ways in which artists think and work. He discovered new influences, including the geometric works of Mondrian and the Abstract Expressionism of artists like Barnett Newman.

 

By the time his final year of art school arrived, John McCracken had already become a successful commercial artist, holding a solo exhibition at the famous Nick Wilder Gallery in L.A. The works on display were comprised of bright primary colors and simple geometric forms, works that were quickly compared to fellow artists Robert Morris and Donald Judd.

 

After a series of successful solo exhibitions and strong sales, John McCracken went on to a career as a highly sought after instructor. For twenty years, John McCracken would teach at a number of college campuses around Los Angeles and throughout Southern California. John McCracken also taught in New York and Nevada for a short time, but his most important post started in 1965, when he taught at the newly formed School of Fine Arts at the University of California in Irvine. That teaching stint was a great success right from the start, drawing conceptual artists from throughout the region and far beyond.

 

Robert Irwin and Larry Bell were just two of the notable artists to come through that school, and they would go on to help create a new Minimalist movement on the West Coast, a movement that was based out of Los Angeles. In the creation of this West Coast Minimalist movement, John McCracken had helped put Los Angeles on the artistic map.

 

While John McCracken continues to be best known for his influence on the West Coast art scene generally and the Los Angeles art world in particular, he no longer calls L.A. his home. In 1994, John McCracken and his wife moved to New Mexico, and they continue to live there to this day.

 

While the creation of a new West Coast Minimalist movement would be accomplishment enough, it is far from the only thing John McCracken was able to do. The founding of the movement is just one small part of his life, and the artworks John McCracken has created are a vital part of the story.

 

John McCracken is best known for his unique high-gloss wood sculptures. These creations are beautifully lacquered, boldly colored and absolutely unforgettable. Fans of sculpture were immediately drawn to this bold new figures, and John McCracken continues to be highly sought after by art collectors around the world.

 

While he is best known for his sculptural work and his influence on the West Coast Minimalist movement, John McCracken is also an accomplished painter. John McCracken's love affair with painting began early, when he created simple works on canvas. Those early works, in the Abstract Expressionist style, were just a hint of the brilliance to come, but they are still some of the most highly prized works among collectors.

 

From painting to sculpture to the founding of a new West Coast movement, John McCracken has had a long and successful life in the art world. It is no wonder collectors, critics and art fans everywhere still flock to his shows and check out his works in galleries and museums.

Chieftain, 1992
Chieftain, 1992

John McCracken Chieftain, 1992 lacquer, resin, fiberglass and plywood 96 1/8 x 29 7/8 x 17 inches

Visit, 1994
Visit, 1994

John McCracken Visit, 1994 polyester resin, fibreglass and plywood 6 1/4 x 42 3/8 x 9 1/8 inches

Voyage, 2004
Voyage, 2004

John McCracken Voyage, 2004 seven elements--polyester resin and fiberglass on plywood 32 1/8 x 5 1/8 x 6 5/8 inches

Red Block in Three Parts, 1966
Red Block in Three Parts, 1966

John McCracken Red Block in Three Parts, 1966 three elements--lacquer, fiberglass and plywood each: 13 x 4 1/4 x 9 inches

Flash, 2002
Flash, 2002

John McCracken Flash, 2002 polyester resin and fiberglass on plywood 92 x 14¼ x 3¾ inches

Untitled, 1970
Untitled, 1970

John McCracken Untitled, 1970 wood, fiberglass and polyester resin 96 1/8 x 22 1/8 x 3 1/8 inches