56 x 76 cm
Oil on hand-made paper
Collection Museum Haus Konstruktiv
John McLaughlin (born 1898 in Sharon, Massachusetts, USA, died 1976 in Dana Point, California, USA) did not begin to paint until he was almost fifty. When he was a young man, his fascination with Japanese culture led him to study Japanese. From 1935 to 1937, he and his wife moved to Tokyo and Beijing, where he began to collect Asian art. This collection lay the foundations for a gallery specializing in Japanese art called The Tokaido, Inc., which he opened in Boston in 1937. During World War II, he worked for the military as an interpreter and as an expert on Asia, and he was also stationed in India and Burma for some time. After his discharge, he and his wife moved to Dana Point, California, where he continued to work as an art dealer.
Inspired by Neo-plasticism, around 1950 McLaughlin began to develop his own geometric formal language, which he then began to radically reduce in the 1960s. In his “emphasis on simplicity,” he limited himself to only a few formal, always orthogonal elements in his primarily axisymmetric structures. This process of formal reduction corresponded with a color palette focused predominantly on black, white, gray, and beige – he reserved brighter hues for his graphic prints. McLaughlin’s pictorial language is not grounded in systematic guidelines, or the idea of visualizing a theme. His goal was rather to transfer into his own artistic practice what he admired in Japanese art – an “economy of means in concert with large unpainted areas,” with contemplative silence as a backdrop. The work on paper “Untitled” from 1975 is characteristic of these intentions, in that it conveys this silence with a strict austerity. The work revolves around two symmetrical blackish gray upright rectangles that are evenly framed by one of these “large unpainted areas.”
John McLaughlin took part in many solo and group exhibitions in the US during his lifetime, including at the Pasadena Art Museum (1963), the Museum of Modern Art in New York (1965 and 1975), and the Whitney Museum of American Art (1974). He was not discovered in Europe, however, until the last decades. He is considered to be a representative of Hard Edge painting, although he is a generation older, and he is also regarded as a pioneer of Minimalism. Ultimately, however, he occupies a singular position in both of these movements with his deeply spiritual approach.