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Los Angeles Look

The Los Angeles Look—a more neutral phrase than the slangily pejorative Finish Fetish or L.A. Slick—refers to two- and three-dimensional abstractions, usually crafted from fiberglass or resins. Glossy and impersonal, with slick finishes suggestive of the machine-made, they have often been compared to automobiles and surfboards, two iconic staples of life in Southern California.

In their simplicity and abstraction, such works are certainly an offshoot of then-contemporary Minimalism. But unlike rigorously theoretical Minimalist art, these works are upbeat and accessible. Their often bright colors and manufactured appearance recall Pop art’s evocation of commercial products.

The work itself ranges from the simple standing or leaning slabs by John McCracken and Peter Alexander to objects that incorporate light, such as Larry Bell’s glass boxes and Robert Irwin’s white disks. (Such works paved the way for the Light and Space art of the 1970s.) For some, the Los Angeles Look constitutes Southern California’s most substantive contribution to the history of postwar art. In the mid-1980s, artists such as McCracken were rediscovered by Neo Geo artists in New York interested in abstraction and the look of everyday domestic objects.

Extracts from 'Artspeak' by Robert Atkins (copyright (©) 1990, 1997 by Robert Atkins) reproduced by permission of Abbeville Press, Inc.