Friday’s New York Times has a Roberta Smith piece on the Museum of Modern Art’s reinstallation of its permanent galleries. Guess what work they chose, out of the whole damn MoMA collection, for the lead photo. No, don’t guess because you’re wrong… unless you picked De Wain Valentine’s Triple Disk Red Metal Flake — Black Edge (1966).
On the other coast, the Getty Center will open a focus exhibition on Valentine’s Grey Column (1976) on Sep. 13 as part of “Pacific Standard Time.” Co-sponsored by the Getty Conservation Institute, it’s a teachable moment about the challenges of conserving the brave new plastics of some contemporary art. It’s also an another heavy-hitter endorsement of an artist who must be leaving some readers asking “Lil Wayne who?”
De Wain Valentine is having a bicoastal moment. He’s not a fresh-minted MFA, either. Colorado-born, Valentine read about the crazy-sexy L.A. art scene in Artforum and moved to the coast in 1965. Three years later he had a show at Ace Gallery; two years after that, a one-artist exhibition at the Pasadena Art Museum. At left is the artist next to his Grey Column in 1975 or 1976. Valentine was both stud and geek, conceivably the wonkiest of L.A.’s plastic-lovers (though not without competition). He engineered his own high-strength polyester resin, known as Valentine MasKast. That’s the cool school’s International Klein Blue.
Ever after, Valentine has figured in histories of L.A. minimalism, though he didn’t necessarily get top billing. At the institutional level, his works entered corporate collections and So. Cal. museums. In recent years, appreciation of Finish Fetish has lagged that of L.A. pop and conceptualism. That may be changing?
The Museum of Modern Art’s latest reshuffling downplays its canonical faves and gives more play to artists not shown as much. There is a now a room of minimalism fusing east and west coasts. Valentine’s Triple Disk Red Metal Flake — Black Edge appears next to plastic masterpieces by L.A.’s Craig Kauffman and John McCracken—as well as works by quintessential New Yorkers who probably called anything they didn’t like “plastic.” MoMA tourists are magnetically drawn to Triple Disk and want to snap cell phone photos of themselves next to it. Judd and Flavin? Eh.
In case you’re wondering, the MoMA gallery text mentions surfboards and cars.