Staring Intently at a Sound:
The Studio Practice of Mac McClain
A Retrospective Exhibit
September 27 - October 18, 2012
Curated By: Olivia Sanchez-Brown
Cal State LA Fine Arts Gallery Director: Karin Lanzoni
The Fine Arts Gallery is pleased to present a retrospective of Mac McClain’s artworks, representing a studio practice that spanned 65 years and covering a prolific career spent working in a wide range of mediums, including ceramics, sculpture, painting, poetry, photography, prints, and postcards. Seen together for the first time, this small but strong selection of work demonstrates his shrewd experimentation with style and approach, which always manages to allude to, or connect with, the personal.
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For Immediate Release
Exhibition of Paintings in San Marino by Mac McClain, Abstract Expressionist Sculptor and Painter, Innovator of the Clay Revolution, and San Marino Native
San Marino, CA – Paintings by Malcolm (Mac) McClain will be featured at the San Marino Crowell Library from April 11th to May 27th.
Mac spent his early years in San Marino and remembered his childhood as one of climbing railroad trestles, having orange throwing fights, and learning to read voraciously. A pioneer of ceramic art, painter, poet, and teacher, Mac had a long and varied career. At twenty-four, after experiencing the “the horrors of war” in the U.S. Infantry, Mac began his love of art and poetry in Paris. He returned to the U.S. in 1947 to study painting, first at the New School in New York, then at La Escuela de Pintura y Escultra de La Callejon Esmeralda in Mexico City. He moved to La Escuela de Pintura y Arte de Michoacan to begin working in ceramics, before returning to graduate from Pomona College in 1955.
In 1955 he joined the “Clay Revolution” with teacher Pete Voulkos at the L.A. County Art Institute. One of Mac’s innovations was painting on sheets of cardboard with wet clay. He later recalled that, in Voulkos' class, "there never was a wall or abyss between poetry, music, sculpture, clay, dance, writing, painting or play. It all became one." It was a lesson he would carry throughout his life.
Mac inspired students for 30 years teaching art, sculpture and drawing at Art Center in La Jolla and Pomona College, before joining the Art Department at Cal State LA in 1965. He served as Department Chair during his last two years at Cal State LA. A scholarship, “The Mac McClain Scholarship for Sculpture” was created at Cal State LA in his honor. Mac had numerous exhibitions in the Los Angeles area during the 1980s and 1990s.
Mac’s retirement was filled with hiking, painting, and poetry. Using his pen-name, “Mac McCloud,” Mac wrote frequently on Southern Californian artists and exhibitions for magazines and exhibition catalogs. His articles and reviews appeared in the magazines American Craft, American Ceramics, Ceramics Monthly, and Visions, and he was a contributing editor for Artweek and Images and Issues. He gave many poetry readings and published a chapbook of his poems "Some Kind of Happiness" in 1995. Mac also wrote about art. Many essays appeared in Artweek starting in the 1970s and in various books, including Art at Scripps (1988) and Paul Soldner: A Retrospective (1991). Mac passed away in May 2012.
The Crowell Library is located at 1890 Huntington Drive, San Marino. For library hours and information on this display, call 626-300-0777. For more information visit www.macmcclainart.com.
MALCOLM McCLAIN: VISUAL, TEXTUAL
In Collaboration with Dave Hampton
March 14 - April 18, 2015
Gallery hours: Wed-Sun 12-6
195 Chrystie St #600A, NY, NY 10002
Tel. 212 614 7057
The gallery is pleased to present "Malcolm McClain: Visual, Textual," a solo exhibition of works on paper by the late Malcolm "Mac" McClain (1923-2012). This exhibition is organized in collaboration with independent curator Dave Hampton and marks the first time that a range of drawings, collages, paintings, and poems, made by the southern California artist between the late 1940s and late 1970s, will be shown in New York. A multi-part sound installation featuring McClain's texts, produced by the acclaimed musician Charles Curtis, will play throughout the exhibition.
Malcolm McClain's small-scale works on paper, incorporating type-written, collaged, drawn, and painted elements, provide an intimate view into the artist's approach to making art with both images and words. A key figure in the late 1950s San Diego art and poetry scene, McClain was part of group of artists such as John Baldessari, Guy Williams, and Richard Allen Morris, who wrote poetry and made paintings. Embracing both mediums as forms of artistic expression, for McClain, painting, drawing, and writing often shared similar objectives within his practice. As Hampton has noted,
He filled intimate notebooks with typed texts, hand-written poems, clippings and commentary, along with curious collages, delicate watercolors, and bold, inky brushwork. Some of his texts may be appreciated for their strongly visual qualities, while at times his drawings rely on words to complete them.
Serving in the US Army Infantry during World War II, McClain returned to New York in 1947 where he studied painting at the New School, later traveling to Mexico and California to pursue a life as an artist and teacher. Themes of censorship, human extinction, and freedom of expression, as well as the relationship between bodies of power and the individual recur throughout McClain's works. Having survived the brutality and horror of fighting on the front combat lines, art provided McClain a means of coping with undiagnosed PTSD, and much of his written work takes a vigorous antiwar stance.
A 2014 sound recording created by the San Diego-based cellist Charles Curtis will play on five cassette decks, dispersed throughout the gallery, and features a variety of voices reciting McClain's texts. Encountering McClain's works on paper for the first time, Curtis decided to register in the sound piece the prima facie experience of grappling with McClain's handwriting and typing, so he recorded the voices of the readers while they recited the unfamiliar texts at first glance.
Malcolm McClain (1923-2012) was born in Los Angeles, CA. Following his service during WWII, he painted and wrote poetry in Paris before enrolling at The New School in New York, later moving to Mexico City. After graduating from Pomona College in 1955, he enrolled in Peter Voulkos' landmark ceramics program at the LA County Art Institute. Living in Tijuana during the late 1950s, McClain landed his first teaching position at the Art Center in La Jolla. He later settled in the art department of Cal State Los Angeles, where he taught from 1965-1988 while also publishing poetry and occasional articles and reviews under the pseudonym "Mac McCloud." McClain also served as Dean of the School of Arts and Letters at Cal State Los Angeles, where a scholarship has been created in his name.
Recent exhibitions featuring the work of Malcolm McClain include "San Diego’s Craft Revolution: From Post-War Modernism to California Design," Mingei International Museum, San Diego, CA, 2011-12, "Common Ground: Ceramics in Southern California 1945-1975," American Museum of Ceramic Art, Pomona, CA, 2011-12, and "Contemporary Art Wins a Beachhead: The La Jolla School of Arts 1960-1964," Oceanside Museum of Art, Oceanside, CA, 2012. His pottery and sculpture were featured in the seminal exhibition "Abstract Expressionist Ceramics" at the University of California, Irvine, in 1966, alongside Billy Al Bengston, Ron Nagle, Kenneth Price, and Peter Voulkos.