Helen Pashgian exhibit lights up Pomona gallery

Terry Laurents visited the Pomona College Museum of Art to see Helen Pashgian’s exhibit “Working in Light.” Pashgian captured qualities of light and space in her work to engage the visitors in an unusual optical experience. The exhibit will remain in the gallery through April 11 from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday. / photo by Christopher Guzman

Rachel Smith
Staff Writer

Helen Pashgian, light and space movement artist and Pomona College alumna, is showcasing her latest exhibit, “Working in Light” at the Pomona College Museum of Art through April 11.

“It’s the most popular exhibit I’ve seen so far,” said new Pomona College Museum Assistant Will Heidlage. Pashgian’s work is a beautiful display of light being sculpted and manipulated by the artist. “People just want to be up close to the art,” Heidlage said.

Jessica Wimbley, Pomona College Museum coordinator, said Pashgian is a pioneer of the Light and Space movement and has been sculpting light since the 1960s.

She uses different industrial materials such as resin, glass, and cast acrylic to create all sizes of sculptures that play with light and reflection.

Pashgian’s recent work features large acrylic formed columns that stand more than 70 feet tall and about a foot wide. The acrylic columns are different colors with the amazing ability to reflect light that make it seem as though the light comes from within the object.

“It looks like there is a fire coming out of the columns,” said Chris Al-Chalati, La Verne law student.

Al-Chalati walked around the pieces, soaking up the different light tricks being played by the columns.

Light and reflection are sculpted by how they interact with the different materials used for the exhibits as well as the position of the individual viewing the piece. As you stand before the piece, it can seem as if the light is shining from within the object.

If you move slightly to one side, you see an object inside the piece.

“It gives you a sense of ghostly remains,” Wimbley said. She also describes how it takes the viewer into the different perceptions of the mysteries of light.

Pashgian’s early works of small resin sculptures are also on display. These magnificent pieces of art are small yet mighty examples of the advancement of the Light and Space movement on the West Coast.

“Light changes depending how you move around,” Al-Chalati said.

These small sculptures contain a very smooth finish, very reminiscent of a highly polished car or buffed-out surfboard, and are called a “fetish finish,” according to Heidlage.

As Wimbley mentioned earlier, Pashgian is a pioneer of the Light and Space movement.

This movement began on the West Coast in the early 1960s by a group of artists from the Southern California art scene. These artists wanted to play with light and how it behaved when it interacted with different industrial materials.

After Pashgian, many other artists from different parts of the world began to experiment with creating art with industrial materials, Wimbley said.

The once predominantly West Coast movement, has now become a world wide sensation thanks to Pashgian and her fellow Light and Space movement artists.

James Turrell is also showcasing his newest exhibit “Dividing the Light” at the Pomona Museum of Art, Skyspace. Turrell was also a pioneer of the movement in the 1960s and has continued, along with Pashgian to sculpt light.

For more information visit www.pomona.edu/museum.

Groups of more than 10 wishing to visit the museum should call ahead to make arrangements at 909-621-8283.

Rachel Smith can be reached at rachel.smith@laverne.edu.

Christopher Guzman

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