John McCracken, "Untitled (Black Block)", 1971 (reflecting "Theta-Two" 1965)

A retrospective worthy of the Museum of Modern Art, five decades of sculpture by the late California minimalist John McCracken is currently on view in the David Zwirner Gallery in New York. Praised for his candy-colored wall-leaning planks that blur the line between painting and sculpture, I most enjoy his work’s ability to confuse reality and reflection.

The surfaces of these fiberglass & resin coated plywood structures are SO perfect that it’s difficult (downright impossible in a few) to look at the sculptures themselves before your eyes focus instead on the room reflected in them. My approach to photographing the show was therefore not to avoid the reflections, but shoot the show through them.

Reflecting In The Sculptures of John McCracken in art  Category

John McCracken, “Strato”, 2005 (reflecting “Untitled”, 1982)

Reflecting In The Sculptures of John McCracken in art  Category

John McCracken, “Green Slab in Two Parts”, 1966 (reflecting “Untitled (Black Box)”, 1971)

McCracken spent hours painting, sanding, and polishing each of these by hand.  The result is oxymoronic: objects both perfect and human.

Reflecting In The Sculptures of John McCracken in art  Category

John McCracken, “M87″, 1988 (reflecting the sidewalk outside and “Blue Block in Three Parts”, 1966)

Reflecting In The Sculptures of John McCracken in art  Category

John McCracken, “M87″, 1988 (reflecting “Thought”, 2002)

Reflecting In The Sculptures of John McCracken in art  Category

John McCracken, “Six Columns”, 2006 (reflecting “Untitled”, 1967)

Reflecting In The Sculptures of John McCracken in art  Category

John McCracken, “Six Columns”, 2006 (reflecting “Earth Speed”, 1987)

Reflecting In The Sculptures of John McCracken in art  Category

John McCracken, “Fair”, 2011, stainless steel

In 2011, the last year of his life, McCracken went “full mirror” with polished stainless steel and bronze. The triangular column above nearly disappears as it fragments the staircase by architect Annabelle Selldorf (a work of art itself).

Reflecting In The Sculptures of John McCracken in art  Category

John McCracken, “Fair”, 2011

Reflecting In The Sculptures of John McCracken in art  Category

John McCracken, “Black Block” 1966, with installation at David Zwirner Gallery

Upstairs, a room of smaller sculptures is my favorite. They pack the same visual punch as the monumental plank and column works downstairs yet possess a greater sense of preciousness… like Fabergé eggs of our time.

Reflecting In The Sculptures of John McCracken in art  Category

John McCracken Installation at David Zwirner Gallery

Nearby, a row of his sketches are protected by Plexiglas “frames” which (intentionally or not) catch the reflection of neighboring sculptures, and like this entire exhibition, reveal something new and unexpected with every shift of perspective.

Reflecting In The Sculptures of John McCracken in art  Category

John McCracken, “Untitled”, 1967 (reflecting the author)

What: John McCracken: Works from 1963-2011
Where: David Zwirner Gallery, 520 W 20th St, New York, NY
When: September 11, 2013 – October 13, 2013

All Images courtesy David Zwirner Gallery, New York. © The Estate of John McCracken. Photographed by David Behringer.