Cultured Magazine

Winter 2015

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STUDIO 204 CULTURED Clockwise from top: Exhibition view of "Crosses, Figures, Spears, Torques," at David Kordansky Gallery, 2013; blue figure in front of the kiln in Mason's studio; paper maquettes; Mason in front of a selection of completed works. John Mason Los Angeles, CA: 90021 BY BRENT LEWIS John Mason has lived and worked in a nondescript building in downtown Los Angeles for much of his entire career, which began in the 1950s. The spiritual and physical center of the large, shadowy building is an immense kiln. Nearer to the front door is a wall, painted dove grey, where Mason can stage a selection of finished works. Everywhere else is the build-up of 60 years of art making: sculptures in various stages of completion, tables with maquettes, boxes of files, notes on glazes and mathematical formulas. Asked how he begins a new work, he wryly notes, "First you mix the clay and it's a sloppy mess…" Mason has a long career of developing innovative techniques for making sculptures from clay, especially large-scale pieces. He is known for free-standing totems, as well as large walls, such as those included in the 2014 Whitney Biennial. His work has increasingly moved from an investigation of technique and material toward conceptualization and formal exploration. His evocative works, formatted as primitive landscapes or totemic figures, are built on a foundation of rigorous geometric exploration and mathematical formulation. "It all starts with puzzles," he says, and examining the dozens of paper models in the studio, one can see the deep appreciation Mason has for structures and geometry. Counterpoint to the morphological rigor of the structures is the subtle textures and colors of their smooth, firm surfaces. They rest in motion, clothed in their essential materiality. Mason has been busy as of late, with shows at David Kordansky, and the inclusion in a flurry of recent exhibitions. Asked if there has been a need to create work, Mason smiles and replies, "It depends if the need and my interests are the same. If they're not, it doesn't get made too well." COURTESY OF DAVID KORDANSKY (INSTALLATION VIEW); PHOTOS BY BRENT LEWIS

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