About This Artwork

John McCracken
American, 1934-2011

Red Plank, 1969

Wood, fiberglass and lacquer
244.1 x 56.6 x 7.9 cm (96 1/8 x 22 1/4 x 3 1/8 in.)

Twentieth-Century Purchase Fund, 1970.294

John McCracken was a pioneering figure of West Coast Minimalism in the 1960s, when many California artists were concerned with issues of light and color. Having begun his career as a painter, he moved toward a more object-based aesthetic, making abstract works in the form of basic geometric shapes such as cubes or quadratic volumes. In 1966 he developed what became his signature sculptural forms: tall, leaning planks made of wood, coated in fiberglass, and then painted with a highly finished lacquer. Striking in their monolithic simplicity and characterized by pure, monochromatic surfaces, McCracken’s handcrafted “planks,” which rest on the floor and lean against the wall, successfully blur the boundary between painting and sculpture.

John McCracken is considered a Minimalist sculptor with a singularly spiritual bent. He lacquered basic geometric volumes to lustrous effect, and California car culture often motivated his color choices (cars were “mobile color chips,” he once said), but he strove to make objects that were also “hallucinatory” or “other-wordly.” From 1966 forward McCracken’s signature form was the vividly monochrome “plank,” of which Red Plank is a prime example—stately, monolithic, yet leaning casually against the gallery wall.These sleek sculptures exist “between two worlds,” the artist explained, “the floor representing the physical world of standing objects, trees, cars, buildings, human bodies . . . and the wall representing the world of the imagination, illusionist painting space, [and] human mental space.”

— Permanent collection label

Interpretive Resources

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