Tony DeLap: A Retrospective

Tony Delap; A Retrospective, Installation view. Photo Courtesy Laguna Art Museum.

Tony DeLap: A Retrospective

Laguna Art Museum
Through May 28, 2018


By Liz Goldner

Ninety-year-old Tony DeLap proves the adage that artists seldom retire. He also manifests the theory that the unquenchable creative urge surges up from within us, demanding to be expressed in a variety of artistic disciplines.

DeLap has manifested his creative instinct in the visual and performance fields since he first declared himself a professional artist and amateur magician, seventy years ago, while living in the Bay Area. Supporting himself primarily by teaching, early on at UC Davis, and then at UC Irvine, from the 1960s into the 90s, he has turned out an extraordinary oeuvre of unusual hybrid creations, many of which are painting and sculptural amalgamations. He refers to these works as “hyperbolic paraboloids,” or pieces that morph into different shapes, when viewed from different sides and angles.

How DeLap achieves this feat involves the laborious process of building and molding his pieces by hand. He saws, stretches and paints his canvasses; experiments with structures and materials, including wood, metal, fiberglass, molded plastics and fabrics; ultimately producing freestanding aluminum and fiberglass and resin sculptures; as well as wall-mounted, low-relief, mixed-media constructions.

Before he built his current studio, which is adjacent to his Corona del Mar home, DeLap rented a large workspace in Costa Mesa, near crafts, construction and boat-building shops. He learned skills from his neighbors there, evolving as a craftsman as well as an artist.

Walking through this current DeLap exhibition of eighty drawings, paintings, large hybrid works and sculptures from the 1960s through the present, can feel like entering an alternate universe. The art pieces here of varying sizes, often in primary monochromatic colors, appear at first to be circles, squares and triangles, but on closer inspection, are skewed, cut and bent versions of these geometric shapes. Many sides of the three-dimensional pieces, whether hung on the walls or placed on pedestals, are abstractly bent and shaped, enticing the viewer to spend time examining their various angles and proportions. Several works reveal surprising combinations of acrylic painted canvas with shaped, bent and polished wood.

Esoterist, a modified triangular shaped art piece, combining deep blue canvas with a narrow slice of wood, is an elegantly conceived and constructed hard-edge art piece with influences of minimalism. The Honest Ace, based on a skewed triangular shape, combines a large black swath of painted canvas with wood. Erdnase, a black painted circular piece, also contains wood, with the latter viewable only from the sides of the work, not from the front. The similarly constructed Thauma II, appears to have begun as a square shape, but evolved to a fanciful cut out version of this familiar geometric shape.

Among the many sculptures on display is Mona Lisa, a square piece from the 1960s, inspired by the Light and Space movement. Constructed primarily of glass with a stainless steel frame, it humorously includes the letters “M,” “O,” “N” and “A” in the four corners of the square. The Specialist, a sculpture from the same period, is a deftly crafted octagonal work, created from painted canvas and stainless steel, with the latter used for decoration. Lompoc, a large red square, also revealing Light and Space influences, is made from Plexiglas and stainless steel.

This retrospective is brilliantly curated by Peter Frank, a widely known L.A. art critic, curator and poet. In this installation, which fills several galleries on two floors, Frank explores DeLap’s investigations into the similarities and differences of painting and sculpture, and into the inventive union of the two disciplines. He displays the pieces so that they reflect and dialogue with each other—and even encourage the viewer to dialogue with them.

Tony DeLap: A Retrospective
Laguna Art Museum
307 Cliff Drive, Laguna Beach, CA 92651


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