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“Taukin,” oil/wax on
canvas, 96 x 96”, 1987.

"Black Bronze Room," bronze,
8 x 8 x 8", 1991.
Collection of Samuel and
Barbara Maskett, Venice.

"La Mer," La Jolla Museum of
Contemporary Art Installation,
plaster/flashe/gold leaf,
63 x 384 x 1 1/2", 1985.
Collection of the artist.

"Large Vessel #2," oil and wax
on canvas, 96 x 60", 1992.
Collection of Sun America.

"Tibetan Door #1," oil on
canvas, 96 x 84", 1999.
Collection of Charles
Thurston, Santa Monica.


by John O'Brien

(Pepperdine University, Frederick R. Weisman Museum of Art, Malibu) Starting from the early 1970's and running right through his inclusion in the 1981 Whitney Biennial, Peter Lodato's work with light and color in environments received acclaim. Along with other renowned Los Angeles-based artists, he was then elaborating on what would be later heralded as a West Coast school of perceptual art practices. Loosely confederated through these practices, this group of artists made reference to the technical tenets of a minimal or reductive painting, but they banked it off of the atmospheric absorption in California light and sky. As a whole, they fairly uniformly stepped away from the canvas and easel, and turned their attention to the surrounding environment, the architectural envelope housing the work of art, and to new industrial modeling and coloring materials like resins, plastics and fiberglass. The extended grammar of light, color and space installation came into being through their collective elaboration of the ideas first explored by the California Light and Space movement. Lodato participated in this historical genesis.

By the start of the 1980's, the point at which this exhibition picks up, new stylistic developments (primarily neo-expressionism, art appropriation and image/text works) had turned the art viewing public's attention away from nuanced perceptual works. Lodato, like other artists, was freed from the glare of critical appraisal, but would have to deal with the condition of doing art work that was suddenly less fashionable. In this survey, viewers are taken through his production from the end of the installations to the drawing and painting, from the early 1980's to the present.

The last two decades of Lodato's work correspond to the time in which the artist stopped concentrating on works of an environmental scale and either forged or honed other tools for the expression of his poetics. All of those tools were imbued with color, many with the power of his accrued perceptual practice. He draws images with watercolor or graphite on paper that could look like austere environments seen from above. Their spatial ambiguity forces a convergence between the depiction of light/space environments and the free floating, abstracted qualities of purely two dimensional forms. He has carefully fashioned pedestals that display small, square, open topped "rooms." Their glowing interiors and shiny exteriors play the diminutive scale of an architectural maquette against the visual breadth and strength of brightly mirrored and reflective surfaces. He now paints with oil on canvas, transforming and miniaturizing his obsessions with real space into the multiple sensorial illusions of pictorial space.

Since Lodato has been making and exhibiting art since the early seventies, the first thing I wondered was why did this survey avoid the temptation of becoming a retrospective. Why did it avoid the traditional nomenclature for crowning past achievement? I think I now know why: A retrospective can be described as the summing up of a artist's past, and the culmination implicit in this categorization in many ways alludes to the end of a process. Curator Michael Zakian found that this artist is very much in the present, and therefore framed the exhibition to accent individual creative continuity over historical shifts. A good choice considering that, as time goes on, the nuanced and focused qualities of Lodato's research in the arts seem to resonate ever more clearly.