Mary Corse was born in Berkeley, California in 1945 and lives and works in Los Angeles. She earned her BFA from Chouinard Art Institute (later renamed the California Institute of the Arts, or CalArts) in 1968. Corse first gained recognition in the mid-1960s for a series of shaped canvases – almost all of which were white monochromes. Here she began to extend beyond the traditional structure of painting and incorporate the effect of light by investigating subtle differences in surface treatment. Between 1965 and 1968, her interest in creating space continued with a series of triangular column sculptures, wall-mounted constructions of painted wood and Plexiglas and electric lightboxes. After creating a series of wall-mounted fluorescent light works in 1966 – each one also tethered to the surrounding architecture via an electrical plug – Corse hung her lone 1967 light work from the ceiling in the centre of the exhibition space. In 1968 she then eliminated the visible cords by creating a third series of light works powered wirelessly by Tesla coils, all in an effort to achieve a truly objective artwork.
Seeking to maximize the effect of the existing lightboxes, Corse conceived of an even larger light work that would require the construction of a Tesla coil over one metre in height. Her studies in physics at the University of Southern California introduced her to quantum physics and key doctrines such as the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, all of which clarified that, in her words, “there is nothing static in the universe”.
In the 1970s, Corse continued her evolution by investigating other materials with light-interactive properties, while simultaneously branching from white monochrome into black. What followed were her Black Light paintings and her Black Earth works. The succeeding years saw Corse both refine and expand her practice: creating black and grey microsphere paintings in the late 1970s and 1980s; initiating compositions such as the arch and double-arch in the late 1980s and 1990s; even returning to use of the primary colours just before the millennium. Corse believes that her greatest innovation arrived in 1996 when she first painted the “inner band”, a vertical stripe full of luminous, active brushstrokes that completely disappears into the surrounding field of the canvas from certain viewing angles. Since that time she has continued to hone her techniques, subtly evolve her core themes and resurrect materials from the preceding decades to captivating new ends.
Corse’s work is in a number of public collections including the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, USA;
the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, USA; the Menil Collection, Houston, TX, USA; the Los Angeles
County Museum of Art, CA, USA; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, CA, USA; the J. Paul Getty
Museum, Los Angeles, CA, USA; and the Fondation Beyeler, Basel, Switzerland, among many others. She is a past
recipient of the Guggenheim’s Theodoron Award, a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, and the Cartier