At Parrasch Heijnen Gallery in LA this past Saturday, more than a few visitors craned their necks to look behind Peter Alexander’s resin sculptures, as if they were trying to figure out exactly where the stillness of light was coming from. There were tall wedges that rose from dark, solid bases into light, barely-there slivers and trapezoids in which the colour ranged from nearly transparent to inky in hue, all capturing the essence of that hazy, southern Californian amalgamation of sun, water and sky.
The works in this retrospective are made of dyed resin, but their thrall originates from the immersive experience of surfing. Alexander began working with polyester resin, he says, when he noticed the clarity of the material while using it to glaze his surfboard as a young man. His early cube-shaped works, like the stunning Small Cloud Box (1966), are smooth on the surface, but dynamic and sometimes turbulent on the interior, encapsulating the feeling of looking out into the ocean and moving through the water. Trained as an architect, Alexander explains, 'The boxes I did in the 1960s were rooms. They were watery rooms that I would like to swim around in. That’s how I saw them.'
Alexander no longer surfs, and began working with the less-toxic urethane resin, instead of polyester resin, in 2005. The resulting sculptures, like 9/7/15 Big Red Puff (2015), a fiery red panel, are bolder in colour but more opaque than earlier works, emitting a deeper, quieter energy. Calmer, and more settled, but no less evocative.