John McLaughlin (1898 – 1976) began painting in 1932, shortly thereafter he lived in Japan for several years before working as a translator for the US Army Intelligence from 1941-45. In 1946 he settled in Dana Point, California and fully devoted his life to painting. Associated with the Hard-Edge Abstraction movement of Southern California, McLaughlin’s paintings are also influenced by his time in Japan and are contemplative pieces that investigate the void in the composition.
“My purpose is to achieve the totally abstract. I want to communicate only to the extent that the painting will serve to induce or intensify the viewer’s natural desire for contemplation without benefit of a guiding principle. I must therefore free the viewer from the demands or special qualities imposed by the particular by omitting the image (object). This I manage by the use of neutral forms. The uncompromised form by virtue of its power to withhold neither reveals or conceals. Its function is merely to indicate that reality may be sensed by the viewer when released from the insistent demands of substantive quality. The reservoir of total experience may be reflected by the void or anonymous form. With respect to my direct influences I must stress my interest in 15th and 16th century Japanese painters. I have found comfort in some aspects of thought expressed by Malevitch, and I am indebted to Mondrian because his painting strongly indicated that the natural extension of Neo-Plasticism is the totally abstract.” – John McLaughlin, Pasadena: Pasadena Art Museum, 1963, n.p.
McLaughlin’s work has been shown in international exhibitions, including exhibitions at the Pasadena Art Museum (solo); Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington D.C. (solo); Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (solo); Centre Pompidou, Paris (group) and Hayward Gallery, London (two-person). McLaughlin’s work is in a number of private and public collections including the Albright-Knox Gallery, Buffalo, NY; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Museum of Modern Art, New York; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco and Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.
“Vastly underrecognized, California painter John McLaughlin (1989-1976) remains an ‘artist’s artist,’ a maverick geometric abstractionist whose unsettling, exploratory canvases thrive on a particularly Asian style of paradox. With its refinement and formal austerity, his is one of the country’s most coherent bodies of abstract work. Using simple geometric forms and sparse coloration, McLaughlin imbued every nuance of his reductive abstractions with weight. As a maker of enduring objects for contemplation, he is also a crucial West Coast predecessor for Light and Space artists such as Larry Bell, James Turrell and Robert Irwin.”
– Michael Duncan, “John McLaughlin: Transcending the Particular – Painting: traveling exhibition,” Art in America, September 1997