Mary Corse

(b. 1945)

LAMA set the world auction record for any work by Mary Corse in June 2018 with Untitled (White Line Grid), (Lot 96), which realized $312,500.

About The Artist


A veteran of the Los Angeles art scene in the 1960s, painter Mary Corse developed her own methods of capturing fluctuating light and its changing perspectives, creating dynamic surfaces in her structurally minimalist paintings. A lifelong Californian, she was born in Berkeley, gained her Master’s degree from the Chouinard Art Institute (now the California Institute of the Arts and the alma mater of fellow artists Larry Bell and Robert Irwin), then built her studio in the Topanga Canyon.

Dubbed a Light and Space painter, Mary Corse asserts that she does not treat light as something outside–in the environment–but as something of her own creation within, when she says she is “absolutely not a landscape painter . . . It's total internal vision.” Early recognition came due to her series of Plexiglas cases housing fluorescent light bulbs. But in 1968 she changed direction when she applied tiny prismatic glass beads (or “microspheres,” the kind found embedded in some highway signs and line dividers), to paint before brushing the mixture onto prepped canvases. Corse describes the overall effect: “my paintings are not reflective! [. . .] They create a prism that brings the surface into view. I like that because it brings the viewer into the light as well.”

Her paintings are seemingly austere and blank, in various shades of white acrylic paint, but the innovative material shimmers and responds to changing light and the viewer’s movement. Untitled (White, Black, Blue Double Arch) (2000) exemplifies this technique. Corse “brings the viewer into the light” with the dramatic contrast between light and dark and its subsequent push and pull. The blue and black color fields act as “doorways” into deep, recessive spaces, while the white prismatic boundary creates the perception of floating light.

Corse was included in three significant historical group exhibitions tracing the history of Los Angeles conceptual art: Venice in Venice, a collateral exhibition curated by Nyehaus in association with the J. Paul Getty Museum at the 54th Venice Biennale (2011); Pacific Standard Time: Crosscurrents in L.A. Painting and Sculpture, 1950-1970 (2011–2012), at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles; and Phenomenal: California Light and Space (2011), at the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego. Her works are in many permanent collections here and abroad such as that of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; and the Fondation Beyeler, Basel. She continues to receive commercial and critical success. Critic Peter Plagens in his Wall Street Journal review of her May 2015 Lehmann Maupin gallery solo show claims it was the best gallery painting exhibition he’s seen “in a long while,” and David Ebony rated it No. 2 in his list of “Top 10 New York Gallery Shows for May.” Of the paintings he says, “These are commanding pieces by a veteran artist in top form.” Mary Corse lives and works in Los Angeles.


Ebony, David. “David Ebony's Top 10 New York Gallery Shows for May.” Artnet. Artnet Worldwide Corporation, 22 May 2015. Web. 17 June 2015.
Nichols, Matthew. “Mary Corse Is More Than a California Artist.” Art in America. Art in America, 9 Feb 2012. Web. 17 June 2015.
Plagens, Peter. “Smarts, Serious Fun in Painting Exhibitions: Mary Corse, Jesse Greenberg and Mi Ju in This Week’s Fine Art.” The Wall Street Journal. Dow Jones & Company, 8 May 2015. Web. 17 June 2015.
Wyma, Chloe. “19 Questions for Light and Space Artist Mary Corse.” Blouin ARTINFO. Louise Blouin Media, 2 Dec. 2014. Web. 2 Dec 2014.
Yablonsky, Linda. “Artifacts: Mary Corse.” T Magazine. The New York Times Company, 24 Feb. 2012. Web. 2 Dec. 2014.