Christopher Knight draws a bright line between the Japanese school of Mono-ha works, Lee Ufan and the work of John McLaughlin by calling attention to a new show at Blum & Poe in Los Angeles of authorized reconstructions of lost Mono-ha works:
Mono-ha, roughly translated as “School of Things,” is hardly known in the United States. But the art, which is mostly sculptural, transforms a profound Japanese aesthetic into a contemporary idiom that was also essential to the Californian’s earlier work. McLaughlin lived in Japan, China and India for many years before moving to L.A. in 1946 and starting to paint, and he bought and sold Japanese prints for much of his life.
Mono-ha is characterized by artists making worldly refinements rather than withdrawing into tradition’s cloistered realm. Materials are ordinary or industrial — dirt, water, stone, paper; steel, lumber, concrete and glass. Nature and industry often collide. For the generation following World War II’s devastating blow to national identity, the friction is unsurprising. By the ’60s, the stresses of explosive reconstruction were felt.
Artists used simple systems to establish an equivalency among the art object, the viewer and the site in which the encounter between them happens. Geometry removes personal expressions of gesture. Impermanence is prized — although impermanence often happened to the art merely as a result of general indifference toward the Japanese avant-garde among private and institutional art collectors. Sculptures were either tossed out after a show or disappeared over time.
John McLaughlin’s paintings meet Mono-ha sculptures (Los Angeles Times)