The Work of DeWain Valentine

Executed in 1967-1968 and made of fiberglass reinforced polyester, Quadruple Diamond manifests DeWain Valentine’s focus on phemenology and the process of creation. Repurposing industrial plastics allowed Valentine to transform the rectangular picture plane into a three-dimensional object that blurs the boundaries between painting and sculpture. The shimmering purple hue of Quadruple Diamond bestows perceptual instability to the overall form that recalls a California hot rod. The techniques required to polish and buff the surface further contextualizes Valentine’s position as one of LA’s ‘Finish Fetish’ artists. Quadruple Diamond’s balance and harmony stems from the union of monochromatic color, physical scale and the simple organization of repeated units.

Valentine’s interest in industrial plastics developed at a young age when he began experimenting with painting and welding in his parents’ auto-body shop. This exploration continued when the Air Force and Navy declassified acrylic, fiberglass and polyester resin and donated surplus materials to his junior high school shop class. Valentine decided to pursue a career as an artist and this exposure greatly influenced his work. When faced with the choice to move east or west, the decision was obvious. New York galleries expressed interest in his work, but chose not to show it upon the realization that plastics, not bronze or steel, were his preferred media. The work of West Coast artists such as Larry Bell, Craig Kauffmann and Tony Berlant coincided with his interests. Valentine moved to Los Angeles in 1965 and he quickly connected with and became a member of the city’s budding artistic community.

The use of industrial materials and processes was not unique to Valentine, however. Dan Flavin appropriated fluorescent lights, Claes Oldenburg created his soft objects with vinyl and Donald Judd turned to Plexiglas and a range of metals. Donald Judd never ascribed his work to any given term, but there are many parallels between Judd and Valentine’s work of the mid 1960s. Each artist eschewed the static limitations of the rectilinear and two-dimensional picture plane in favor of three-dimensionality. Written the same year as Valentine’s relocation to Los Angeles in 1964-1965, Donald Judd’s landmark article Specific Objects codifies the aesthetic presence, grand design and seductive simplicity that influenced the new work of the 1960s. Ultimately, what would become known as ‘Minimalism’ was a reduction of components to constitute a work so that a single and specific object was defined by its color, form and material. 

De Wain Valentine 1936–2022

De Wain Valentine was born in Fort Collins, Colorado in 1936. As a child, Valentine loved to play outdoors; he was fascinated by the jewel-like tones and surfaces of the semi-precious stones embedded in rock formations. In high school, an art teacher introduced Valentine to plastics and polyesters, materials that were only recently declassified and shortly thereafter, he began to experiment with the creation of different finishes and mixtures in plastics. Valentine was struck by the forms of artists like Ken Price and Craig Kaufmann who were a part of the Light and Space movement of art taking hold in California in the early 1960s. In 1965, Valentine moved to Los Angeles and he started working with a commercial plastic company, when he invented his own type of plastic resin called Valentine MasKast, which could be cast in a single pouring. He used this resin to create monumental works of art that gleam like the souped-up cars of the California greasers. In 1966, Valentine exhibited his cast sculptures at Ace Gallery, his first one-man show, and in 1979 the Los Angeles County Museum of Art held a solo exhibition dedicated to his work. Valentine’s work is often inspired by the expansive and colorful landscapes of the West Coast, his sculptures capturing what he calls the “transparent colored space” of water and light.

Auction Results De Wain Valentine