Abstract Spaces of Light

In the 1960s, a group of artists in the Los Angeles area began a loose affiliation called the Light and Space movement.  Some of the influences on these artists came from geometric abstract art, minimalism, and op art. They chose to focus their works on exploring the perception of light and volume, playing with aspects of scale as well. Their choices of materials ran from neon and fluorescent lights to glass, resins and cast acrylic, all media which would allow manipulation of the viewer’s perception of light.

Helen Pashgian Capturing Light

Among these artists, Helen Pashgian eventually settled into using cast resin as her principal creative medium. She has created sculptures from fiberglass, coated glass and plastics, but resin features in many of her works. The material allows her to incorporate vibrant color in her works while allowing the play of light in the interior to alter the viewer’s perception of the work as one moves around it.

“Untitled” (sphere), by Helen Pashgian

“Untitled” (sphere), by Helen Pashgian

This intriguing sphere of cast resin has an eight inch diameter, giving it a size comparable to a volleyball. The slice of vivid blue through the interior speaks to the intrigue of the deep sky or the deep ocean, all caught in a translucent bubble that is more than just “crystal clear.” She plays with our expectation of bubbles having a singular nature, bending light through color before meeting the blue.

After receiving her MA from Boston University, Pashgian had begun working toward a Ph.D at Harvard University, intending to pursue a career in museum or academic work. But while teaching an applied art class at a local high school, the activity of physically making art absorbed her. She turned from the purely academic engagement with art to shaping it herself. She continues to live and work in Pasadena, California, and for a 2014 exhibition at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art she has produced an installation of twelve columns that intrigue by their response to light and containment of unexpected shapes and color hidden in their forms.

Light, Shape and Color

The interaction of light, shape and color comprises the heart of what most artists work to capture. Some choose to do so in more recognizably familiar forms, while others abstract the essence of the element they wish to consider. The works of Diana Hobson, throughout her career, address these issues in her own way. Hobson has chosen to work primarily with oil paints on canvas, rather than the cast resins that Pashgian prefers.  Yet the results, even in her earlier works, show that Hobson too explores the interactions of space and light.

"Pyramid Falls" by Diana Hobson

“Pyramid Falls” by Diana Hobson

In her 1975 work, “Pyramid Falls,” Hobson shifts from the green at the top to the blue at the bottom, filtering the change through the light colored geometric shapes. The work conveys an airy openness, where each transition feels inevitable. She has abstracted the shapes and colors from nature, while communicating a sense of spring-like light.

More of Hobson’s abstract work can be seen at her website, and at her Venice Beach studio on Abbot Kinney.


“Untitled” (sphere), by Helen Pashgian, (cast polyester resin, overall dimensions: 8 in. diameter); Museum purchase, International Contemporary Collectors Fund. Copyright by Helen Pashgian. Photo by Philipp Scholz Rittermann. Image included here under Fair Use Practices for instruction and information.

“Pyramid Falls” by Diana Hobson, 1975. Copyright by Diana Hobson. Image used by permission.


The LACMA exhibition of Helen Pashgian’s “Light Invisible” ran through June 29, 2014.


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