LAM Announces 2018 Exhibition Tony DeLap: A Retrospective


For Immediate Release: November 27, 2017


Tony DeLap, Portrait of Queen Zozer II, 1965 screenprint, edition of 20, Laguna Art Museum Collection, Gift of John McLaughlin

 (November 27, 2017) — On February 25, 2018, Laguna Art Museum will open the exhibition Tony DeLap: A Retrospective. The exhibition and accompanying catalogue will survey DeLap’s career and influence, from his first exhibition at the Oakland Museum of California in 1960 to the present, taking a critical look at his role in various movements as well as the decidedly non-linear development of his body of work.

Tony DeLap: A Retrospective is a ninetieth-birthday tribute to Orange County’s foremost living artist. Although the museum collects and shows art from all parts of California, it takes a special interest in artists of quality who have lived and worked in its own backyard. The DeLap retrospective joins John McLaughlin: Western Modernism/Eastern Thought (1996) and Marcia Hafif: From the Inventory (2015) to form a trilogy of Laguna Art Museum exhibitions devoted to the key figures of abstract art in this region.

DeLap has been at the nexus of significant art movements throughout his career. A leading practitioner of Southern California minimalism and “finish/fetish,” he also played a part in the development of op art, hard-edge painting, the California Light and Space movement, and site-specific installation. For years he has played with the concept of an artwork’s edge and explored the point where painting and sculpture intersect. His expertise and interest in magic have led him to make objects “float” and otherwise defy explanation.

As the selection of works in the exhibition and the writings in this catalogue will show, DeLap’s vision matured while he was still living and working in the Bay Area. In the mid-1960s he was the subject of a major article by John Coplans in Artforum (1964) and showed his work in landmark exhibitions in New York such as The Responsive Eye at the Museum of Modern Art (1965) and Primary Structures at the Jewish Museum (1966). He chose not to make the obvious career move and go east, however, and his reputation and influence would center in the art worlds of the West Coast. Since 1965 he and his wife, Kathy DeLap, have lived in Corona del Mar. They came south after Tony became a founding member of the art faculty of the new University of California, Irvine. He taught at UCI for twenty-seven years, nurturing countless young talents. He has been a constant presence in Southern California through his teaching and through large-scale outdoor works such as Floating Lady outside the Newport Harbor Art Museum (now the Orange County Museum of Art) (installed 1978) and The Big Wave over Wilshire Boulevard in Santa Monica (installed 1989). In 1994 California State University, Fullerton explored his interest in magic in The House of the Magician: An Installation of Reconstructed Works from 1967-1979, and in 2000-2001 the Orange County Museum of Art presented the most ambitious and comprehensive exhibition of his work to date, curated by Bruce Guenther and accompanied by a catalogue with essays by Guenther and Peter Plagens.

It has been almost a generation, then, since the public last saw the range of DeLap’s work in a full retrospective. This and his ninetieth would have been enough in themselves to move the museum to recognize his achievements. But the idea seemed all the more attractive in light of the growth of his reputation outside of California in the past few years, both nationally and internationally, and by some thought-provoking recent explorations of his career, work, and ideas. They include the museum’s own exhibition Best Kept Secret: UCI and the Development of Contemporary Art in Southern California 1964-1971 (2011-2012), curated by Grace Kook-Anderson, which arose from conversations between DeLap and the museum’s then-director, Bolton Colburn. Shortly afterwards, the Oceanside Museum of Art presented the engaging mini-retrospective Tony DeLap: Selections from 50 Years (2013) and filmmaker Dale Schierholt completed the interview-based documentary Tony DeLap: A Unique Perspective (2014), the first in the California Masters series, a co-production with Laguna Art Museum. Schierholt’s film is a delightful portrait, full of glimpses into the artist’s thought processes, methods, and humor, proof that there is nothing like hearing it from the horse’s mouth. Finally Tony DeLap: Painting, Sculpture & Works on Paper 1962-2013 (also 2014), a lavishly illustrated volume with a fine essay by Barbara Rose, has made more images of his work available in one place than ever before.

To provide a fresh look at DeLap at this moment of heightened interest, the museum engaged as its guest curator the independent curator, art critic, and poet Peter Frank. He has worked closely with the artist on a new selection of works and discusses them with his usual flair in the main essay in this catalogue. He had already written about DeLap in various other essays and reviews, beginning in the late 1970s, and contributed an essay about the early days of the UCI art department to the Best Kept Secret catalogue. The retrospective catalogue has provided Frank with the opportunity to bring his thoughts together and elaborate upon them more fully.

Tony DeLap: A Retrospective will include approximately eighty paintings, sculptures, and drawings borrowed from collections in California and around the U.S. The exhibition will be on view through May 28, 2018.


About Laguna Art Museum

Laguna Art Museum is the museum of California art. Its mission is to collect, care for, and exhibit works of art that were created by California artists or represent the life and history of the state. Through its permanent collection, its special loan exhibitions, its educational programs, and its library and archive, the museum enhances the public’s knowledge and appreciation of California art of all periods and styles, and encourages art-historical scholarship in this field.

Laguna Art Museum stands just steps from the Pacific Ocean in the beautiful city of Laguna Beach. The museum is proud to continue the tradition of the Laguna Beach Art Association, founded in 1918 by the early California artists who had discovered the town and transformed it into a vibrant arts community. The gallery that the association built in 1929 is part of today’s Laguna Art Museum.

Laguna Art Museum is located at 307 Cliff Drive in Laguna Beach, on the corner of Pacific Coast Highway and Cliff Drive.

Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Friday, Saturday: 11:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Thursday: 11:00 a.m. – 9:00 p.m.
Closed Wednesdays
Closed Fourth of July, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day

General admission: $7.00
Students, seniors (60+), and active military: $5.00
Children under 12: FREE
Museum members: FREE

Media Contact: Cody Lee, Director of Communications | 949.494.8971 x211 |