From September 13, 2011, through March 11, 2012, the Getty Conservation Institute is presenting From Start to Finish: De Wain Valentine's "Gray Column," an exhibition focused on the materials and fabrication processes developed by Valentine that made the creation of his large-scale works possible. The exhibition, part of the Los Angeles-wide Pacific Standard Time initiative, centers around the 1975–76 sculpture Gray Column, which, at twelve feet high, eight feet wide, and about thirty-five hundred pounds, is one of the largest artworks Valentine made with polyester resin, a material he worked with for over a decade.
Valentine was one of a number of artists during the postwar era in Los Angeles who adopted new materials and highly innovative fabrication processes for their work, most of which were being developed for use in the aerospace, boat, automobile, and even surfboard industries. Valentine turned to polyester resin, a material that could be cast and polished to create sculpture with a stunning, pristine surface. However, the commercially available polyester resins could only be used to create relatively small objects—anything more than a thin layer of resin would crack badly during the casting process because of the high levels of heat released on curing. Unwilling to accept this limitation, Valentine partnered with a local representative from PPG Industries' resins division to modify the companys existing products. With much trial and error, the pair was able to develop a polyester resin that would enable Valentines vision: to create, with a single pour of resin, luminous artworks of much larger proportions.
From Start to Finish brings to the public's attention the importance of the materials and manufacturing processes utilized in Valentines innovative work, illustrating the story of how this extraordinary piece of art, Gray Column, was made—from the casting of the resin to the extensive polishing required to achieve the final, perfectly smooth finish. The exhibition also explores some of the practical and ethical issues related to the conservation of this contemporary artwork—in particular, the conflict between Valentine's intent and the natural aging phenomena exhibited by the resin.
Available in conjunction with the exhibition is the publication From Start to Finish: De Wain Valentine's Gray Column. For more information on the exhibition, see the "Exhibitions and Events" tab on the Getty's Pacific Standard Time website.