During college an idea started to percolate
in my mind.
|Bruce with plexule, 1975
I asked myself how I might create a genuinely three dimensional drawing. One you could pick up and view from different angles.
No doubt this idea came to mind as a result of all the architectural drawings I had been dealing with. Eventually I decided to start by pouring a small slab of casting resin (such as people might use to encapsulate insects, spiders, dandelions and the like), and then paint the “first floor”
|Plexule : Figure 1
design on the slightly less than flat surface. After that I would paint the ”second floor” design lined up with the first, pour another layer of resin, and continue on. Once the layers were done I took the piece to a machine shop where a band saw was used to cut smooth flat faces on the semi-amophous chunk of resin after which it was sanded and polished. During this time I had been reading Carl Jung and it seemed natural to start with mandala designs, which are archetypal expressions of wholeness and order. Later I devised a way to use pieces of plexiglas, each painted with a layer of design, and laminated together into a solid block. I took a class in screen printing and moved on to producing small editions of three dimensional serigraphs which I called plexules. (fig. 1)
I consider all these to comprise a completely new medium which is neither sculpture nor painting nor hologram but which is distinct from all of them. I had a hard time having them taken seriously as art because they were too small.
The laminating method I was using was not strong enough to hold up under the internal stresses of large pieces such as the ones Bruce Beasley was doing at the time, and the equipment I would need to research the problem was way beyond my means.
However, working with plexiglas, vinyl screen printing inks and stencils lead me on to painting on the back of plexiglas(“second surface” the guys at General Graphics in San Francisco would say). With a specific area of the
painting isolated by a stencil, I would paint detail first on the surface of the plex and then airbrush the background color “behind” that. After that I had to glue a backing piece to the paint surface in order to protect it and to hang the piece.The resulting plexiglas paintings have a very crisp graphic quality and a wonderfully smooth glossy surface. Sometimes they were as much as half an inch thick. (fig. 2) The next innovation was made possible when my Cibachrome printer made me aware of General Graphics and their laminating services. I had Cibachrome prints made and had them laminated to plex second surface.
These multiples have a similar quality as the plex paintings and I called them plexigraphs.
Two more innovations followed: first, I began creating somewhat intricate stenciled and hand painted border designs (fig.3)
which gave the pieces a framed look without adding a conventional frame.( I sometimes would joke that the piece was an original painting and that the picture in the middle was part of the “frame”) and second, I invented a new method of laminating prints to plex. This method avoided the little bubbles that outgassing sometimes created in the General Graphics laminations, and I could do it in my own studio in Carmel Valley, with equipment I made myself.