Sheila Pinkel (American, b. 1941) earned her MFA in 1977 from UCLA and was Professor of Art at Pomona College from 1986 to 2012. Pinkel’s career spans experimental light studies, documentary photography, long-term community-based projects, and public art. Pinkel lives and works in Los Angeles.
In recent years Pinkel’s work has been exhibited at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Denver Museum of Art, and the Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona. Her work is held in the collections of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; the Art Institute of Chicago; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; and the Musée National d’Art Moderne – Centre Pompidou, Paris, among other institutions.
The Pinkelgraphs on view are early phenomenological light experiments that Pinkel began after discussions with a physicist spurred her to think of light as a substance with which to paint. Here, in her series Folded Paper (1974 – 1982), Pinkel has distilled her process down to a sheet of photographic paper and a single source of light. In the darkroom she crushes and folds the paper to create a sculpture, then turns on a one-point light source that exposes the paper at different rates depending on the angle of contact. The sculptural form is then flattened and processed and the image appears, also documenting Pinkel’s physicality. The artist describes each session in the darkroom as an adventure and a discovery, with new mysterious images—seemingly latent and embedded in the paper—being pulled out through her hands. Each of the Pinkelgraphs is a series of paradoxes despite the economy of its making—a two-dimensional image of a three-dimensional volume and an abstraction of its own past form—described entirely by light and born of itself.