Born in 1927, Oakland, California
Died in 2019, Corona del Mar, California
Tony DeLap spent more than half a century producing meticulously crafted, illusionistic and abstract sculptures that challenge perception with their teasing, shifting shapes, form, and sense of depth.
About the Artist
Born in Oakland in 1927, Tony studied at the California College of Arts and Crafts, Academy of Art San Francisco, and Claremont Graduate School. After several teaching positions in the Bay Area, John Coplans invited Tony to join the 1965 founding faculty of UC Irvine, where he taught in the Art Department until 1991. He served as the project consultant for “Best Kept Secret, UCI and the Development of Contemporary Art in Southern California, 1964-1971” for the Getty’s “Pacific Standard Time: Art In LA 1945-1980,” at the Laguna Art Museum in 2011. With Chris Burden, James Turrell, Bruce Nauman, and Marcia Hafif among his students during his tenure at UCI, his contributions to art since the ‘60s are undeniable. His influence on his students, however, should not overcast his contributions as an artist in his own right.
Associated with Southern California’s so-called Finish Fetish movement of the 1960s, Tony stayed true to Minimalism decades after the height of its popularity and defined the work of art as “a thing in itself.” Eschewing outside references, Tony stripped art to its essence: materials and form. These materials include wood, metal, and plastics, formed into geometric shapes and multipart structures filled with illusions of depth and formal relationships that are both playful and rigorous. The LA Times’ Christopher Knight describes Tony’s work as “impossible objects,” not
only because they graft the otherwise distinct forms of painting and sculpture, but also because of Tony’s peculiar geometries. Tony’s hybrid painting-sculptures are truly confounding to experience. These “irregular geometries” cast dynamic shadows that invite viewers to experience the work from all angles, even the most oblique.
As a pioneer of Abstraction, Minimalism and Op Art on the West Coast, Tony was included in the landmark exhibitions The Responsive Eye (1965: MoMA, NY), Primary Structures (1966: Jewish Museum, NY), and American Sculpture of the Sixties (1967: LACMA, CA)—exhibitions that were crucial to the development and definition of Minimalism. Over the course of his 60-year career, he had a number of retrospectives: the Orange County Museum of Art in 2000; the San Jose Museum of Art in 2001; the Oceanside Museum of Art in 2013; and, most recently, the Laguna Art Museum’s major retrospective curated by Peter Frank in 2018.
Major museum collections include the Tate Modern, London, UK; Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, NY; the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, CA; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, CA; and Musée Cantonal des Beaux-Arts, Lausanne, Switzerland—among many others.