Over time the configurations of the set would change from leaning towers, to miniature fortresses, pyramids, or stacks. Vasa’s work invites whoever may have been sitting in front of the table to interact with the cubes, move them, hold them in the palm of their hand and admire the intricate prisms contained inside. The complexities of the universe seemed to be captured inside a deceptively simple and precise object. The beauty of Vasa is his ability to make the most technical sculptural technique seem effortless. The laminated cast acrylic cubes condensed the intricacies of the color spectrum and were vessels of illumination both of light and the imagination.
My parents began collecting Vasa’s works in the early 80’s and when I was born, Vasa gave me a cube of my own inscribed with my name, the year of my birth, and his signature. The cube has been with me ever since. Vasa probably never thought that I would grow up to become involved in the arts and start an art collection of my own. While I admire each piece in my collection for the unique story they tell, Vasa’s piece remains the most meaningful. I say this not just because it was my first piece of art, but because of the philosophy Vasa imbedded within his work that stressed that art should not only be admired but should be a part of one’s daily life.
When the California issue was in its early stages of development, I knew that Vasa had to be a part of it. A senior Professor of Design at the University of California, Los Angeles – Vasa has been a force in the California art scene since 1964 working in both painting and sculpture. I respect Vasa for his inventiveness forging his own genre that looked ahead to the digital age long before it even existed. When we arrived at his studio, I met Vasa for the first time, clutching the cube he had given me nearly 25 years ago in my hand. Before I even said hello, I held it up to show him that I’ve taken care of it all this time. In the reflection of the sun and the light in Vasa’s eyes, the cube never looked better.
A labyrinth of workshops and studio spaces, Vasa’s compound is filled with sculptures, paintings, and works in progress. A display room featuring the smaller sculptures including geometric shapes such as severely angled triangles both upright and tiled on their sides, spheres of varying sizes, arches, and small monoliths. The alluring design, precision, and illuminating colors shine brightly on the display cases that occupy an entire room. Wandering through the compound I encountered large-scale freestanding sculptures that caused me to pause and consider how they were ever constructed. His paintings demonstrate a similar painstaking attention to detail as they are based on repetition of patterns and color stories. What’s most impressive is that everything that the artist uses to create his work is made on-site. Everything from the acrylic casts, the braces for canvases, to the mixture of the paints. The space reflects Vasa’s career as some paintings were started in one decade and finished in the next. Stacks of paintings several feet deep lean again the walls, while a single chair is placed in the middle of the room where Vasa undoubtedly spends many hours observing and revising.
Vasa is filled with a wealth of beautiful ideas. As we toured his space, I was just as mesmerized by his gentle demeanor and the sensitivity to which he spoke about his work as I was by the work itself. There were several moments when we encountered a sculpture that he swore he would never sell, and other instances where he admitted the painting still wasn’t complete. Vasa’s works are living, breathing entities that illuminated my own house growing up with a tremendous sense of wonder. Like his sculptures, Vasa possess an internal and magical light that brightens even the darkest corner.