John McLaughlin (1898-1976) was a California-based abstract painter, widely considered to be a pioneer of Minimalism and Hard-Edge Painting. McLaughlin inherited a love of Asian Art from his parents fairly early in life, and after his service in the Navy during World War One ended, he moved to Japan with his wife, Florence Emerson, a descendent of Ralph Waldo Emerson.
He began to paint relatively late in life and was self-taught, influenced mostly by his studies in Asia. During the 1930s and 40s, he was one of the only American artists to be painting abstracts. McLaughlin’s style is characterized by the interaction between precise geometric forms (usually rectangles) and carefully proportioned negative space. His Zen teachings informed him that the space between objects, called “the marvelous void,” was often more important than the objects themselves. He explained: “My purpose is to achieve the totally abstract. I want to communicate only to the extent that the painting will serve to induce or intensify the viewer’s natural desire for contemplation without benefit of a guiding principle.”
McLaughlin’s first solo exhibition was in 1952 at the Felix Landau Gallery in Los Angeles, and he continued to show all over the country throughout his career including at La Jolla Museum of Contemporary Art, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and the Whitney Museum of American Art. The artist died in 1976 at his home in Dana Point, California.