Malcolm McClain: Visual, Textual



Dave Hampton and the family of Malcolm McClain present:


A weekend exhibition of works & words on paper from the notebooks of Malcolm McClain at Ronis Fine Art in Golden Hill.

Malcolm McClain (1923-2012), native son of Los Angeles, was an unpretentious intellectual who fought in the Battle of the Bulge, painted, drew and wrote poetry after WWII in Paris, New York and Mexico City. He also threw clay in Peter Voulkos’s seminal class of first-generation Abstract Expressionist ceramicists at the Los Angeles County Art Institute. While living in Tijuana in the late 1950s, McClain began teaching at the Art Center in La Jolla (now MCASD) and later became a professor of sculpture and ceramics at Cal State Los Angeles, where he remained until his retirement as Dean of the School of Arts and Letters in 1988. A gruff, charismatic figure to his students, McClain was a lifelong anti-authoritarian, an attitude shaped by his combat experience and disdain for hypocrisy.

As part of an overall practice that included sculpture, painting, and ceramics, McClain was also devoted to writing and drawing. He filled intimate notebooks with typed texts, handwritten poems, clippings and commentary, along with curious collages, delicate watercolors, and bold, inky brushwork. Some of his texts may be appreciated for their strongly visual qualities, while at times his drawings rely on words to complete them. In both cases, we are reminded that writing and drawing are fundamentally the same.

MALCOLM MCCLAIN: VISUAL, TEXTUAL presents selections from this highly personal body of work, pages from the life of the artist, from the late 1940s through the late 1970s. In honor of McClain’s life and work, the exhibition will also include the premiere of a work for voice and tape by Charles Curtis – a sound installation drawn from texts by McClain.

Saturday, November 8 and Sunday, November 9

10 am to 4pm

Ronis Fine Art

1946 Broadway, San Diego, CA 92102




Review of Malcolm McClain: Visual, Textual by E. Nielsen, as published on

“High from a Harley ride, I opened the doors at Ronis Fine Art to find a secret treasure. Dave Hampton’s curated show of McClain’s works sparkled as they bathed in the morning sun through the storefront windows. Selected notebook works from the 40’s through the 70’s highlighted pieces emphasizing and incorporating text. In the text about the show, Dave states, “we are reminded that writing and drawing are fundamentally the same.” The words in the art remind me of Cage’s use of words to express and score music. These pieces struck me as authentic elements of an American canon, loved by so many.

The show also included the premier of a sound piece by Charles Curtis. This holistic addition of sound added immensely to the overall experience. The text for the sounds was the exact text represented in the McClain pieces. Five tape decks, spinning endlessly, emitted the voices of Curtis and others who knew the artist. The decks were placed in various parts of the room and greatly enhanced the ethereal spirit of the gallery. As the visual art incorporated text, so did the music, as spoken word. We are reminded that speaking and singing are fundamentally the same.

The intertwining of the visual and the aural incorporated the small room into a charged atmosphere, becoming the art. The intimacy of the small notebook pieces combined with the loving hand of Mr. Hampton’s delicate touch insured an experience truly worthy of the morning.”