Historians, critics, and scholars have long disagreed about the boundaries of the term Light and Space.
Curator Hal Glicksman thought that, in addition to perceptual science and aerospace technology, Light and Space artists were increasingly interested in Asian mysticism. Artist Joe Ray also observed a turn toward mysticism among his peers, but he associated it more with an interest in hallucinogens and the cosmos. “The whole community was into the mystical aspects of making art, the alchemy,” Ray said, looking back at the 1960s in a 2011 interview with curator-critic Ed Schad. Ray, a Louisiana native who was drafted into the U.S. Army not long after arriving in Los Angeles in 1963, returned in 1967 after a year in Vietnam to find his peers preoccupied with plastics. In the late ’60s and early ’70s, he began working on a series of cast-resin and Plexiglas rings, stacking the rings on top of each other and placing a perfect round orb inside of them. “I was thinking of the circulatory system as equally vast as the celestial,” he recalled. “I was looking to latch into something other than earthly things.”