Vasa (Velizar Mihich)

In 1933, artist Velizar Mihich, better known now simply as "Vasa," was born in the former Yugoslavia. An academically trained painter, Vasa began teaching at the University of Belgrade in 1956 and grew particularly conscious of various developments in mid-century American art while on a visit to Paris. In 1960, he decided to immigrate to the United States, eventually settling in Los Angeles and becoming a US citizen. Southern California appealed to Vasa for its bustling art scene, but he opted to make the city his home especially because of its vibrant colors and the quality of light.

After a brief phase during which Vasa experimented with impressionistic paintings of the Los Angeles cityscape, he came under the influence of the Hard Edge painters and the Light and Space Movement. While Abstract Expressionism had lured Vasa to America, he was most shaped by the West Coast minimalist styles that held sway in the 1960s. Beginning in 1964, Vasa took up three-dimensional painted construction as his preferred medium, with plastic becoming his structural material of choice by 1967. Gradually, Vasa became associated with his recognizable, colorful acrylic sculptures that often take geometric forms. Vasa's first gallery exposure was at Feigen-Palmer in Los Angeles and he was subsequently part of the important exhibition, American Sculptures of the Sixties, at the Los Angeles County Art Museum in 1967. While Vasa has worked in other mediums, he is still best known for his richly hued acrylic compositions, for which former Los Angeles Times critic Henry Seldis called Vasa "the most sensuous and sensational colorist of the Southern California artists working in plastic."

Vasa is also a professor emeritus at UCLA's Department of Design and Media Arts, where he taught color theory and interdependence along with the relation of color to form, placement, and after-images. Although Vasa is retired from teaching, he is still active in his artist studio in Los Angeles, which is outfitted with cutting-edge technology to create formally inventive sculptures in a vivid spectrum of colors. In addition to exhibiting widely, Vasa has works of his included in the collections of institutions such as the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, DC, and the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium in Brussels. Among Vasa's private commissions are sculptures for former Secretary-General of the United Nations Kofi Annan, Queen Silvia of Sweden, Google, and NBA champion Shaquille O'Neal.

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