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10 Artists Who Riff On Light As A Raw Material

Plastic? Pft. Wood? Nah. A new collection at Storm King features the work of 14 artists designing with light. Here’s a peek.

It’s a gallery unlike any other. While most art centers are confined to a building or two, Storm King stretches out over 500 acres in the southern tip of New York. And its latest exhibition, Light and Landscape, takes advantage of every inch.

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Katie Paterson, 100 Billion Suns, 2011

Light and Landscape features 25 pieces, created by 14 artists, that stretch beyond Storm King’s headquarters into its vast periphery of hills and woods. The connecting theme is simply light, making it perfect fodder for outdoor exploration.

“Many of the works on view change just slightly as time passes–as the sky brightens or dims, even momentarily,” Associate Curator Nora Lawrence tells Co.Design, and it’s easy to see what she means. Mirror Fence, by Alyson Shotz, riffs on the traditional white picket fence with polished stainless steel. In some lights, it’s nearly invisible in its surroundings. But at dusk or dawn, it’s likely the only thing in view reflecting a sunrise or sunset, glowing with hues so chromatically complex that a mere photo on a laptop screen cannot begin to do justice.

Other works are a bit more tangential. Peter Coffin’s Untitled (Bees Making Honey) highlights the various ways in which bees rely on sunlight to live and is accompanied by explanations from a beekeeper who offers visitors samples of honey. Katie Paterson’s 100 Billion Suns is a confetti cannon, playing with the eyeball-Pop Rocks effect of light on scraps of color. Spencer Finch’s Lunar is a makeshift lunar lander, consisting of a glowing geodesic dome atop a metal stand. Each evening, it will glow in the exact color of the moon, as measured in Chicago. And William Lamson’s Solarium appears to be a stained-glass greenhouse . . . until you realize the panes are made of sugar. Inside, plants grow sugar from this sugar-filtered light. It’s a circularly sweet bonanza of photosynthesis.


Matthew Buckingham, Celeritas, 2009

But each is a riff on light–from its aesthetics (and really, all aesthetics are induced by light at some point) to its function in the greater world.

“We hope the exhibition will also make people think, even in fleeting instances, of their place in the universe and of the power of nature around us,” Lawrence says. And we can certainly appreciate that thought, assuming we’re allowed to not just taste the honey but lick the buildings, too.

Light and Landscape will be on display until November 11.

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About the author

Mark Wilson is a senior writer at Fast Company who has written about design, technology, and culture for almost 15 years. His work has appeared at Gizmodo, Kotaku, PopMech, PopSci, Esquire, American Photo and Lucky Peach

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