in the realm of contemporary art
Elusive, difficult to reproduce and capture, light remains an enduring challenge for today’s artists. Filled with powerful symbolism, light associated with power since the very beginning of Antiquity has been regarded as of divine essence. A mystery that has given rise to new expressions since the 1950s, including with the “Light and Space” movement…
By making the world visible to humans, lightais imbued with an innate principle of revelation that makes it fascinating, a sense of divinity to which Egyptian pyramids and Gothic cathedrals alike paid tribute. From Caravaggio to Vermeer, Rembrandt’s chiaroscuro to the impressionists, art history is a story of a never-ending quest for light, which has exacerbated the talents of the greatest. Since the 1950s, electricity and the appearance of new technologies have resulted in the development of artistic questionings. Another generation has become involved in new adventures where light is considered to be a material for expression. Seeking to explore its own aesthetic potential, light becomes a medium, an idea cherished by the “Light and Space” movement initiated in the 1960s by Robert Irwin with James Turrell, Larry Bell, Eric Orr and Maria Nordman.
This generation emphasizes the ephemeral nature of the aesthetic experience, which no longer confronts the spectator but completely surrounds him. Better, he is part of it because his perception is at the very heart of the work. Impermanence and perpetual transformation characterize an immersive environment that plunges every individual into an infinite luminous space, according to James Turrell. The Californian artist questions the relationship with the cosmos in his monumental works, including the most emblematic of them of all, the Roden Crater, which has been under way since 1972. In this volcano in the Arizona desert chosen for its perfect proportions, Turrell works on shaping the light through “skyspaces”, a series of chambers designed to create a contemplative experience of light, time and the relationship of each individual to the world.
ANOTHER KIND OF LIGHTNING
Different artists, different paths. From the 1960s onwards, Dan Flavin and François Morellet, two figures in the Minimal Art movement, began working on neon and fluorescent tubes, exploring light as an objective phenomenon. Their installations abolish boundaries between space and the light source, making the work a “situation” linked to the spectator’s perceptions.
WORK IN PROGRESS
In the wake of the “Light and Space” artists, others are continuing to research luminous experiences blurring spatio-temporal reference points. Ann Veronica Janssens, Olafur Eliasson, Eduardo Kac and Anish Kapoor combine light, technologies, psychology and even meteorology to conceptualize original light sensations.
The show goes on…