Degradation by design: artist Sam Falls explores how materials change with the passage of time

City Terrain Design East
(Courtesy James Ewing/Public Art Fund NY)

(Courtesy James Ewing/Public Art Fund NY)

Time and its degenerating aspect came under scrutiny in a public installation by Los Angeles–based artist Sam Falls. Light Over Time casts everyday outdoor objects such as benches, scales, and seesaws in an experiment of the long-term effects of sunlight, rain, and temperature on diverse materials including painted aluminum, heat-sensitive tiles, and colored glass.

Peeling paint, scratches, cracks and general harbingers of wear-and-tear evoke the passage of time, an existential pulse point for Falls. “Temporality defines life for me; our growth and movement forwarding, our aging and our death,” he said in statement.

Fascinated by the representation of light in photography, Falls used it as his muse. “I use photography as a starting point because it’s the best tool for representation–light is how we see,” he said. Untitled (Maze), is a series of powder-coated modular sculptures bolted together, cubicle-like, and painted in garish colors. One side is painted with UV protective paint and hence doesn’t age, while the other side is susceptible to the elements and degenerates.

(Courtesy James Ewing/Public Art Fund NY)

Untitled ‘Maze’ (Courtesy James Ewing/Public Art Fund NY)

(Courtesy James Ewing/Public Art Fund NY)

Untitled ‘Wind Chimes’ (Courtesy James Ewing/Public Art Fund NY)

“As more time passes, a layer of protected pigment that exists beneath the layer of unprotected UV pigment will emerge and sort of rebirth the sculpture, bringing it back to its original form,” said Falls, describing a process comparable to snakeskin shedding.

In Light Rooms, viewers step into a human-sized rectangular shelter with a marbled glass ceiling. Sunlight projects the colors of the stained glass into the tiny room, with just enough space for the head and shoulders, the dappled light ebbing and flowing according to the brightness outside.

Meanwhile, Untitled (Wind Chimes) reveals new colors beneath the surface of the painted clapper when played, while Untitled (Thermochromatic bench) features heat-sensitive tiles that change color in response to light, shadows and temperature. By combining quotidian objects such as windows, benches and playgrounds, the artist attempts to underscore the passage of time and our engagement with the objects around us.

The exhibition was on view at the MetroTech Center in Brooklyn until May 15, 2015.

(Courtesy James Ewing/Public Art Fund NY)

(Courtesy James Ewing/Public Art Fund NY)

Untitled 'Light Rooms' (Courtesy James Ewing/Public Art Fund NY)

Untitled ‘Light Rooms’ (Courtesy James Ewing/Public Art Fund NY)

(Courtesy James Ewing/Public Art Fund NY)

(Courtesy James Ewing/Public Art Fund NY)

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