Legendary English light artist Anthony McCall has brought his ethereal explorations of time, form and cinema to Brooklyn, with a new show at the Pioneer Works cultural center in Redhook through March 11. Solid Light Works uses the venue’s 30-foot-tall ceilings to project monumental light “drawings” through a pitch-black, smoky room, creating explorable sculptures that have form but lack physicality.

McCall’s work have always been presented as experiences rather than pieces, with his light sculptures contracting and expanding over time and constantly changing the relationship between the viewer and the art. Solid Light Works continues that tradition here, with four vertical and two horizontal installations that were selectively chosen from the artist’s bank of over 250 potential pieces.

A horizontal piece transitioning between two shapes. (Courtesy Pioneer Works)

Speaking at a Pioneer Works panel discussion on February 27, McCall discussed how the works in the show, while not site-specific, were all “site sensitive”; after the sculptures were chosen, curator Gabriel Florenz worked with McCall to build out a unique exhibition space complete with controlled sightlines and room for the lengthy horizontal projections.

Somewhere between a line drawing, sculpture, and structure, McCall has described the inhabitable portions of his works as “islands of serenity,” where viewers are sandwiched between seemingly tangible walls of light and treated to an experience that feels holy.

Drawing on the language of film, all of McCall’s work relies on wipes, a film technique where one image quickly slides over another, to shift the structure of the piece over much longer spans of time. McCall explained that while short performances might draw crowds, the same experience stretched out into an all-day event attracted singular patrons interested in interacting with the work.

The projections take on a physicality thanks to the smoke in the room.(Courtesy Pioneer Works)

Much has changed since McCall staged his first light sculpture, Line Describing a Cone. In his landmark 1973 film, the artist uses a projector to “draw” a circle with a projector in a smoke-filled room, creating a three-dimensional cone in the process. Gone is the cigarette smoke used as a transmission medium in the first showing. Moreover, moving to digital projection from film has enabled McCall to realize the towering sculptures at Pioneer Works; film projectors were simply too heavy to hang vertically. Technology has also changed the audience, and visitors might find that the delicate pieces have been drowned out by ambient smartphone light.

Pioneer Works will be showing Solid Light Works through March 11, but will keep the installation (and the building) open for 48 straight hours from March 10 through 11. More information about the show can be found here.

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