All eyes will be on Plano, Illinois, the small town nearly 60 miles west of the city that’s home to the Miesian masterpiece Farnsworth House, for the upcoming Chicago Architecture Biennial. Artists Iker Gil and Luftwerk duo, Petra Bachmaier and Sean Gallero, are teaming up to shed new light on the pioneering international style house, lining its underlying geometries with beams of neon laser light. The laser installation, Geometry of Light, will be open to the public from October 11th to 13th for an evening walk-through like no other. Fitted out for a tech- and social media-savvy audience, the neon-saturated installation is sure to bring attention to the Fox River site, as the home will become the next in a series of architectural icons to get the Luftwerk treatment. In 2011, the collective brought a prototype of Geometry of Light to Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater for its 75th anniversary. That installation was named INsite, and the artists collaborated with video designer Liviu Pasare and composer Owen Clayton Condon to create an audiovisual study of the house. INsite focused on outlining the building's geometric components and the experience of moving through the lines of the space. An INsite-style study was also conducted independently for the Farnsworth house in 2014. However, the latest iteration of Luftwerk’s fluorescent vision debuted this past February as Geometry of Light was applied to another famous Mies project, the Barcelona Pavilion. Both the Pavilion and the Farnsworth House, with their open, overtly modernist massings, appear to be viewed through an x-ray after Luftwerk's illumination, exposing the bones of the building from a fresh new perspective. The 2019 Farnsworth exhibit will also be enhanced by sound, as a “minimalist” soundtrack will be pumped through the home in sync with the visuals. The installation is a notable part of a wave of recent publicity for the Farnsworth House, as effort mounts to attract attention towards its preservation. Situated on the Fox River floodplain, the property of the modernist monument has been inundated by water several times since 2013, and a debate has erupted amongst preservationists and the home’s current owner over whether to protect the house or to take more drastic measures: relocation. Even though the house sits on stilts, the swampy site presents structural dangers and the stilts may not prove high enough as the flooding is predicted to worsen. “Such are the choices in an era when disastrous '100-year floods' seem to occur every few years,” a spokesperson for The National Trust for Historic Preservation, who have owned and operated the structure since 2003, told the Chicago Tribune. The group even suggested the installation of hydraulic jacks programmed to physically elevate the base of the house when floodwaters rise. Though the Mies-designed home is about an hour-and-a-half drive from the Chicago Biennial's core, Luftwerk’s eye-catching installation is sure to saturate the social media airwaves come this fall.
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English artist Anthony McCall is bringing his ghostly, “solid-light” installations back to New York City in December, with a new solo show at the Sean Kelly Gallery in East Midtown, his sixth in the space. From December 14 through January 26, 2019, visitors can catch two new works from McCall, and his 2003 piece Doubling Back, which was first shown at the 2004 Whitney Biennial. A number of McCall’s black-and-white photographs will also be on display. While McCall’s show at Brooklyn's Pioneer Works in February was able to take advantage of the space’s cavernous ceilings and present vertical light pieces, horizontal installations are the focus of the Sean Kelly show, Split Second. Despite the format change, McCall’s hallmark exploration of volumetric forms using a volume-less medium, light, will be fully on display. Split Second and Split Second (Mirror) will be making their world debut at their namesake show. In Split Second, a flat blade and elliptical cone will be projected on the gallery’s back wall and slowly combine and form intersecting planes that rotate around each other. In Split Second (Mirror), McCall will split a projected “cone” with a wall-sized mirror, “cutting” the shape with a plane of light reflected back at the source. Doubling Back was McCall’s first return to the form after a 20-year hiatus. Each of McCall’s solid-light installations are actually very slowly moving films—up to a half hour or longer—and Doubling Back is no exception. Two sinuous waves, one moving horizontally and the other vertically, overlap and form pockets of light and shadow, integrating the architecture of the gallery itself into the piece. A selection of photos from McCall’s solid-light installations from the 1970s and 2000s will also be on display, capturing still images, or slices of time, from past work. That sort of snapshot is a bit ironic considering McCall’s description of his work as intentionally slowed down, creating an ever-changing relationship between the viewer and the piece. For best results, patrons will have to experience McCall’s “sculptures” for themselves. Sean Kelly Gallery is located at 475 10th Avenue in Manhattan and is open from 11:00 AM to 6:00 PM, Tuesday through Saturday.
This past month, architect-turned-artist Phillip K. Smith III revived the 100-foot-long walkway that links two of Detroit’s most celebrated skyscrapers with a dynamic light installation. Wedged between the Guardian Building and One Woodward Avenue, the suspended passageway was built in the 1970s to allow employees of the American Natural Resources Company and Michigan Consolidated Gas Company to pass freely between the two office buildings without interference from inner-city traffic and congestion. When one of the companies relocated in the 1990s, however, the bulky walkway was abandoned. Fortunately, the sky bridge has now been revitalized with a permanent installation by the California designer known for his extravagant, light-based, and Coachella-esque works of art. Phillip K. Smith III has completely transformed the neglected passageway into a vibrant, floating bar of light that electrifies the streets of downtown Detroit. “Detroit Skybridge is another example of how underutilized spaces can be reimagined for the benefit of the public,” said the owner of Library Street Collective, the art organization that conceptualized the project. “Phillip’s use of light and color, along with his understanding of architecture and scale, makes this a compelling project for the city.” Smith drew inspiration from the geometric white concrete of Minoru Yamasaki’s 1962 One Woodward building and the variegated interior of the 1929 Guardian Building. His design, which is composed of shifting tones and moving planes of light, has added a pop of color and a renewed interest to the historic city’s constantly evolving skyline. “By day, the Skybridge will continue to be seen as its historic self within the architecture and massing of Downtown. But by night, it will become a beacon for the beauty, creativity, and innovation of Detroit,” said Smith. “I am interested in creating experiences that tap into ‘universal beauty’—experiences that make us step away from our pattern, our life, our work, our errands, and allow us to see sublime beauty shifting and changing before our eyes.”
Prismatic pyramid evokes desert mirage by day, Aurora Borealis by night.Given that their pyramidal acrylic installation at this summer's Burning Man was inspired in part by Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon album cover, it seems safe to say that the architects at Red Deer "get" the festival's vibe. "We try to get very intimate with our sites, so it was interesting to approach one that we hadn't been able to visit," said founding director Ciarán O'Brien. "Some of the primal forces we could see at play there were the heat of the desert and the way people interact with structures. Specifically, for us it was about light in all its forms." The UK firm worked closely with the structural engineers at Structure Mode to design a transparent six-meter-tall structure comprising interlocking equilateral triangles, while New York Institute of Technology professor Charles Matz contributed an integrated light display based on the Aurora Borealis. "All kinds of imagery came to mind that held to the desert landscape," said O'Brien. "By day, the concept evoked a mirage; by night, a kaleidoscope. One is ephemeral, a non-place; the other is specific, a beacon." Called Luz 2.0, the Burning Man installation is only the latest iteration of an ongoing exploration of the relationship between matter and light. The project began as a response to a commission for a band pavilion. "Red Deer's original idea was a scaffolding framework that would be clad in some reflective material," recalled Structure Mode's Geoff Morrow. "We suggested going one step beyond that and building an acrylic pyramid, to make it much more special." The clients canceled, but the designers applied for grants, ran a successful Kickstarter campaign, and debuted Luz at Secret Garden Party 2013 in Abbots Ripton, England. The first Luz featured a touch-sensitive floor screen-printed with a colorful pattern that appeared to change shape under different lighting conditions. For Burning Man, Red Deer omitted the floor "so that you interacted with the playa landscape," said O'Brien. Red Deer and Structure Mode jointly developed Luz 2.0's reciprocal modular system. "It was really interesting investigating how all these different connections could work, what different shapes could work within a three-sided pyramid," said Red Deer's Lucas Che Tizard. "The system we use is composed of equilateral triangles, but it actually gives us more than just pyramids—you see hexagons as well." The architects worked first with hand sketches, then transferred their ideas to SketchUp before moving to 3ds Max, Rhino, and Vectorworks to finalize the structure and start to explore how the modules would connect to one another. Structure Mode analyzed the design's structural stability in Oasys' GSA Suite. Red Deer flattened the final design and emailed the files to the CNC cutters. At that point the three-dimensional installation "became a flat pack kit," said O'Brien. "Part of the challenge was that each of these pieces should be human-sized, so that they could be built by a small team using basic tools in desert conditions." To simplify installation, Structure Mode developed a streamlined bolt-and-nut assembly based on furniture-making connections. "In a way it's kind of low-tech, but it looks high-tech," said O'Brien. The UK contingent shipped Luz 2.0 to the Nevada desert in three crates. The components took longer than expected to arrive: though they had hoped to begin installation on Monday, the architects were forced to wait until Thursday. Nonetheless, the on-site crew managed to assemble the pyramid in just two days using hand drills. Matz's team, meanwhile, arrived on site with the electronics, including custom hardware based on 3D models sent to them by Red Deer. The installation of the lighting system "came together seamlessly," said O'Brien. "We were somewhat concerned about voltage, but it worked out." The only disappointment involved the Mogees sensors, designed to trigger changes in the light show as visitors climbed on and around the pyramid. They worked well in a small-scale test, but "unfortunately the settings didn't translate to the seven-meter structure," said O'Brien. "I can't say it fully fulfilled that brief." Red Deer and their collaborators will soon have another shot at realizing the vision behind Luz 2.0. As befits the installation's emphasis on the immaterial—not to mention the ethos of Burning Man itself—the architects plan to re-erect the structure elsewhere. "We've had quite a few offers from various benefactors, but we haven't figured out what would be best," said O'Brien. "Right now it's in storage in Reno, awaiting its next move."
Through Saturday night, a public art project by LAND studio is turning Cleveland’s downtown malls into canvases for light displays including sweeping rainbows, iridescent discs, and high-definition projections. “Light Up Cleveland!” runs August 7–9 and is sponsored by a slew of companies and nonprofits. You can see a map and full schedule of events on ahacle.com. The installations include The Global Rainbow, which is visible from miles away, Jen Lewin’s responsive Pool of variegated stepping stones, and Drawing Lines—a maze of ropes strung up across the Cleveland Public Library's Eastman Reading Garden. Artist collective Obscura Digital will project high-resolution light works on the side of the city’s Public Auditorium, using 3D video mapping for a tactile and mesmerizing effect. LEDs abound in downtown Cleveland this weekend, which project coordinators LAND studio say reflects a growing excitement about ongoing efforts to revitalize the city's urban core. “AHA! is the perfect opportunity for people from all over the region to come downtown and enjoy the beauty of our city in a way we have never seen it before,” said LAND’s Ann Zoller in a statement. Earlier this year Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced plans to mount a similar exhibition along the Chicago River. That proposal was widely criticized as “frivolous,” though city officials maintain it would boost tourism. UPDATE Tuesday Aug. 12: See below for an added gallery of photos from the event, copyright Frank Lanza via LAND Studio. Featured artists include Yvette Mattern, Obscura Digital, Jen Lewin, and Iván Juárez. LAND Studio says the event brought thousands of visitors downtown over the weekend.
Not long after the Detroit Design Festival, Detroit’s design enthusiasts have another event to celebrate: DLECTRICITY begins today and runs through Saturday. The “contemporary light art festival” features 35 local, national, and international artists who will illuminate historic structures in Midtown Detroit. Buildings including the Detroit Institute of Arts, the Michigan Science Center, and the Detroit Public Library will become canvases for 3D video mapping, laser displays, and light sculptures. Click here for a full schedule and map of the events.