Published May 23, 2004 in South Florida Sun-Sentinel
Viewers should be prepared: After seeing the exhibition “Light and Atmosphere” at the Miami Art Museum, they will regard the world around them with heightened awareness, especially with regard to plays of light, reflection and shadow.
Organized by MAM associate curator Cheryl Hartup, this excellent exhibition explores the multitude of ways contemporary artists use light, whether actual or implied, in their work in order to affect color, mood and atmosphere. The show features work by an international array of 27 artists, among them a number of Miami’s rising stars. A wide range of media is represented, from painting and photography to installation and video.
A series of abstract-looking images in fiery red and orange greets the visitor at the entrance to the exhibition. Titled Sunrise, Harlem 1-4 (2003), these are photographs taken by Kira Lynn Harris of light traveling around her New York bedroom walls. Fire gives way to water as the viewer’s gaze then plunges into the space of James Casebere’s huge staged photograph, Green Staircase #1 (2002). Here, a cool-toned domestic interior is flooded with water as well as with shimmering reflections of light.
Nearby is a stunning, large-scale oil painting by Brad Lachore in which a blank canvas leans against an empty white wall. The whole is gray and shadowy, except for a bright white wedge that indicates the fall of light from an unseen window. Several works feature houses and other buildings at night, light beckoning invitingly from open windows and doors.
Reflected light and the viewer’s own reflection play active roles in the room-scale installation by Venezuelan artist Magdalena Fernandez. The piece consists of orderly arrangements of bars and circles of mirrors that are either attached to the wall or suspended from the ceiling. The abstract composition fractures light and reflections for the viewer moving through the space.
Among the most captivating images is Dutch artist Rineke Dijkstra’s photograph in which dappled sunlight falls through trees upon a barefoot boy dressed in green. His eyes are alert and the fingers of one hand are poised for action. He is the embodiment of youth, a personification of spring and possibility. In extreme contrast stands the boy in British artist Paul Hodgson’s photograph, with its studio lighting and artificial landscape. Here, a blue-clad young boy posed in imitation of Gainsborough’s Blue Boy stares down at the viewer, exuding a superior air.
In a room-scale installation by Miami artist Mark Koven, light emanates from behind a horizontal black bar that encircles the black-walled room. Covering the floor are photographs of sand. Through the use of lenticular photography, which can convey the illusion of 3D or video motion, these are transformed into images of a cloud-filled sky as the spectator circumnavigates the space. On the ceiling are images of gently moving coconut fronds, as well as of the moon and of arrows shooting across a night sky. Sounds of wind and wild animals are heard. Hidden in the sand is a book opened to the first page of Ecclesiastes and the words, “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.” While its interpretation remains open, this work stimulates the viewer’s senses and imagination.
The moon plays a more central role in Miami native Wendy Wischer’s Full to Wailing and Back Again, photo-documentation of which is presented in the show. An outdoor light projection piece, which was displayed for the first 28 days of the exhibition, it consisted of a large-scale image of the moon that was projected onto the side of a downtown Miami building each night. The image changed as the moon waxed and waned
A focus on the night sky and planetary bodies continues across the hall in an exhibition that is part of MAM’s “New Work” series: “Russell Crotty — Globe Drawings,” organized by curator Lorie Mertes.
Entering this exhibition feels like walking into the center of a three-dimensional model of the solar system. It consists of 10 globes, ranging from 8 to 45 inches in diameter, suspended at intervals from the gallery ceiling and dramatically lit. Although they appear to be made of carved wood, they were executed in ballpoint pen on paper-covered acrylic spheres. Each features an intricately detailed drawing of a vast, star-filled sky, most of which are encircled by landscapes and some by handwritten texts as well.
Crotty, a California artist and amateur astronomer, provides yet another marvelous example of light and atmosphere in contemporary art.