We cannot touch or hold it, but we can
see it, and with it, see our world. Light defines our physical, visual
and mental experiences. It determines how we move and stirs our
emotions. Opening on February 1 at the Hudson River Museum, The Magic of Light
examines light art as physical sensation. Magic presents work by 14
artists who changed the nature of art by using light - rather than paint
or stone - to create. Their artworks move away from the traditional art
object and focus, instead, on the viewer’s perceptions.
The Magic of Light displays the work of both established and emerging
American artists. James Turrell, part of the Light-and-Space movement of
the 1960s and 1970s along with Robert Irwin, works with pure light,
while his main goal is the viewer’s highest visual and physiological
perception. Magic also shows how the vocabulary of these seminal artists
is reexamined by the recent work of artists like Susan Chorpenning. Her
work, Backtrack, presents a shifting reality, her changing images held
The entire museum is the framework for this exhibition. Five new
installations by Stephen Antonakos, Pietro Costa, Kenny Greenberg, Erwin
Redl and Robert Thurmer were created especially for The Magic of Light.
They respond to the unusual spaces and varied architecture in and around
the museum’s complex of galleries, courtyards and the historic Glenview
Mansion. For example, the thousands of lights in Erwin Redl’s Matrix I
cover the 100-foot south wall of the Museum’s main gallery.
Exhibiting artists are Stephen Antonakos, Dan Flavin, Susan Chorpenning,
Pietro Costa, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Kenny Greenberg, Robert Irwin, Bill
Jones and Ben Neill
Sheila Moss, Liz Phillips, James Turrell, Erwin Redl, Keith Sonnier and
The Magic of Light will be accompanied by a fully illustrated color
catalog with essays by noted art critic Carter Ratcliff and physicist
Arthur Zajonc, published by The Hudson River Museum.
The Magic of Light was organized by the Hudson River Museum and is the
third in the Museum’s series of contemporary art exhibitions to explore
nontraditional media (Drip, Blow, Burn, '99 and Hanging by a Thread,
'97-'98). The Magic of Light is made possible, in part, by grants from
the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York State Council on the
Arts and the David Bermant Foundation: Color, Light and Motion.
Exhibiting Artists - The Magic of Light
Stephen Antonakos, a pioneer in neon art, is represented by Welcome,
1999, Ruby Neon Incomplete Circles on a Light Blue Wall, 1977, and
Dan Flavin, is represented by untitled (in honor of Leo at the 30th
anniversary of his gallery), 1987. He worked with fluorescent tubes to
illuminate existing architecture and suggest new space from old. His
untitled (for Betty and Richard Koshalek, a friendly reminder), 1979, is
a permanent installation at the museum and the inspiration for this
Susan Chorpenning’s Backtrack, 1995, a work from her “dark” series.
Pietro Costa has created grace, 2002, a vertical series of concentric
red neon rings radiating intense light for this exhibition.
Felix Gonzalez-Torres’ Untitled (America) 1994-95 is one of a series of
installations he created which incorporates flexible strings of light
bulbs, that adapt to any space in which they are installed.
Kenny Greenberg, whose career spans neon, light and technology,
introduces the viewer to all three fields in Ouija Light, 2002 -
especially created for this exhibition - and invites them to manipulate
colors and patterns.
Robert Irwin, Unititled (disc), 1965-1967, used circular aluminum or
mesh discs flooded with light to expand perceptions he found
circumscribed by rectangles in conventional painting.
Bill Jones and Ben Neill blend sight and sound with Pulse 48, 1999. Its
colorful plastic children’s Frisbees and snow sleds, hidden together
with light elements inside each “pod,” react to the tempo and pitch of
Sheila Moss, in Night Fishers, 2000, beckons the viewer to a compelling
experience of altered perception with strings of Q-tips, flashing light
and phosphorescent paint.
Liz Phillip’s in Echo Evolution, 1999, builds 3-D human-scale responsive
sound and light structures, which viewers activate and manipulate by
their presence in the structure’s space.
Erwin Redl brings his background in computer art, musical composition
and electronic music to Matrix I, 2000-2002, especially created for this
exhibition. The LED (light-emitting diode), a source emanating from a
semiconductor crystal, is his medium.
Keith Sonnier in Palm Blatt, 2000, and Saule PleureurII, 2000, finds
multiple ways for neon light to suggest space in the environment and
energy in the human figure.
Robert Thurmer, Also Sprach Zarathustra (Thus Spake Zarathustra), 2002,
creates a spiritual environment with fluorescent light in the Museum’s
James Turrell is represented by Afrum #6 (Blue),1967, whose work is so
palpable viewers often try to touch the light in this installation.
Matrix I, 2000-2002
LED lights, copper wire and weights,
11' x 100'
Collection of the artist