Illuminations: Sculpting with Light

January 22 – April 4, 2004

This exhibition examined three distinct moments in which American artists devised innovative ways to use this elemental, immaterial medium.

Beginning in the middle of the last century with Charles Biederman's classic modern construction #9, New York, 1940, one of the first known sculptures to incorporate artificial light (acquired by the Smart in 2001), this exhibition continued with key works from the 1960s when artists such as Dan Flavin, Robert Irwin, and James Turrell began to use light to create sublimely minimal sculptures. It concluded with a major commission from emerging artist Stephen Hendee, who uses scrappy everyday materials—translucent plastic sheeting, electrical tape, and colored lights—to create temporary installations that allow viewers to walk through crystalline, glowing environments that recall the fantastic architecture of virtual reality. The exhibition combined visually stunning works with extensive documentation for each piece to illuminate the ways that the artists' uses of light reflect individual experimentations as refracted through broader cultural currents of the 1940s, the 1960s, and now.