Community, Research

Text-based art + Light-based art = Yum Yum!

I’ve been underground (metaphorically and literally, sort of: my studio’s in a basement), preparing for Galleon Trade at Bay Area Now/YBCA. So I’m emerging to view other shows, just in time for the fall art season! (As Anu pointed out on her blog, Why do we all still live by the semester cycle?)

The exhibitions at the Wattis can be theatrical and unconventional, but I was pleasantly surprised with rewarding experiences at the new evolution of Passengers and the brand-new The Wizard of Oz exhibition.

Carsten Holler installation at the Wattis Institute's The Wizard of Oz exhibition

Carsten Holler installation at the Wattis Institutes' The Wizard of Oz exhibition

Really, even if I weren’t a light bulb freak (I dreamed of blue LED displays and reflector bulbs this morning), who wouldn’t love Carsten Höller‘s Wonderful signage, with a timed light-show sequence? Cans in the shape of letters with crystal clear incandescents. It’s nostalgic for the 20th century, which is only eight years ago when you think about it…

Glenn Ligon's installation at the Wattis Institute's The Wizard of Oz exhibition

Glenn Ligon's installation at the Wattis Institutes' The Wizard of Oz exhibition

I was delighted to stumble into this in a far room of the Wattis. I am a huge (yooouj!) Ligon fan, and came to appreciate his black-ed out neon work more after reading a great critical and phenomenological response to “Negro Sunshine,” (Richard Meyer’s “Light it Up, or How Glenn Ligon Got Over,” Artforum, May 2006). Blacked-out neon America: Brilliant! I like the outlined typewriter typeface, it’s somehow appropriately spook-y.

One of my favorite quotes is about oscillating between the container and the contained (from the Fluxus artist Daniel Spöerri), so of course I also was thrilled to come across this neon piece on Regen Project’s website too.

Claire Fontaine installation at the Wattis Institute's Passengers exhibition

Claire Fontaine installation at the Wattis Institute's Passengers exhibition

Brick-books of theory. The Wattis, of course, is housed on the campus of my alma mater, so for purely personal reasons, critical theory book wraparounds on cinder blocks are a riot. Of course, with all good conceptual art, the more you know, the better it gets. Fontaine is not an individual, but a French collective, and the installation is a meditation on the Paris 1968 riots, where a brick was more than a building material, but a weapon, a symbol of revolutionary actions. While anarchist communities are still active today (you will know them by their bicycle bumper stickers), it’s nice to be reminded of the once-obvious connection between critical theory and direct action.

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