Impressions: Carrie Hott @ Interface Gallery

An immersive installation of light shades and globes.

[Full disclosure/Take this with a grain of salt: I’ll be showing at Interface Gallery next, and Hott and I share ties to Ortega y Gassett, an artist’s collective.]

Closing 2/1
Carrie Hott: After Hours
Interface Gallery, Oakland, CA

In After Hour, Carrie Hott employs a restrained set of materials: lamp shades and diffusers, textured gold paint, wobbly black cutouts (perhaps of MDF or wood), and curved cuts of polished metal. Hott combines these in modestly-scaled, floor- and wall-based sculptural assemblages. They are packed densely in the small, darkened space and lit with soft, blue-green lights. A soundtrack of glass pings in increasing frequency has a soothing effect while adding a sense of mystery. It is a pleasing physical environment—the textured gold catches and reflects teal glints as you move around. There is so much to navigate that surprising works and angles appear.

It’s dramatic to see an installation transform Interface Gallery’s compact space. After Hour creates an unfamiliar environment whose poetics unravel over time visually and spatially. In that way it made me recall Ola Vasiljeva’s Jargot at Art in General last year. Some of the shelf-based works read as landscapes, while others as a collection of objects, and when the objects seemed more discrete, Haim Steinbach came to mind. But Hott’s interest is unique—it’s is in electricity, light, and how both have changed human society. The Oakland sunshine outside seemed to be begging to be let in.


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.

Art & Development, Research

Hope is rare

“In photometry, luminous flux … is the measure of the perceived power of light. It differs from radiant flux, the measure of the total power of light emitted, in that luminous flux is adjusted to reflect the varying sensitivity of the human eye to different wavelengths of light.”

Luminous flux accounts for the relativity of perception, in the same way that optimism and pessimism can flux from one to the other.

optimism and pessimism chart

I think of optimism and pessimism as inseparable poles, whose ambi-valent pulls are equally strong, producing a productive state of dialectical tension. But my latest work is premised on the idea that hope is rare and requires willpower, while pessimism is abundant and passive.

According to Adam Cohen, in his review of Joshua Foa Dienstag’s Pessimism: Philosophy, Ethic, Spirit (, August 28, 2006), “Pessimism is not, as is commonly thought, about being depressed or misanthropic, and it does not hold that humanity is headed for disaster. It simply doubts the most basic liberal principle: that applying human reasoning to the world’s problems will have a positive effect.”

So it occurred to me that the metaphor of light and dark for optimism and pessimism lends itself to the idea that hope is rare and pessimism is abundant. Because light, which often represents hope, is rare — especially when you consider that only visible light connotes hope, while the rest of the electromagnetic spectrum bounces around and through us, constantly and imperceptibly.

Even the view that hope is rare may seem pessimistic. But rarity suggests a thing that becomes valued, cultivated, appreciated.