One might imagine that given the possibilities of light projection afforded by current technology, "Artificial Light" would sample some of the latest and greatest lighting wizardry. Only Jennifer Allora and Guillermo Calzadilla's installation employs high-tech equipment. This incorporates light emitting diode (LED) panels, made by artist Jenny Holzer, with pointed, looping messages. The predominant focus of this exhibition actually takes an about-face from such spectacle. In fact, most of these six installations using simple sources nostalgically respond to some of the most fundamental and common experiences with light.
British artist Ceal Floyer's "Overhead Projection" well represents the general tone and texture of "Artificial Light." In it, she slyly projects the image of a simple lightbulb on the wall of a dark room with an overhead projector, while tricking the viewer into believing that the image is an actual lightbulb suspended from the ceiling. Her installation's lack of sophistication corresponds to a childhood prank, playfully illuminating (pardon the pun) the magical nature of light itself.
In "Dead Reckoning," Nathaniel Rackowe, also from Britain, transforms Anderson's largest gallery space from a vanilla box to a semi-industrial site dominated by a large-scale half-enclosed tunnel. It's meant to be experienced from both inside and out. The sole light source is a bare lightbulb that travels the length of the tunnel on a mechanical track, altering the quality of interior and exterior spaces as it moves and spills light out of vertical openings in the tunnel wall. Viewed from the outside of the tunnel, the light sweeps the otherwise dark walls and ceiling in a hypnotic rhythm.
Like Rackowe, Douglas Ross alters the quality of gallery space with a theatrical flare. His installation incorporates motorized horizontal blinds at opposite gallery windows to poetically manipulate natural light. As the blinds rapidly rotate, the interior light flickers to replicate the visual quality of silent film. As in most of the work in "Artificial Light," Ross's simple, bare-bones response to illumination inspires viewers to rethink the meaning of light in their own lives. S
"Artificial Light" is showing at VCU's Anderson Gallery, 907 1/2 W. Franklin St., through Oct. 29. The gallery is open Monday-Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 1-5 p.m. For more information, visit www.vcu.edu/artweb/gallery.