An empty white room which pushes minimalism to its limit, black rooms with shimmering prisms that appear and disappear while pyramids are flooded in blue light, and rooms with a grotto-like landscape alongside a monumental Chinese gate surrounded in barbed wire. Three artists seek to engage viewers in different three-dimensional experiences.
How minimalist can an artist go in creating an artwork? This is what American Bruce Nauman artist explored in the 1970′s with his “Natural Light, Blue Night Room”, creating an architectural white box defined by a strip of natural light at the bottom and blue artificial light at the top, which has been recreated at Blain Southern in London, one of his aims bring to “knock down” the viewer as he enters through an anonymous white door into the blank empty room where the light creates shapes and diagonals as the viewer moves across the space.
“In the gallery, there were some skylights above one wall. I installed blue fluorescent lights below the sky lights. It messed up your ability to see the space clearly because when you got under them you started getting a lot of afterimages. Everything became a little jumpy… There was nothing else in the space. So the idea was that it would be hard to know what to focus on and even if you did, it would be hard to focus.” (Bruce Nauman).
A darkening room with shimmering prisms that appear and disappear as the viewer walks around the perimeter, creating a disconcerting experience made of only silver thread and light. Adjacent in another darkened room at Hauser & Wirth London, with the sound of the sea in the background, two pyramids covered with blue pigment, like volcanos, are illuminated by two blue light bulbs hanging overhead “in a permanent flux of transformation”.
Lygia Pape (1927 – 2004), the influential Brazilian artist, was active in both the Concrete and Neo-Concrete Movements in Brazil during the 1950s and 1960s. From the 1980s onwards, her artwork, while still remaining based in geometry, became more physical, intense and sensory, involving the intellectual and physical participation of the viewer.
“My concern is always invention. I always want to invent a new language that’s different for me and for others, too… I want to discover new things. Because, to me, art is a way of knowing the world… to see how the world is… of getting to know the world”. (Lygia Pape)
The new President Elect in the USA has drawn attention to the complexity and differences in political views on immigration in the USA; by coincidence Los Angeles’ artist Mike Kelly’s installations at Hauser & Wirth London explore the tensions of the Chinese community in Los Angeles.
Kelley was fascinated by America’s many diverse subcultures. He took Los Angeles’ marginalised Chinese-American community as the inspiration for “Framed and Frame” which recreated local landmarks in Chinatown of Los Angeles with two separate sculptures: “Framed” is a “wishing well” in the form of a naturalistic concrete grotto with caves and caverns, cheap religious statues that can be purchased in local shops, and coins thrown onto its ledges, under which there is a secret living cave. “Frame” is more sinister – an enclosure of steel protective fencing, brick walls and barbed wire surrounds the Chinese gate – is this a celebratory entrance gate or a prison?
For Kelley, the wishing well projects the background of the Chinese-American community in Los Angeles (and many other communities in the US and Canada which he explored in other works), with a history of persecution and exclusion, along with cultural resilience and exchange. The mixture of Christian and Buddhist votives and Chinese-American kitsch highlights the unique cultural mix that has evolved in LA’s Chinatown since the 19th century.
Mike Kelly was born in October 1954 and sadly was found dead in an apparent suicide in Pasadena in 2012, a sad loss to the art world.
The different experiential rooms are supported by drawings and paintings, valuable to understanding the art concepts.