Back in June 2019 at RedLine Contemporary Art Center and The Temple – For one night and one night only, RedLine and The Temple shut their house lights off for a special co-exhibition celebrating light-based art. Curated by Ashley Frazier, Drew Austin, and Michael Sperandeo, Lights Out Lights On was an undertaking that took months of planning, thirty or so artists, and the removal of many, many light bulbs. Diverse, atmospheric, beautiful, and fleeting. If you missed it, sorry, bud. Here’s some pictures and words for you.
Let’s start off with Drew Austin’s takeover of The Temple’s main floor. Silvery mylar sheets hung from above in varied ways, lit by colored LED lights. As much a study of form and light as pure play, Austin gives all credit to the medium itself. Reflective yet transparent, light as a sheet, but looks like metal — Austin exploited all these properties.
In one progression, a fun house mirror effect was evoked, growing more warped from sheet to sheet. Sharp, angular shadows were cast, as well as wispy bright bits that wiggled and quivered along with a glistening crescendo of sounds playing all around. Hung from single points, the mylar curled into sleek cones that punctuated the colored surroundings like knives. An eerie alien world.
Halfway up the stairs to the second floor was another installation making use of metallic material. Part of Chris Bagley’s stairwell assault of weirdness presented a tiny Statue of Liberty spinning in an iridescent lake of shredded compact discs. Beneath a crinkly firmament of emergency blankets, the work was bizarre, disorienting, and hypnotic. Beyond its optical curiosities, implications of waste, light and heat pollution made this one a semi-secret standout.
While The Temple’s second and third floors housed a number of strong works — Megan Bray’s “Showtime” infinity mirror comes to mind — Anna Kaye’s illustration-meets-light projection installation was the subtle (and maybe sublime) favorite. “Fall and Rise” combined a rendering of a flowering plant and its root system in a transparent container overlain with the projection of a blooming flame. Remarkable warmth and precision made this technically satisfying, but the implied wordplay and looping element gave this unassuming work real depth and elegance.
While The Temple’s three levels allowed for multiple intimate gallery spaces, RedLine’s massive open floor plan invited a more communal layout heavy on large works. Occupying much of the main space, Nicole Banowetz’s inflated creations strobed and pulsed like strange, fluorescing deep sea creatures — massive, yet light as a feather. Floating in a corner nearby, Marsha Mack and Shayna Cohn’s giant, wonderfully lo-tech disco ball was less starry night, and more watery whenever, splashing nebulous light reflections on walls and people alike.
In the digital realm, projected works by Anthony Garcia, Bearwarp, Lares Feliciano, Clay Hawkley, Michael Sperandeo, and Robert Fikes IV offered movement and clever interaction in contrast to the show’s mostly static sculptures. Sperandeo, however, took it a few steps further, with work that melded both categories, incorporating physical objects augmented by projected designs and complex lighting.
In contrast to all the complicated lighting and projection-based works, though, one small and economical installation by Eileen Roscina stood out. Viewed by one person at a time, the artist’s secret nook provided perhaps humankind’s most primal lights out, lights on experience: a view of space. The illusion was made with strings of tiny LED lights that were mirror-multiplied, creating sparkling constellations that seemed to go on forever through the darkness. In a quiet way, the installation inspired feelings of fear and loneliness, but also the need to commune, create, and collaborate.
If you missed Lights Out Lights On, never fear — the able curators are putting together another light-based exhibition. Look forward to that one in September 2020.