Art Spiel in Dialogue with Jonathan Sims, curator of Solstice: An Exhibition of Works in Light
The group show “Solstice” at Flux Factory in LIC brings together ten installation, sculpture and performance artists who utilize light as a core element in their work. The gallery is darkened and the only light in the space will emanate from the artists’ work – LED, fiber-optics, incandescent, altogether “lensed into being.” The show features installations by Luba Drozd, Laurent Fort, Sizhu Li, Lindsay Packer, Ksenia Salion, Jonathan Sims and Performances by ÉMU, Night Shining, Paloma Kop, Testu Collective . Jonathan Sims, the curator whose work is also featured in the show, shares with Art Spiel the idea behind this project and some info on the venue.
JS: I am a New York City based visual artist and resident at Flux Factory. Flux Factory is a 25 year-old non-profit artist collective and residency program located in Long Island City, Queens. Each resident is offered time in our gallery space for an exhibition. This year, I chose to create a group show devoted to artists working in light.
As luck would have it, the perfect moment arrived. The winter solstice is the longest night of the year, the day when the sun reaches the nadir of its yearly arc through the sky. This presented a perfect thematic occasion to present a “dark space” exhibition, where all the gallery lights are blacked out and all light emanates from the artists’ work. Many light artists are constantly grappling with white box galleries designed with dozens of high-wattage bulbs and natural light, but this format affords artists an avenue to express the subtleties and nuance of their installations and projections.
AS: What would you like to share about the featured work?
JS: This exhibition includes a superb cohort of some of the best artists currently working in light in New York City. There will be six installations, and on the solstice itself (opening night) there will also be four audiovisual performances – artists who combine sound with projected visuals.
As viewers enter the space, they will experience Luba Drozd’s work, which uses motors to vibrate stretched piano strings to create sound compositions that engage with the architecture of the space as well as projected 3D animations
Further in, three artists will integrate kinetic components. The work of Sizhu Li features a dance of pinwheels in space, reflecting and lensing light and powered by programmed fans. Lindsay Packer will assemble a number of found objects from around Flux Factory with a pinspot and motors to create an ephemeral manifestation of light into a luminous, temporary geometry.
Laurent Fort is a master in the possibilities of reflective material, maximizing one or a handful of light sources into a phenomenal depth of expressive and glittering curves, animated and moving in space via a variety of kinetic elements.
Luminous fiberoptic and retro-reflective fabrics combine in Ksenia Salion’s work as a beautiful imitation of bioluminescent marine creatures with a stark and urgent ecological message of ocean conservation. These assemblages are activated not only with projection and light, but by the use of flash and photography on visitors’ phones.
AS: You are exhibiting in addition to curating. Tell me a bit about your own artwork.
JS: My background as an artist has been primarily focused on geometric abstraction, mostly painting. This is still a major component of my work, but like many other artists I began exploring computer design and digital projection. From there, the use of light became a real rabbit hole: once you are hooked on the colors, reflections, rainbows, distortions. A new wonderland opens up and it is hard to stop.
I will have two pieces in this exhibition. The first is a single strand of electroluminescent wire extending from the ceiling to the floor in a straight line that points directly at the location of the sun at the moment of the solstice at 11:19pm on December 21. The second is a time-based work that uses analog projectors to engage the possibilities of additive light.
AS: The show includes installation and performance. What is the relationship between them in this exhibition?
JS: The overlap of music performance with projection visuals is a major part of the art scene today, and this felt like a perfect opportunity to engage with those fantastic artists within this space and theme.
Each artist pushes the limits of modern audio and visual tools in their own unique way. Both Night Shining and Maria Takeuchi (aka ÉMU) use software and audio synthesizers but combine them with lush computer-generated visuals to unique effect. Night Shining composes broodingly dark tonal landscapes, and ÉMU maximizes her multi-instrumental live performance experience to express the beauty of nature beyond the limitations of the art form.
Two other performers, Paloma Kop and Testu Collective, skirt the boundaries between digital and analog processes. Kop explores and deconstructs the boundaries between material space(time) and electronic space(time) using hybrid media processes, code, and video feedback to conjure images of the endless capacity of electronic hardware.
Serena Stucke and Dan Tesene (aka Testu Collective) are devoted to endless experimentation in their performances, and every piece involves new processes and ideas. On Saturday, Stucke will record electromagnetic signals from various light sources to capture tones, which will be combined into a synesthetic journey with live imagery from a series Tesene’s translucent sculptures.
AS: What would you like visitors to take away from this show?
JS: There are so many new installation experiences in galleries and museum spaces, but the future of groundbreaking work in light and sound will first be seen at moments like these, at the very edge of the materials and technologies.
My hope is that this show will be one of many “dark space” shows to follow, and that visitors will walk out with a new appreciation for the capacity of light to amaze and transcend.
Solstice: An Exhibition of Works in Light at Flux Factory
December 21 – January 1 / Opening: Saturday December 21, 7pm-1am