“SpotLight” casts a wide net to emphasize how light plays a varied role in several contemporary artists’ practices. This exhibition presents light as its subject while employing it as its medium to comment on art history, memory, the artistic process and transformation. At a time when technology and materials are overabundant, the goal of “SpotLight” is to use one of the simplest tools to speak to our contemporary moment. Light is a critical tool to any art form, whether it is used as a tool to examine a subject or as a means to produce an image.
Jeroen Nelemans’ laser light interpretations of two well-known Piet Mondrian paintings are perhaps the most striking examples of the ephemeral nature of light, even if in this case the light is completely artificial. Employing a small army of laser levels, Nelemans recreates the paintings’ angles using nothing more than the red beam of light. The pieces hover above the surface of the gallery wall, giving the works a false sense of dimension and depth. As the batteries wear down in each laser level, the lines connecting the work together slowly dissipate, and the relationship to the original painting dissolves as well.
Dana Major’s illusory installation, “Shadow Matrix: thing no thing,” takes time to decipher as the real components that make up the hanging sculpture merge with their shadows and reflections. Multiple light sources hit the metal and glass web, splaying their magnified forms across the walls. The piece is suspended from the ceiling, but the installation encompasses the room and reveals the transformative quality of light in a very theatrical manner. We are left to determine which “things” are real and which are a product of illumination.
While the exhibition is structured around a very broad theme and is fairly didactic in its approach, the ten artists included all astutely engage with the topic at hand. It is a solid introduction to installation and light-based works. The light does an excellent job of drawing us in. (Nicole White)
Through April 27 at the Elmhurst Art Museum, 150 South Cottage Hill, Elmhurst.