diamond geezer

 Friday, March 02, 2018

Anthony McCall: Solid Light Works
Hepworth Gallery, Wakefield
16 Feb - 3 June 2018

Of all the provincial post-millennial art hubs I've visited, the Hepworth remains my favourite. It has a reason to exist - the sculptures of locally-raised sculptors Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore. It has a gorgeous setting on the River Calder beside the Chantry Bridge. And it has some physical substance about it, comprising a chain of multiple galleries to explore, unlike certain offerings which peter out after a few rooms. Plus there's an ever-changing body of other artists' work, and the whole thing's free.

The latest major exhibition is by Bromley-born Anthony McCall, who's been creating interactive illuminations since 1973. He uses projectors and smoke machines to conjure up geometric shapes in darkened rooms, and invites visitors to step through. The Hepworth has three such works on display, its oddly-angled galleries ideal for the purpose, plus a minor retrospective in the adjacent rooms. This includes video of Landscape for Fire, a rhythmic grid of outdoor bonfires, and a considerable number of notebooks with sketches depicting mooted overlaps. [video]

In the darkest gallery, two arcs slowly bend across a distant screen, the light streaming from the projector bending in tandem. It's entertaining to observe but even more so to enter, perhaps waving a hand through the mist or stepping fully inside the beam of light. I enjoyed making a fool of myself in the empty room, interacting with the ever-changing lines, before a sprightly couple entered with their two year-old granddaughter in tow. She toddled back and forth through the lightshow with a chuckle, enjoying her virtual playground far more than a static 2D painting.

The other immersive work is called Back to Back, in a separate room, and comprises two separate projectors and screens, opposite and offset. Here the underlying geometric shapes are chopped ellipses, gently migrating over a 30 minute cycle, and the effect seems similar to before... until you step within. This time the membranes of light seemed to form a dazzling tunnel, with mist swirling ominously around its broken surface, like some heavenly gateway or giant Star Trek vortex. You'd have enjoyed watching me from outside, briefly lost in my own little galaxy before warping out, and then flying in again for another look. It seems Solid Light definitely Works.

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