From the luminous paintings of Martin Johnson Heade in the nineteenth century to Don Flavins minimalist sculpture featuring fluorescent tubes in the twentieth, light has served as inspiration for American artists for more than 100 years. A new exhibition opening Oct. 13 at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art
will trace the fascinating evolution of light and art through the work of eleven American artists. See the Light: The Luminist Tradition in American Art will feature selected works from Crystal Bridges permanent collection combined with objects on loan from other institutions. The exhibition will also premiere a major new acquisition to Crystal Bridges permanent collection. See the Light is sponsored by GE Lighting, and will be on view through Jan. 28, 2013.
In the mid-nineteenth century, a group of American painters began to focus their attention on the rendering of light as a metaphor for the spiritual. These artists, including Martin Johnson Heade, focused on the sublime, awe-inspiring qualities of light, creating landscapes that seem lit from within with a spiritual glow. This quality of light later earned the artists the term Luminists among some academic circles.
The works selected for See the Light showcase how the Luminists concept of light as a metaphor for transcendent experience has continued to influence American artists through a century of changing styles and media. Works in the exhibition range from the Impressionist paintings of John Singer Sargent in 1887 to works created within the last 20 years by artists such as James Turrell and Jim Campbell, using state-of-the-art electronic technologies.
These artists had the same goals of light as symbolic of the inner world, creating a transcendent, quasi-mystical sense of reality, explains David Houston, director of curatorial at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. It stems from the Luministstheres a transcendental continuum.
One of the highlights of See the Light will be the unveiling of a breathtaking new acquisition to Crystal Bridges permanent collection. The painting, No. 210/No. 211 (Orange) by Abstract Expressionist Mark Rothko, has been in a private collection since the 1960s and has previously been exhibited publicly only twice.
No. 210/No. 211 (Orange), painted in 1960, is a work from Rothkos most sought-after period, featuring large rectangles of rich color. Rothko was one of the most important and influential painters of the Abstract Expressionist movement a time when American artists made their first major impact on the international art world. At the height of his career, Rothko eliminated all representation in his paintings and became wholly concerned with creating color abstractions aimed at eliciting an emotional response in his viewers.
This is a masterful painting, said Crystal Bridges Executive Director Don Bacigalupi. The palette of colors is remarkably vibrant and intense. The work absolutely radiates and draws you into it. Its a superb example of Rothkos mature period and we are very excited to add it to Crystal Bridges collection.
At the close of the exhibition, No. 210/No. 211 (Orange) will be relocated to one of the galleries housing Crystal Bridges permanent collection.