Eleven contemporary artists, including Alicia Beach, Terri Friedman, Christian Garnett, Nancy Haynes, Craig Kauffman, Charles LaBelle, Alex Lopez, Kiki Seror, Jennifer Steinkamp, Alan Wayne, and Yek provide avenues for the re-examination of light. Light, necessary to vision, has almost always been a component of visual art, although certain eras have emphasized its significance more adamantly than others.
The tenebrism of Caravaggio and de la Tour for example, represents the use of light in the portrayal of spirituality. While the American Luminists used light to convey the majesty of nature, the Impressionists availed themselves of light in a much more scientific way. Conversely, much text-based conceptual art, in which content is more important than form, regards light as altogether unnecessary. Although the preeminence of conceptual art is waning, current debates over “theory vs. practice” or “meaning vs. form” are reminiscent of the Renaissance divide between disegno (appealing to the mind) and colore (appealing to the eye and body).
Working in a variety of media, the artists on view in Glow use real and illusionistic light in decidedly visual ways, examining the new use and understanding of light in our time. While light itself is immaterial, the viewer’s awareness of her or himself as an “embodied eye” is implicated in more recent works involving light. Illusion, out of favor since minimalism, is another concern for many of the artists in this exhibition. Works in the exhibition have been chosen in order to reference other relevant topics and include both abstract and representational approaches.
Glow: Aspects of Light in Contemporary American Art is curated by Frances Colpitt, Associate Professor of Art History and Criticism at the University of Texas at San Antonio and organized by the UTSA Department of Art and Art History. Colpitt is a corresponding editor for Art in America and the author of Minimal Art: The Critical Perspective and Abstract Art in the Late Twentieth Century. Among her numerous articles, reviews, and catalogue essays are many on contemporary abstract painting. An expanded version of Glow will be on view at UTSA from September 5 through October 4, 2002.