Rise

Description by Tom Eatherton


In 1981, I was commissioned by ARCO Center for the Visual Arts to do an exhibition. Actually, we had been talking about it, and I had been doing development on it for four years, but in 1981 it was accomplished, and exhibited there. The major piece in that exhibition was titled POINT. Coincidentally that year, Hal Glicksman left his post as curator of the Gallery at Otis/Parsons School, the latest of along line of curatorial positions that he had filled most brilliantly. He expressed to me a desire to do something independent of the sort of institutions for which he had been working, an alternative space, perhaps not locked into one physical space, but renewing itself in new spaces in time. We discussed what I could contribute in the way of works for a premier exhibition. He said the operation would be titled PERCEPT.

After doing a number of Lightspaces that were too big to do anything with other than demolish after the exhibition, I had made POINT so that it was capable of being disassembled, shipped, and reassembled, so it seemed to be a natural inclusion. Hal particularly wanted to rebuild RISE which I had done at Pomona College Art Gallery eleven years earlier during his tenure as curator there. I chose a piece called TRIP because it had not been shown formally before.

RISE is a true Lightspace, in that it fully surrounds the viewer. In order to achieve this a hallway is constructed with enough turns to exclude exterior ambient light while admitting the viewer. It is quite a complex task to control light sufficiently to achieve a really specific formal statement. The central concern of the Lightspace artist is the experience provided to the viewer. While it would be equally accurate to substitute "painter" or, for that matter, "novelist" or "composer" in the preceding sentence, there is an emphasis on experience in Lightspaces that is, in a way, unique. The writer conjures images in the mind. The musician creates an aural world. Visual artists deal primarily and essentially with visual input. The sculptor can be thought of as someone who introduces a new physical three-dimensional entity into the space that is shared with trees, human bodies, machines etc. Painters, by comparison , tend to be concerned with a two-dimensional space that involves the eyes in a direct presentation analogous to that of the visual screen or what you see before your eyes. I am originally and basically a painter. While Lightspaces are physically three-dimensional (and hence are often called sculptures) they are conceptually extensions of painting. Painters in this century have become increasingly concerned with the limitations of painting either to affirm and restate them, or to transcend them. For me the opportunity to work with light itself was like a portal to the future or to a timeless place. I was jarred into that reality by an experience in a museum. Watching a Jackson Pollock painting, making contact, and then having that connection broken by someone walking between me and the painting. I looked down, and my concentrated focus was taken up by the pattern in the carpet. I looked around, and was distracted by the light coming through a window. I wondered why an artwork couldn't be a total perceptual experience. I became interested in peripheral vision. I made my first Lightspace, HOME.

RISE employs blue-grey light in a low light level, a solution that I first arrived at with HOME. It gives me a greater control over the precise light experience than I can achieve on such a large scale with brighter light. At least that was the initial impetus, having made that choice I found that that color and that level was extremely congenial to me for personal, expressive reasons, for the experience that it provided for me at first, and later, I found, provided for others.