Feb 11, 2010

Monica Bonvicini—Light Me Black

I saw this exhibition back in November 2009 and, as it goes sometimes with contemporary art, it stuck with me for a while.  I've thought about that exhibition rather frequently and am just now feeling like I understand what the artist was conveying and have some thoughts to share.  
Here's a shot of the installation in the Modern Wing of Art Institute.
 This shot really doesn't do it justice because what you can't see very well is that as you're walking around the outside of the gallery, to avoid the massive florescent light bulb sculpture (very flavin-esque) in the center, you're forced to reckon with the large holes in the gallery floor. 

This makes me think about the interaction of the museum space with the artwork itself.  I would say the majority of the time, artwork being displayed in a museum has nothing to do with the museum space itself.  Most it simply hangs, sits or exists within it.  But with Bonvincini's piece here, it instead takes the museum space and changes it, creating what feels like a disorienting affect on the viewer.  Instead of being able to simply shuffle around the square gallery, you have to do more.  This installation becomes very physical all of a sudden when you begin to interact with it, noting where you're stepping, watching that you don't bump into something etc.  I like what the Art Institute's website says about the piece that it can "provoke an acute awareness of the physical and psychological effects of institutional, particularly museum, architecture."

The piece was created specifically for these galleries in the new Renzo Piano designed addition to the Institute.  The largest hype I heard about the Modern Wing Piano was designing was all the natural light it was going to afford the galleries.  And it is true, this wing is full of beautiful light coming through the floor to ceiling windows.  Playing off the Modern Wing's greatest asset, the piece in the center (made up of 144 custom made light fixtures, wow) references the architecture in a very recognizable way. The Institute's website also says "Bonvicini’s project brings together three works that directly engage the Renzo Piano–designed building both formally and conceptually."  I agree, and I really enjoyed the exhibit.

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