Light art

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Site-specific installation by Dan Flavin, 1996, Menil Collection
Two separate shots side-by-side looking up toward the ceiling in the middle of the Guggenheim Museum in New York during James Turrell's light exhibition Aten Reign.
Robert Irwin Scrim Veil—Black Rectangle—Natural Light, Whitney Museum of American Art

Light art is an applied arts form in which light is the main medium of expression.


Light art can be sculpture, site-specific light installations using the urban and natural environment, relief, suspended, ground-based, temporary or permanent. There are two distinctive types of light art, work exhibited in a gallery indoors and light art exhibited outdoors. Closely associated art forms are projectors, 3D map projection, multi-media, video art and photography in which light technology projects images (rather than light as the medium).

Light has been used for architectural effect throughout human history. However, the modern concept of light art emerged with the development of artificial electric incandescent light sources and experimentation by modern artists of the Constructivist and Bauhaus movements.[1] "Prounenraum (Proun room) (1923), by El Lissitzky, is considered by many art historians to be the first time an artist incorporated architectural lighting elements as a component integral to his work"[2] The first object-based light sculpture, Light-Space Modulator (1922-1930), by László Moholy-Nagy (1895–1946).[3][4] Experimentation and innovations in theatrical light have often influenced other areas of light use such as Light art. The development of Modernism and the electric light go hand-in-hand; the idea of the modern city with high-rises and electric light epitomizes this development.

Art critic Hilarie M. Sheets explains that "the interplay of dark and light has been a theme running from Greek and Roman sculpture to Renaissance painting to experimental film. But as technology advanced from the glow of the electric lightbulb to the computer monitor, artists have been experimenting with actual light as material and subject."[5]


Detail of a 13th-century window from Chartres Cathedral
Beam in the dome of the Pantheon

Examples of the use of light and art in which stained glass is used to color transmitted light go back to the 4th century. This art form is most prominently seen in the elaborate stained glass windows of churches and mosques. The ecclesiastical effect is used in the Notre-Dame de Chartres Cathedral in France. Other religious use of light include the temple of Abu Simbel and the Pyramids in Egypt, and Mayan and Aztec temples.

The interior of the Pantheon dome was possibly intended to symbolize the arched vault of the heavens.[6] The oculus also serves as a cooling and ventilation method. This architecture was very influential on James Turrell.

In Shadow puppetry, projected shadows of puppets create moving images. A form of shadow puppetry is described as early as 380 BC by Plato in the Allegory of the Cave.

Modernism, Bauhaus, and Applied Arts (1920–1935)[edit]

See also: Modern art and Bauhaus

All visual art uses light in some form, but in modern photography and motion pictures, use of light is especially important. However, with the invention of electrical artificial light, possibilities expanded and many artists began using light as the main form of expression, rather than solely as a vehicle for other forms of art. László Moholy-Nagy (1895-1946) was a member of the Bauhaus movement, and was influenced by Constructivism. Light sculpture and moving sculpture are components of his Light-Space Modulator (1922–30), one of the first light art pieces which incorporates kinetic art.[4] Constructivist Naum Gabo (1890-1977) experimented with the transparent materiality light reflects on an object; his Linear Construction No. 1 (1943) provides an example of this. Marcel Duchamp's (1887-1968) Hat Rack (1916 and 1964), hangs from the ceiling and casts a shadow against the wall.[7]

Lumino Kinetic and Op Art (1950–1970)[edit]

See also: Op art and Kinetic art

Lumino Kinetic art involves, as the name suggests, light and movement. It is a subset and an art historical term in the context of the more established kinetic art, which in turn is a subset of new media art. The historian of art Frank Popper views the evolution of this type of art as evidence of "aesthetic preoccupations linked with technological advancement" and a starting-point in the context of high-technology art.[8] László Moholy-Nagy (1895-1946), a member of the Bauhaus, and influenced by constructivism can be regarded as one of the fathers of Lumino kinetic art. Light sculpture and moving sculpture are the components of his Light-Space Modulator (1922–30), One of the first Light art pieces which also combines kinetic art.[9][10]

Lumino Kinetic and Op Art artists:

Minimalism and Op Art[edit]

See also: Minimalism

1960's Minimalism and Op Art. A peak of activity in the 1960s saw artists such as Dan Flavin, François Morellet creating interior sculptures and installations using diverse types of light: neon tubes, diffuse lighting or fluorescence.

In 1966 saw the Californian Light and Space group including James Turrell, Robert Irwin, and Bruce Nauman developing Light work using neon.

Neon art (1980s)[edit]

Main article: Neon art

Light festivals, Smart city LED revolution, outdoor urban light sculpture[edit]

Special lighting of the Sydney Opera House

With the outdoor LED low energy revolution, light artists have created new paradigms of exhibition spaces outside the control of commercial art institutions and Art establishments. Light art as an International movement though exhibition spaces at festivals can be dated to the 2009 by the Vivid Smart Light Festival in Sydney and has instigated a global movement for Light Festivals. Light artist working in outdoor urban environments it requires specific skills crossing architecture, industrial design, architectural lighting design and rigging. Light festivals and LEDS have redefined Light art as an art genre by taking it to site specific out door environments away from the traditions, controllability of space and the gallery/museum institutions.

Light sculpture[edit]

Light sculptures are an intermedia and time-based art form in which sculpture and object produces light, or the reverse (in the sense that light is manipulated in such a way as to create a kenetic or static sculpture. Its importance is urban renewal or instigating thought about dark places in the urban environment. Light and shadow interplay and exist together,there is a subtlety of using both to manipulate space and thought.

Architectural Facades, Projection, Flood lighting, Interactivity, New media-based, Video artist and Photography[edit]

Architectural 3d bit mapping has been popularized by large Light Festivals and events. These genres require content from creative industries, artists and graphic designers.

Also included in the light art genre is the so-called light graffiti including projection onto buildings, arrangement of lighted windows in buildings and painting with hand-held lights onto film using time exposure.

Light artists[edit]

Distinguished light artists[citation needed] include

Light Show curated by Hayward Gallery (London UK)[edit]

European artists

American artists

Artists working in light and New Media, Photography and Projections[edit]




Theatrical lighting[edit]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Weibel, Peter; Jensen, Gregor, eds. (2006). Lichkunst aus Kunstlicht: Licht als Medium der Kunst im 20. und 21. Jahrhundert. ISBN 978-3-7757-1774-8.  Catalog for an exhibition "Light Art from Artificial Light: Light as the Medium of Art in the 20th and 21st Centuries" at the Zentrum fur Kunst und Medientechnologie in Karlsruhe, Germany (November 19, 2005 - May 1, 2006).
  2. ^ "light matters a closer look at the ideas behind their work" author Glen Shum
  3. ^ cgroupid=999999961&artistid=1649&page=1&sole=y&collab=y&attr=y&sort=default&tabview=bio "László Moholy-Nagy, Tate bio". 
  4. ^ a b "Light Art". Kunstlexikon. Hatje Cantz Verlag. February 5, 2005. Retrieved 2011-01-17. 
  5. ^ Sheets, Hilarie M. "Waves of Light." ARTnews Mar. 2007: 131-33. ARTnews. Print. Web. 1 Feb. 2012.
  6. ^ Wilson-Jones 2003, The Enigma of the Pantheon: The Interior, pp. 182–184
  7. ^ "Hat Rack | The Art Institute of Chicago". Retrieved 2015-07-10. 
  8. ^ Popper (1993)
  9. ^ Tate bio Retrieved January 17, 2011
  10. ^ [1] Retrieved January 17, 2011
  11. ^ Sheets, Hilarie M. Illuminated Void. Comp. C. Grimaldis Gallery. Baltimore: C. Grimaldis Gallery, 2011. Print
  • Jansen, J. (1991), 'Het Electrisch': van lamplicht tot lichtsculptuur, Museum het Princessehof, ISBN 978-90-71588-10-5 .
  • Tahara, Keiichi (2001), Light, Sculpture, Photography, Editions Assouline, ISBN 978-2-84323-262-6 .
  • JanLeonardo Woellert & Joerg Miedza - Painting With Light: Light Art Performance Photography, Rocky Nook; 1 Edition (April 10, 2011), ISBN 978-1933952741
  • Crisafulli, Fabrizio. 2013. Active Light. Issues of Light in Contemporary Theatre, Dublin: Artdigiland. ISBN 978-1494786922.

External links[edit]