Light art is an applied arts form in which light is the main medium of expression. It is an art form in which either a sculpture produces light, or light is used to create a "sculpture" through the manipulation of light, colors, and shadows. These sculptures can be temporary or permanent, and can exist in two distinctive spaces: indoor galleries, such as museum exhibits, or outdoors at events like festivals.
One of the earliest forms of light art is the transmission of light through stained glass, dating back to the 4th century. Stained glass is prominently featured in the elaborate windows of churches and mosques. Some famous examples of this include the Notre-Dame de Chartres Cathedral in France, the temples of Abu Simbel, the Great Pyramids in Egypt, and ancient Mayan and Aztec temples. The Chinese took light art a step further with the invention of fireworks in the 9th century, playing on the use of light and color in an outdoor environment.
The interior of the Pantheon dome was possibly intended to symbolize the arched vault of the heavens. The oculus also serves as a cooling and ventilation method. This architecture was very influential on James Turrell.
Modernism, Constructivism and the Bauhaus (1920–1935)
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. "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." The first object-based light sculpture was the Light-Space Modulator (1922-1930), by László Moholy-Nagy (1895–1946). 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.
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. 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.
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 light bulb to the computer monitor, artists have been experimenting with actual light as material and subject."
Lumino Kinetic and Op Art (1950–1970)
Light art hit its peak in the 1960s, with artists such as Dan Flavin and Fandrançois Morellet creating interior sculptures and installations using such diverse media as neon tubes, diffuse lighting, and fluorescence.
Neon art (1980s)
Closely associated art forms are projectors, 3-D map projection, multi-media, video art, and photography where light technology projects images rather than using light as the medium. Large light festivals and events have helped to develop the use of light on large canvases such as architectural facades, building projections, the flood lighting of buildings with colour, and interactive media facades. These forms of light art have their antecedents in new media-based, video art and photography which are sometimes classified as light art since light and movement are important to the work. 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.
Many modern art museums include light sculptures and installations in their permanent and temporary collections. The Centre for International Light Art in Unna, Germany is currently the world's only museum dedicated exclusively to the collection and presentation of light art.
Many well-known art museums, such as the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Museum of Modern Art in New York, often have temporary light art exhibits and installations in their galleries.
Light festivals and the smart city LED revolution was driven by outdoor urban light sculpture with low energy LED luminaires. Light artists were able to create new exhibition spaces collectively in the form of light art festivals. These festivals have continued to grow internationally and help to highlight ecological change. This LED low energy movement dates back to the 2009 by the Vivid Smart Light Festival in Sydney. In Singapore, the i Light Marina Bay festival—Asia's only sustainable light festival—was first hosted in 2010. Light festivals and LEDS have redefined light art as an art genre.
International Light Art Award
The International Light Art Award, presented by the Centre for International Light Art Unna and the RWE Foundation, is given to up-and-coming artists who will contribute "to the development of light art in an innovative and creative way."
The award is meant to encourage artists to explore light art, despite the difficulties the relatively new style faces, including the financial and technical requirements needed for a light art exhibit. The foundations behind the ILAA also wish to put emphasis on sustainability and new technologies within the medium of light expression.
- Wilson-Jones 2003, The Enigma of the Pantheon: The Interior, pp. 182–184
- 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).
- "light matters a closer look at the ideas behind their work" author Glen Shum
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Light art.|
- Centre for International Light Art (CILA), Unna
- International Forum of Light in Art and Design
- International Center for Contemporary Art dedicated to multimedia and light art
- Light art from Artificial Light
- Smashing Magazine Let There Be Light: Light Paintings and Sculptures
- Luceonline.it, the cultural portal of light and new technologies
- Oslo Lux