Spencer Finch presents an exhibition with new watercolours, drawings, photographs, installations and a large light installation, that allow deeper insight into his comprehensive and witty exploration of light, colour and perception over the last 30 years.
The most elusive and ineffable experiences inform the work of Spencer Finch. To see the light that others have seen before him, he has travelled to culturally significant places like the cave of Lascaux, famous for its Neolithic cave paintings, to watch the same sunset, the prehistoric artists must have witnessed. He has studied the grey ceiling over Sigmund Freud’s couch and observed the light in Hisarlik, believed to the location of ancient Troy, at dawn. With both an interest in scientific research and a true poetic sensibility Finch dedicates himself to capturing these phenomena. His works, however, always reflect the impossibility of arriving at a single truth about his subjects and reinforce the ephemeral beauty and aura of the observed world.
“Pollen”, the installation on view, pairs diverse works on paper and photographs as fragments of a whole. The title references the 1798 collection of poems “Blüthenstaub” by poet and philosopher Novalis, who developed the fragment as a literary form and strived to unite science and poetry in his work. Unfolding a kaleidoscope of heterogeneous observations, scientific and mathematical ideas and questions, the studies in the installation range from the problem of squaring the square to the visualisation of the smell of spring, the light of a star Caph when the artist was born, the colour of a dream, the representation of light reflections, the mapping of a shadow, as well as a meticulous drawing of the artist’s own iris. As expressed in the exhibition title—a quote from poet Antonio Machado—the subjectivity of perception is fundamental for Finch’s approach. Indeed “Pollen” thrives on the inextricable tension between scientific observation, subjectivity of vision, and lived experience.
Finch’s second installation can be seen as a rather unexpected interpretation of “Remarks on Colour”, Ludwig Wittgenstein’s notes and fragments on the problems of colour and language. Wittgenstein’s so-called riddles of colour, such as “reddish-green” or “transparent white” are visualized quite concretely in Finch’s installation of living plants in corresponding colours.
For the fluorescent light installation filling the whole second room of the gallery, the artist has visited the studios of such disparate artists as Kandinsky and Klee at Bauhaus in Dessau. He determined the colour and intensity of the specific afternoon light in their studios located side-by-side in the same Master’s House. In Finch’s installation, distinct rhythmic bands of coloured filters shift the light of the fluorescents and recreate the exact light in which the artists worked.
The artist concentrates on his own studio in the seemingly abstract photo series “Sunlight in a Room”. The photos in the series draw a subtle image of the visual complexity created by the sunlight falling into the empty studio, allowing us to experience a presumably ordinary thing as a multifaceted poetic event that remains in the end unfathomable.
Spencer Finch was born in New Haven, Connecticut, in 1962, and currently lives and works in Brooklyn, New York. He has participated in the Folkestone Triennial, UK (2011), the 53rd Venice Biennial (2009), the Turin Triennial (2008) and the Whitney Biennial (2004). A survey exhibition titled “What Time Is It on the Sun?” was on view at MASS MoCA, North Adams in 2007/2008. His long-term installation “Cosmic Latte” will be on view at the museum beginning in May. His recent solo exhibitions include: The Morgan Library and Museum New York; Montclair Art Museum; Turner Contemporary, Margate (2014), Indianapolis Museum of Art, Indiana (both 2013), Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design, Providence (2012), The Art Institute of Chicago; Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego; Emily Dickinson Museum, Amherst MA (all 2011); Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington DC and FRAC des Pays de la Loire, Carquefou (both 2010). Recent public commissions include: “A Cloud Index”, Crossrail Paddington Station London (opens in 2018); “The Western Mystery“, Olympic Sculpture Park, Seattle Art Museum; “Lost Man Creek”, MetroTech Commons, New York (both 2017); “Newton’s Theory of Color and Music (Goldberg Variations),” Steinway, New York (2016); “Trying to Remember the Color of the Sky on That September Morning“, the only work of art commissioned for the National September 11 Memorial and Museum (2014); the glass facade design for the Johns Hopkins Medical Center in Baltimore (2012) and “The River that Flows Both Ways,” High Line Park, New York (2009). This is Spencer Finch’s sixth solo exhibition at Galerie Nordenhake.