CT—Beginning 31 October, Norwalk Community College will present Cris Dam: Lights On, the first solo show to feature the internationally renown artist’s groundbreaking light paintings. Curated by Susan Hardesty, the show will also premiere a new series of sconces that push beyond traditional boundaries of art and design.
Paintings are often considered as discrete objects, but for Dam, they are environments. In his 2018 light series, Dam incorporates incandescent light bulbs into oil paintings, a method that he first introduced in his famed Explosive Target, a 2013 mural sponsored by CYLAND and One Tic Media, Berlin. In these new works, the largest of which spans five feet, the bulb is transformed from its historical place as a subject matter to a medium in ways that have yet to be explored by compositional painters. Utilizing what James Turrell calls that “thingness” of light as a malleable substance, Dam not only juxtaposes oil with lumen but also the tangible with the intangible, or reality with revelation. The result, compositions at once sublime and physically present. As opposed to being immersive in nature—like the works of contemporary purveyors of light—Dam keeps the viewer grounded in the here and now.
At NCC, Dam will also debut approximately twenty sconces, or paintings in light, that he developed over the summer of 2018 in Berlin in collaboration with Leah Stuhltrager and Grant Kessler of The WYE. The bases of these vibrant experiential objects were fabricated with a 3D printer; Dam painstakingly hand-cut the colorful, layered gels. Poised at unpredictable moments on the wall, the sconces create a constellation of shapes both transformative and meditative. Their expansive, deep-chroma shadows create a perceptual dialogue between two- and three-dimensions, as well as the material and the immaterial in art.
On view in the exhibition will be a series of objet trouvé paintings, or found objects modified with oils to reveal the artist’s intrinsic way of seeing. Something of an ode to Dada, the majority of these scavenged pieces were collected by Dam in local scrapyards in Fairfield County. In two aluminum works, Dam expands the historical dialogue by appropriating celestial maps inspired by Picasso’s 1924 series of dot-and-line drawings from Juan-les-Pins, often suggested as conceptual blueprints for his maquettes for a monument to Apollinaire. “Beautiful ... irrespective of their meaning,” to borrow a quote from Picasso, these works engage spatial and temporal notions of monumentality—both in their art-historical reach and contemporary vision—by way of constellating lines and bold colors.
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