Title....the Illuminating Gas
Duration31 October 2019 to 23 February 2020
Opening HoursThu–Sun 10 a.m.–10 p.m.
Telephone+39 02 6611 1573
|Title||....the Illuminating Gas||Posted In||Exhibition||Duration||31 October 2019 to 23 February 2020|
|Venue||Pirelli HangarBicocca||Opening Hours||Thu–Sun 10 a.m.–10 p.m.||Location||
Via Chiese, 2
|Telephone||+39 02 6611 1573|
An immersive sensory experience awaits visitors at Milan’s Pirelli HangarBicocca courtesy of Welsh conceptual artist Cerith Wyn Evans, whose largest-ever solo exhibition “....the Illuminating Gas” fills the former industrial facility with suspended neon sculptures and distended soundscapes. Unfolding across 5,000 square-metres, 24 monumental installations, earlier sculptures and new productions synthesize a complex constellation of light and sound that showcase Wyn Evans’ exploration of these ephemeral mediums, highly refined aesthetic and enduring preoccupation with the subjective nature of perception. Taking advantage of the artist’s practice of repeating visual and textual sources across different bodies of work, and his predilection for light as his materia prima, curators Roberta Tenconi and Vicente Todolí have imbued the exhibition with formal cohesion, theatrical continuity and operatic drama.
Starting his artistic career as a filmmaker, Wyn Evans gained acclaim for his experimental films before turning, in the 1990s, to sculptures, installations, photographs and performative interventions that focus on language and perception. Underpinned by a cinematic sensibility, his work draws from a diverse body of references and quotations, from literature, to music, to astronomy, which he decontextualizes and translates into an ethereal language of light and sound.
His concept-driven approach, and especially the interrelation between language and visual perception, alludes to ground-breaking artist Marchel Duchamp whose work Wyn Evans often references both formally and conceptually. In fact, the title of the exhibition, “....the Illuminating Gas”, takes its name from Duchamp’s final work, Étant donnés: 1. La chute d’eau, 2. Le gaz d’éclairage, (Given: 1. The Waterfall, 2. The Illuminating Gas), which he worked on for 20 years towards the end of his career. Not coincidentally, the artworks on display at Pirelli HangarBicocca also span a 20-year period, implying that everything in the exhibition, from the smallest twist of the neon sculptures, to the rhythm of the sound installations, serves a purpose.
If the exhibition is an opera with light as its libretto, then the opening installation StarStarStar/Steer (totransversephoton) (2019) is the prelude. Consisting of seven 20-metre-high light columns made out of tubular lamps that are rhythmically switched on and off in the darkened hall, the pulsating, monumental work creates a choreography of lights and shadows. Eerily accompanied by a hissing soundtrack produced by the adjacent Composition for 37 flutes (2018), an ethereal glass sculpture also composed of transparent tubes, the mesmeric installation introduces visitors to Wyn Evans’ artistic universe.
Acts I and II take place in Pirelli HangarBicocca’s largest space, a 30-metre high, cathedral-like hall where an elaborate visual score unfolds consisting of two highly complex installations, the 13 neon sculptures that form the series Neon Forms (after Noh) (2015-2019) and the 2-kilometre-long tangle of neon lines and curves of Forms in Space... by Light (in Time) (2017). Originally conceived for the Duveen Galleries within Tate Britain in London and presented in Milan in a new configuration, Forms in Space... by Light (in Time) initially appears as a luminous tangled mess, but as you walk around and under it, the neon lines, curves and spirals start to form different shapes, triggering a deluge of references and connotations, from specific elements in Duchamp’s The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even, (also known as The Large Glass), to the movement and gestures of Japanese Noh theatre. The codified movements of traditional Japanese Noh also form the basis for the Neon Forms (after Noh) series that poetically map - in three dimensions - how a certain role is staged. In this sense, the 13 neon clusters illuminating the grand hall form a troupe of incorporeal performers in dialogue with the larger neon installation.
Conceived as an epilogue, the final section of the exhibition brings together an eclectic collection of works that epitomise Wyn Evans’ artistic practice in relation to both mediums and ideas. An expansive neon text hovering above the visitors, E=C=L=I=P=S=E (2015), poetically describes the path of a solar eclipse across the Iberian Peninsula to southernmost Somalia. Nearby, a suspended mobile composed of reflective disks and directional speakers, C=O=N=S=T=E=L=L=A=T=I=O=N (I call your image to mind) (2010), blasts a polyphonic collage of various sources including Wyn Evans’ own piano arrangements and recordings by the Lovell radio telescope, while in the opposite side of the room, two palm trees casts shadows as they rotate on turntables, Still life (In course of arrangement...) V (2015), in reference to the dawn of cinema. Finally, two pairs of subversive Murano blown-glass chandeliers, S=U=T=R=A (2017) and Mantra (2017), emit flashing lights according to a composition written and performed by the artist, in what is a silent finale to Wyn Evans’ uncanny opera which fittingly concludes withTIX3 (1994), a whimsical exit sign that deals with beginnings and endings