Electrical Lighting for Reading Room

Nancy Holt
Electrical conduit, electrical wire light bulbs, chains, steel cages
16 x 24 x 12 ft. (4.88 x 7.32 x 3.66 m)

In November of 1984, Nancy Holt was invited by Earl A. Powell III, Director of Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), and curator Maurice Tuchman to participate in the exhibition Artist as Social Designer: Aspects of Public Urban Art Today. The concept of this exhibition was to “document the involvement of visual artists in the area of public design traditionally reserved for architects and urban designers.” Nancy Holt created Electrical Lighting for Reading Room for the exhibition: a room-sized installation built of standard industrial materials that are part of Holt’s series of System Works. The undulating network of conduit and light engages three walls of the room, and the lower row of lights can be turned on and off by visitors pulling the chain connected to each light. The sculpture makes the visitor aware of the flow of electricity all around them and the systems in place to provide the electricity. LACMA paired Nancy Holt’s work with seating and reading table elements designed by the artist Scott Burton. Electrical Lighting for Reading Room was presented posthumously for the first time in 2022 for the exhibition Nancy Holt / Inside Outside at Bildmuseet.


Writing by the Artist

Ventilation Series

Nancy Holt
Made of the standard materials of each system – plumbing, electricity, drainage, heating, gas, and ventilation – the sculpture are functional; the electrical systems light, the heating systems heat, the drainage systems drain, the ventilation systems circulate the air, and so on. Since the sculptures are exposed fragments of vast, hidden networks, they are part of open-ended systems, part of the world. Over the years these technological systems have become necessary for our everyday existence, yet they are usually hidden behind walls or beneath the earth and relegated to the realm of the unconscious. We have trouble owning up to our almost total dependence on them.

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See Also

Nancy Holt
Visual Arts Center of Alaska, Anchorage [permanently closed, 1992]