‘Light and Language’ and Lismore Castle Arts
Lismore Castle Arts and Holt/Smithson Foundation are pleased to announce the exhibition Light and Language: Nancy Holt with A.K. Burns, Matthew Day Jackson, Dennis McNulty, Charlotte Moth, and Katie Paterson, which opens on March 28, 2020. This exhibition unites the work of pioneering American land artist Nancy Holt with five global contemporary artists whose practices have been influenced by Holt’s oeuvre and theories. In bringing together past and present, Light and Language traces the indelible legacy of Holt.
Nancy Holt was an artist who rethought the limits and possibilities of art. Born in 1938, Holt was a key member of the Earth, Land and Conceptual art movements. For five decades she asked difficult questions about how we understand our place in the world. Her art continues to inspire and recalibrate the possibilities of what art can be, and where it can be found.
Holt’s influence on artists working today is palpable. Light and Language invites A.K. Burns, Matthew Day Jackson, Dennis McNulty, Charlotte Moth, and Katie Paterson to explore ideas of light and language alongside Nancy Holt at Lismore Castle Arts, one of Ireland’s leading spaces for experimental contemporary art. This is the first time Holt’s work has been seen with twenty-first-century artists who have drawn from her legacies.
Lismore Castle Arts hosts exhibitions of international significance alongside a comprehensive education program. Light and Language marks the fifteenth anniversary of Lismore Castle Arts. Stretching from Lismore Castle’s gallery spaces, through the cultivated castle gardens, and into the surrounding everyday life of the town of Lismore, the six artists in Light and Language pay attention to key concepts we use to find our place in the world. Both light and language are often taken for granted, yet they structure everything around us.
At the center of Light and Language is Holt’s room-sized installation Electrical System (1982), seen above. Presented for the first time in more than three decades, Electrical System is an example of Holt’s innovative ‘systems sculptures’ that make the facts of a building perceivable. In Holt’s words: “the electrical systems light, the heating systems heat. The drainage systems drain, the ventilation systems circulate air […] the sculptures are exposed fragments of vast hidden systems, they are part of open-ended systems, part of the world.” Formed of over one-hundred glowing lightbulbs, Electrical System is a network of light.
Fourteen other rarely seen works by Holt join Electrical System. They span 1966 through to 1982 and range from concrete poetry, to photographic experiments with light and shadow, works relating to her iconic earthwork Sun Tunnels (1973-76), and her video collaboration with Richard Serra, Boomerang (1974). Within the castle grounds and Lismore town are Holt’s Locators that, as she described, are “literally seeing devices” simultaneously focusing, extending, and showing the limits of vision.
The five artists joining Nancy Holt in Light and Language, like Holt, open new questions about perception and the way we might understand our place in the world. Working with sound, sculpture, performance, words, and light, each artist has chosen works for the exhibition they feel resonate with their fascinations for Holt’s ideas and artworks.
In the galleries A.K. Burns (b. 1975, USA) presents an evocative film of a total solar eclipse, while in the castle grounds a pair of sculptures made from mangled and painted chain-link fencing stand face to face. Matthew Day Jackson’s (b. 1974, USA) Commissioned Family Photo (2013) comprises eighty-two photographs taken with a camera capable of capturing over a million frames per second. It was designed to record explosions and shockwaves from nuclear detonations; the artist and his family are the only human beings ever to have been photographed by this camera. Dennis McNulty (b. 1970, Ireland) also works with technology. He presents a live performance working with samples of Nancy Holt’s voice in the video Boomerang with a mesh of sounds. Charlotte Moth (b. 1970, England) and Katie Paterson (b. 1981, Scotland) both make new works for Light and Language, responding to the unique architecture of Lismore Castle.
Nancy Holt, Electrical System (1982)
Steel conduit, sockets, light bulbs
Installed at David Bellman Gallery, Toronto, Canada.
During her lifetime Holt presented two versions of this sculpture, preceded in August 1981 by a studio version at her 799 Greenwich Street, New York City loft. In January 1982 Electrical System (For Thomas Edison) was presented at John Weber Gallery, New York City, and in February 1982 Electrical System II: Bellman Circuit at the David Bellman Gallery, seen above.
Art © Holt/Smithson Foundation, licensed by VAGA at ARS, New York