Stepping into the Palazzo Grassi in Venice provided an unexpected discovery: a courtyard transformed by an installation by American artist Doug Wheeler. It was really surreal. One minute, Sean and I were walking along the Grand Canal, weaving our way down narrow alleys and over tiny bridges, and the next we were standing in an empty courtyard, where natural light was absent. It was like a courtyard of snow on a hot Italian day!
To experience this, we had to put on little protective booties to walk into the space. A gradually shifting array of color and brightness made the space expand to an inperceptable distance, and contract to oppressiveness: sort of like being in San Marco Square, mobbed with tourists.
Wheeler is part of the Light and Space movement that came out of California in the 1970’s, and let’s just say I’m a huge fan. This group focus on perceptual distortions was a unique result of observational naturalism, technologies developed from the aerospace military industry, and lots of psychedelic drugs. A good Light and Space installation can be very trippy, placing demands on our perception of depth and color. Worth the trip!
David Bjørngaard, July 2014
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