It’s rare that an economic downturn has an 'upside' but without the downturn Jan Tichy’s show “Installations” for Richard Gray Gallery would not have been possible. Mr. Tichy’s video installations are literally embedded in the vacant offices and abandoned conference rooms of an entire floor in the Hancock Building.
Stepping off of an elevator into an empty and dimly lit level of corporate offices is already an evocative enough experience on its own and is heightened by what Mr. Tichy’s videos do with the dark. Frequently the only light source available, Mr. Tichy’s projected works are predominantly black and white videos that illuminate accompanying topographical paper forms on the walls or the floors. The sculpted paper and the videos interact: casting shadows, spotlighting, filling up or revealing separate parts.
Jan Tichy. Installation No. 4 (Towers). Image courtesy of the artist and Richard Gray Gallery.
Installation No. 8 (Hancock) washes light onto and off of a crooked architectural nook created by the building itself. Shown above, the most evocative piece, Installation No. 4 (Towers) sits alone in a large room. Two paper radar towers were lit from above by a projection that slowly ebbed and flowed between a cold crisp brightness and a deep, twilight darkness. The brightness cast stark shadows from the towers and the curvature of the radar dome splits the projected pixels apart. The transition between the two states begins as a sliver of light grows progressively longer and wider to bathe the floor in a bright white rectangle.
Some other works sit awkwardly in the mix, like Recess, a long shot of a park playground during the day, seemingly unrelated to the light referenced in the rest of the work. Even Bats, a dueling pair of slide projectors that show photos of urban bats in mid-flight, relate back to Mr. Tichy’s more formal installations. Their eyes glow in the night sky and the camera’s flash shows their bone structure through their translucent wings. Caught like naked specters of the night mistakenly revealed, the bats symbolize the “otherness” of the dark that Mr. Tichy plays with elsewhere.
The natural impetus driving his work with light is clearly seen in a series called Pictures. Displayed on tiny LCD screens about the size of a family photo the vignettes feature banal nighttime arrangements of light. A streetlamp reflecting in a puddle of water, lit windows in a building across the street or a searchlight roaming the sky are like observational drawings done in video. Despite being more like studies for larger works they still they hold a quiet understated beauty in themselves.
Mr. Tichy has found in the play of material and light, representation and digital information, the intoxicating charm of a darkened cinema and the epiphany-like glow of the projector-- a remarkable feat for a medium that is as technological as video.