“Sculptor and installation artist Heather Carson leads a parallel life as a theatrical lighting designer whose experimental use of industrial equipment led her to venture off the stage and into storefronts, airplane hangars, parking lots, and galleries, pursuing her affection for the abstract mathematical structure of lighting-grids and the optical character of indoor/outdoor light sources and spatial perception.” 1 Carson’s formal and conceptual investigations into the properties of light draw together the historic strands of East Coast Minimalism and West Coast Light and Space. Long fascinated by high intensity discharge sources such as sodium vapor and metal halide, as well as fluorescent tubes, her aesthetic is determined by the specificity of the choice of materials used in order to explore the physical nature of light itself.
ACE Gallery is pleased to exhibit new works in Heather Carson’s “light/WHITE” oeuvre. Carson has created these as the most recent works in her light/ALBERS and light/LINES series. The pieces that comprise light/WHITE hew more closely to the formal properties of painting than installation yet still retain their sculptural qualities. They are invested in exploiting the proximal color temperatures of white light.
The light/ALBERS series mine the architectural underpinnings of Josef Albers’ paintings. Upon encountering Albers’ Study for Homage to the square: Dimly Reflected (1963) and his use of shades of grey, Carson’s idea of exploring the use of shades of white light and shadow was born. Mining color theory in light—as opposed to pigment—as the “carrier of pictorial action,” Carson creates an updated tribute to the “meditation panels” that Albers sought.
In her light/LINES series, Carson utilizes the standard six-foot fluorescent tube but had the fixtures custom made to her specifications so that the ‘canvas’ is six feet square and both the presence and absence of light are equidistant. Part of Carson’s genius rests in her embracing the physical parameters of the materials she uses, a move that allows the artist to get her audience to consider the physicality of light as opposed to merely the opticality of light. The light/LINES pieces are, in Christopher Knight’s words, “simultaneously ephemeral and muscular.” 2
Carson’s work foregrounds rather than masks the electrical components, using a heavy industrial aesthetic of the armatures and their joints. The artist says, “The fixture is as important to me as the light, it is not merely the carrier.” Carson has developed a highly refined aesthetic over the years, encompassing conduit and the use of indoor and outdoor electrical fittings. The use of aluminum pipe and Speed-Rail enables her to place lights in space, adjacent to each other but maintaining their individual structural integrity.
Heather Carson was born and raised in Los Angeles. She has designed lighting in the US and Internationally for over 200 productions in theatre, opera, dance, concert and video primarily in downtown NY Theatre and European avant-garde opera. Carson was head of the lighting programs at Penn State and Cal Arts and has taught at NYU, Smith College, Bard College, Sci-Arc, UCSD and UCLA. She has been the recipient of numerous awards and prizes including the 1999 Rome Prize, the 2004 New York Foundation for the Arts Artists Fellowship in Architecture/Environmental Structures and the 2011 City of Los Angeles (COLA) Individual Artist Fellowship. Heather Carson lives and works in L.A.
1. Nys Dambrot, Shana. “Heather Carson.” http://cola2011.lamag.org/carson/essay1.html
2. Knight, Christopher. “Art Review: COLA 2011: Individual Artist Fellowship at Municipal Art Gallery.” Los Angeles Times June 09, 2011.