By John Thomason
By Benjy Caplan
By Artburst Miami
By Carlos Suarez De Jesus
By Daniel Reskin
"Transforming Light," a zippy mélange at Dot Fiftyone Gallery, might be thrifty on the electric bill, but it attempts to balance the dim wattage with a focus on concept instead.
Don't expect to be razzle-dazzled by laser beams, brilliant strobes, or mega-candlepower wizardry. With few exceptions, the show is mostly about shadows, pinpoint track lighting, and the interplay of perception.
The exhibit is a collaborative project among Dot Fiftyone, former Art Miami director Ilana Vardy, and Paris-based art-consulting outfit MoonStar.
It features mixed-media works by Mauro Giaconi, Andrés Ferrandis, Leonel Matheu, and Max Gómez Canle — all from the Dot stable — as well as Frenchmen Marc Ash, Ruddy Candillon, Patrick Laumond, and Yom, who are repped by MoonStar.
Sebastien Laboureau and Martin Gerlier, MoonStar's founders, are themselves the subjects of Moonwalkers, a light-box piece by Candillon. In it, one of the entrepreneurs appears seated, the other standing, their features slightly distorted and cast in eerie, glowing pinwheels of psychedelic lights.
A gallery handout informs that Candillon is a "photo-grapher" who layers landscapes and portraits into his images, enhancing his subjects by twirling colored pin lights over them in the dark. The resulting exposures are surreal, evoking a Timothy Leary meltdown vibe.
Electropical Garden, described as a bounded c-print, depicts a lush jungle in which garishly hued ectoplasm oozes from fauna, and neon pink, yellow, and blue tendrils snake from the trees. Imagine Anthony Bourdain's visions of the Amazon after an ayahuasca trip in the rain forest, and you begin to get the picture.
In a crisp series of 15 self-portraits arranged in a grid, Candillon's face takes on the quality of Jim Carrey's rubbery mug in The Mask. The artist's features appear to contort violently, thwacking about like strips of sizzling bacon bathed in auras of blazing light. Meteor showers and star clusters of photons are practically burped from the surface, adding a dizzying, kinetic dimension.
Yom's approach to light exploration is hatched on the other side of the spectrum. Commanding a whopping $80,000, Ami-Ami is a blue bronto-size egg nesting in the center of the gallery. The sculptor cores his forms, unveiling gaps in their volumes, as exercises in contemplation.
His human-scale egg is crafted from fiberglass, hand-drilled, and polished to a sleek finish. Its surfaces and apertures are remarkably smooth and might easily fool spectators into believing it was produced from a mold. As one peeks through the sculpture's symmetrical openings, light and shadow subtly compete for attention.
At the entrance of the gallery, Bel Amour, another of Yom's fiberglass pieces, looks like a deconstructed soccer ball. Sections of its interior have been painted black and red, while the exterior is covered in a pristine white coat. The bands of color draw the eyes and give the negative spaces an added dimension of depth.
One of the French artists who actually uses a light source in his work is Ash. He has strung a naked bulb on Le Siècle des Lumières, a large mixed-media work plastered with varnish over burnt book pages and rusted metal elements. The piece has an unsavory sulfury quality enhanced by the feeble glow of the dim bulb. From a distance, it suggests a piece of oxidized toast. It's among the less appealing works in the show.
By comparison, Argentine artist Mauro Giaconi simply dazzles. Situated beneath Ash's sooty eyesore, Giaconi's Bundle in White gleams like a neon caterpillar scurrying across the floor. He has placed a glowing fluorescent rod atop a thousand spindly legs, creating an absurd image that brings viewers to their knees in appreciation.
The artist is also a skilled draftsman with a knack for economizing space on his canvases. In Ceiling, Giaconi floats an ordinary lightbulb, attached to spliced wires, from a hole in the ceiling. The modest graphite drawing is marooned on a vast expanse of barren white canvas, giving the work a haunting refinement. A track light is beamed directly onto the naked bulb, making it blush incandescently.
On an adjacent wall, Andrés Ferrandis's Giraffe playfully bleeds a pink flush as the light refracts through the oil and acrylic on polyester, aluminum, and Plexiglas piece. The narrow rectangular abstract work is covered in ribbons of orange and rose polyester that create a pattern of diffuse light in a reverse mirror image that's eye-catching.
Perhaps the most whimsical piece here is La Montagne, by Max Gómez Canle, who incorporates the Russian video puzzle game Tetris into the LCD screen, wood, and resin sculpture.
The postcard-size screen is housed in a gold-painted box crowned by the figure of a smiling mountain. As spectators watch, it begins to rain erector-setlike particles that join to form a futuristic skyline. As each form plummets, a musical note accompanies its descent, creating a fragmented melody.
For a show that banks on harnessing the full power of light, the results seem a bit dull at times. But visitors who take time and poke around for a bright side might leave marginally illuminated.