October 13, 2012 through January 28, 2013
Sponsored by GE Lighting
From the luminous paintings of Martin Johnson Heade in the nineteenth century to Dan Flavin’s minimalist sculpture featuring fluorescent tubes in the twentieth, light has served as inspiration for American artists for more than 100 years. This exhibition will trace the fascinating evolution of light in American art through the work of twelve artists. See the Light: The Luminist Tradition in American Art features selected works from Crystal Bridges’ permanent collection combined with objects on loan from other institutions. This exhibition will also premiere a major new acquisition to Crystal Bridges’ permanent collection.
In the mid-nineteenth century, a group of American painters began to focus their attention on the rendering of light as a metaphor for the spiritual. These artists, including Martin Johnson Heade, focused on the sublime, awe-inspiring qualities of light, creating landscapes that seem lit from within with a spiritual glow. This quality of light later earned the artists the term “Luminists” among some academic circles.
The works selected for See the Light showcase how the Luminists’ concept of light as a metaphor for transcendent experience has continued to influence American artists through a century of changing styles and media. Works in the exhibition range from the Impressionist paintings of John Singer Sargent in 1887 to works created within the last 20 years by artists such as James Turrell and Jim Campbell, using state-of-the-art electronic technologies.
“These artists had the same goals of light as symbolic of the inner world, creating a transcendent, quasi-mystical sense of reality,” explains David Houston, director of curatorial at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. “It stems from the Luminists—there’s a transcendental continuum.”
One of the highlights of See the Light will be the unveiling of a breathtaking new acquisition to Crystal Bridges’ permanent collection. This work of art by a major mid-century American artist was acquired through a private sale, and has not been exhibited publicly for more than four decades.